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Will 2019 big B.C. commercial real estate deals be topped

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B.C. commercial real estate deals

The sale of the Bentall office portfolio in downtown Vancouver, announced March 27, could drive commercial real estate velocity in B.C. to near or above the record level of 2018. The sale price of the four-tower landmark office complex in downtown has Vancouver has not been released but is expected to be near the $1.06 billion paid for the site three years ago.

Business in Vancouver’s Biggest Real Estate Deals of 2018 chronicles a year that rang in $6.5 billion in 202 commercial and industrial sector transactions across the province, according to commercial agency Avison Young. This was down from the unprecedented volume of $7.5 billion in 2017, when 232 properties sold.

Avison Young noted that a widening bid-ask gap was already becoming apparent in the last half of 2018 as both investors and lenders began to “recalibrate investment objectives.”

This could be related to rising interest rates and a near collapse of Metro residential sales, since many large land deals last year hinged on the potential for lucrative, high-density residential development. “A substantial decline in the number of deals completed is forecast for the first half of 2019,” according to Avison Young’s Year-End 2018 BC Real Estate Investment Review.

The report suggest prices will remain high for prime office, retail and industrial assets, but buyers and lenders will be costing out the yields “with less emphasis on the speculative aspects” of redevelopment.

At least seven of 2018’s biggest deals were based on residential development speculation. These include:

• U.K.-based Harlow Holdings Ltd.’s $164.7 million purchase of a one-third-acre multi-family site in Vancouver’s West End;

• two “strata windups” in Vancouver with a total value of $324 million; and

• the sale of a parking lot on Seymour Street in downtown Vancouver to mixed-use residential developer Reliance Properties Ltd. for $131.3 million.

Industrial transactions, which accounted for 40 per cent of 2018’s big deals, were worth almost $1.2 billion, just down from the peak of 2017.

In 2018, Metro Vancouver residential land sales hit $627 million, which would be an all-time high were it not for the spike during 2016 and 2017 when sales crested the $1.1 billon mark for the first time.

The downward shift began in 2018’s last half, as an avalanche of government policies, interest rate hikes and a subsequent 40 per cent plunge in housing sales hammered developer and consumer confidence, said Casey Weeks, senior vice-president of investment at Colliers International.

Weeks added that the mortgage stress test and other regulations have also slashed the pre-sales that condo developers depend on for financing.

He forecasts that some planned condo projects from smaller developers won’t proceed, which in turn could affect speculative sales of potential development sites this year.

The average cost for every buildable square foot for a residential development in Vancouver is now between $450 and $550. Vancouver has by far the highest combined per-buildable-square-foot costs and construction costs in Canada, according to Altus Group’s 2019 Construction Cost Guide.

Sales of all types of land, including commercial holding property and residential land assemblies, started slowing late in 2018, reported the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. Tracking transactions through B.C.’s land titles, the board found that land sales in the third quarter of 2018 had fallen 34.8 per cent from the same period a year earlier and the value of total land sales had dropped by nearly 15%, to $2 billion.

BIV lists the $248.7 billion transaction of an industrial portfolio by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority as the biggest industrial deal last year.

Much of the industrial action, however, is in speculative warehouse and distribution tied to the retail sector, including the 1.1-million-square-foot Xchange business park in Abbotsford by Hungerford Group and QuadReal Property Group, developed on speculation and proposed for completion late next year.

But a “major deceleration of retail sales growth” from nine per cent in 2017 to two per cent last year is among the reasons the B.C. Real Estate Association (BCREA) cites for an expected “flattening” of commercial and industrial real estate investments in 2019.

The BCREA also points to a fourth-quarter drop in manufacturing shipments and employment as red flags for industrial real estate. The association’s much-watched Commercial Leading Indicator index saw its first drop in nine years as 2018 ended, down one point from a year earlier.

The Bentall Centre office and retail portfolio has been purchased by Hudson Pacific Properties Inc. (NYSE) in a joint venture with an affiliate of Blackstone Property Partners. Hudson Pacific will own 20 per cent of the joint venture and serve as the operating partner responsible for day-to-day operations and development. Blackstone will own 80 per cent and serve as the managing partner.

The 1.45-million-square-foot transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of this year. CBRE in Vancouver was the broker agent on the transaction, which is rumoured to have topped $1 billion.

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B.C. residential real estate Five things to know

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Almost 73 per cent of detached homes sold in Vancouver in the first nine months of 2019 went for below assessed value, while Kitimat and the Kootenays are booming

Province wide real estate figures released this week by Landcor Data Corporation compared all residential sales for the first nine months of 2019 with the same period last year.

It breaks down sales numbers, sale prices, sales volumes and what percentage of sales were above or below the assessed value — a gold mine of information for any homeowner.

Here are five interesting things to know:


1. Let’s start with Vancouver

Most of the horror stories around money being lost in residential real estate are based on sales of high-end detached homes in the province’s largest city.

Using detached homes as a bellwether, Landcor data shows that the value of a detached home in the city fell 11.3 per cent for the first nine months of this year compared to last, with the median price now being $1.825 million.

There were 1,172 detached homes sold from the start of January to the end of September this year, compared to 1,448 for the same period in 2018. The value of those sales fell from $3.8 billion to $2.76 billion. Almost 73 per cent of detached homes sold in Vancouver in the first nine months of 2019 went for below assessed value.

Condo owners in Vancouver saw a 3.3 per cent rise in the median price on 30 per cent fewer sales.


Latest data shows the average value of a detached home in Vancouver fell 11.3 per cent in the first nine months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.

Francis Georgian /

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2. LNG boom in Kitimat leads to huge jump in home values

There’s an energy boom underway in northwest B.C., driven by a $40-billion LNG project in Kitimat. There are already 1,000 workers setting up the construction site at the mouth of Douglas Channel, with 7,500 workers expected from 2022 to 2024. That creates a big need for housing and its shows in the data.

In Kitimat, the price of a detached home jumped almost 50 per cent in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2018. While the number of detached home sales actually fell from 99 to 91, the value of those sales soared from $28.1 million to $38.7 million, and only two homes sold for less than assessed value.

Nearby Terrace saw a 21 per cent increase in the value of a detached home to an average of $385,000.


The average price of a detached home in Kitimat has soared 50 per cent.

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3. How are things in Surrey?

While owners of detached homes in Surrey fared better than in Vancouver, condo owners fared worse. There were 2,201 detached homes sales in the first nine months of 2019, a 22 per cent drop on the same period of 2018. Sales volumes were $2.7 billion for the same period compared to $3.6 billion. Interestingly, that shows that the total sales volumes in Surrey and Vancouver for detached homes are about the same.

The median price of a detached home fell three per cent to $1.038 million, while the median price of a condo was down 9.3 per cent to $365,700. Just over 50 per cent of detached homes sold in Surrey for the first nine months of 2019 went for below the assessed value.


The average price of a detached home in Surrey has fallen three per cent.

Keith Henderson /

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4. The beautiful Kootenays are doing OK

A common refrain in Vancouver is “I’d love to live in Nelson.” It’s the Jewel of the Kootenays, rural with city touches, a world-class ski hill nearby and a reputation for cool known around the world.

The Landcor data shows several Kootenay towns doing well on the real estate front. In Nelson, the median price of a detached home rose 11.4 per cent to $440,000 — and despite the average assessed value of a detached home rising 16 per cent from 2018 to June 30, 2019, over 65 per cent of the homes sold in the first nine months of 2019 went for over assessed.

Salmo and Slocan saw a 27 per cent jump in detached home values, while Creston went up 10 per cent and Castlegar 11 per cent.


Newly relocated employees of Traction on Demand enjoy some down time in the mountains outside Nelson, B.C. Where the Vancouver-headquartered company has opened a branch office as part of its strategy to recruit and retain new talent by going to places employees want to live.

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5. Victoria not so hot, but Langford is

Victoria has seen detached home values fall, though not as much as Vancouver. A detached home is now worth $790,000 on average, which is 4.8 per cent less than in 2018. Volumes are down slightly, with 171 sales in the first nine months of this year; almost 80 per cent of those sales were below the assessed value.

But west of Victoria, in Langford, detached home values soared 12 per cent in the same period, while detached homes in the Gulf Islands rose 19 per cent in average value.


B.C. Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

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The Canadian Real Estate Industry Just Jumped The Biggest sales In October over 10 Years

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Canadian real estate markets are on fire. Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) data shows sales across the country jumped in October. The rise was actually so large, last month was the biggest for the industry in over a decade. This is the opposite of what the government wants to see ahead of rolling out new demand stimulus.

Canadian Real Estate Sales Rise Over 12%

The headline number used by the industry is seasonally adjusted, which downplayed growth. There was 42,970 seasonally adjusted sales in October, flat from a month before. Unadjusted however, sales reached 44,499 in October, up 12.9% from the same month last year. FYI seasonally adjusted numbers are compared using consecutive periods. Unadjusted numbers are compared on a year-over-year basis.

Canadian Real Estate Sales

The unadjusted sales for all home types, as reported through the Canadian MLS.

Source: CREA, Better Dwelling.

The growth rate is very high, and this is also a new record. The 12-month growth is the highest for October since 2011. The number of sales reported for the month is also the highest since 2007. Some of this is delayed demand from last year’s weak numbers, but it’s still a very large month.

Canadian Real Estate Sales Change

The annual percent chage of unadjusted sales for all home types, as reported through the Canadian MLS.

Source: CREA, Better Dwelling.

British Columbia’s Largest Markets Lead In Growth

The largest growth was in last year’s biggest losers – Vancouver and Fraser Valley. Vancouver reported 2,892 sales in October, up 45% from the same month last year – the biggest jump in the country. Fraser Valley, the neighboring board, followed with 1,500 sales, up 36% from last year. In a distant third was Ottawa at 707 sales, up 25.4% from last year. Both BC markets were near multi-year lows last year, so the jump was a little expected.

Canadian Real Estate Sales By Market

Canadian real estate sales in markets with more than 450 sales in the month.

Source: CREA, Better Dwelling.

Biggest Losses Were In… Wait, There Was None

That’s right kiddos, not one major market showed a loss from last year. Kitchener-Waterloo showed the smallest gain at 502 sales in October, up 2.7% from last year. London follows with 924 sales, up 2.8% from last year. Victoria came in third with 586 sales, up 5.4% from last year.

Canadian Real Estate Sales Change By Market

The percent change in Canadian real estate sales, in markets with more than 450 sales in the month.

Source: CREA, Better Dwelling.

All of Canada’s largest real estate markets pumped out massive gains. Curiously, the rise in sales is not isolated to “hot regions,” it’s a broad market gain. This implies a more macro change to buyer pressure.

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Real estate developers are slow to make buildings 5G-enabled

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Super fast 5G cellular networks are hot as major wireless carriers from Verizon to AT&T deploy the service, but it’s unclear if the infrastructure is in place for in-home 5G to replace current cable-based broadband.

The 5G-enabled future seems kind of distant. Real estate developers would need to put fiber-optic cables in homes and office buildings, since 5G doesn’t pass through walls, windows, or people. And most developers are not constructing projects or retrofitting existing properties that would allow 5G to be delivered to homes because it’s simply too expensive to implement.

“Not many developers that we speak to are taking 5G into account when constructing new ground-up developments,” said Chen Konfino, founder of Younity, a Tel Aviv-based company that installs internet infrastructure in multifamily buildings.

<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Fiber-optic cables, which run through the walls and the floors of buildings, are required to receive 5G signals indoors, according to Dan Littman, principal of technology, media and telecommunications at&nbsp;Deloitte Consulting LLP. And only some developers like The Related Companies are willing to pay for the infrastructure. Related’s massive Hudson Yards 28-acre mixed-use development in New York City is wired for 5G.” data-reactid=”18″>Fiber-optic cables, which run through the walls and the floors of buildings, are required to receive 5G signals indoors, according to Dan Littman, principal of technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte Consulting LLP. And only some developers like The Related Companies are willing to pay for the infrastructure. Related’s massive Hudson Yards 28-acre mixed-use development in New York City is wired for 5G.

Shot of a young businessman looking bored while working at his desk during late night at work

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Most builders just opt for traditional internet solutions because it’s affordable. Between conduits, splices, cables, and installation, 5G capability can be a five- or six-figure investment. Source: Getty Creative.

Installation is too pricey” data-reactid=”39″>Installation is too pricey

Most builders just opt for traditional internet solutions because it’s affordable. Between conduits, splices, cables, and installation, 5G capability can be a five- or six-figure investment.

From 2003 to 2017, the median budget for a fiber-optic cable installation project, ranging from .6 to 10 miles of cable, was $66,940, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation&nbsp;survey&nbsp;of 150 fiber optic installations. Konfino said he recently completed two fiber-optic cable installations in 30- to 40-foot buildings for about $100,000 each.” data-reactid=”41″>From 2003 to 2017, the median budget for a fiber-optic cable installation project, ranging from .6 to 10 miles of cable, was $66,940, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation survey of 150 fiber optic installations. Konfino said he recently completed two fiber-optic cable installations in 30- to 40-foot buildings for about $100,000 each.

Even retrofitting existing buildings is a pricey endeavor. It costs about 30% more than a regular renovation, taking into account demolition, renovation, and improved telecommunication closets, said Konfino. And the costs skyrocket when a building is more than a mile away from the closest fiber-optic internet line, according to a&nbsp;post&nbsp;by Atlantech, a Maryland-based fiber optics and telecommunications company.” data-reactid=”42″>Even retrofitting existing buildings is a pricey endeavor. It costs about 30% more than a regular renovation, taking into account demolition, renovation, and improved telecommunication closets, said Konfino. And the costs skyrocket when a building is more than a mile away from the closest fiber-optic internet line, according to a post by Atlantech, a Maryland-based fiber optics and telecommunications company.

Large scale development projects are underway on the far west side of Manhattan near 34th Street and the Hudson River. This high angle view above Ninth Avenue looks south toward Manhattan West and Hudson Yards, two of the large development projects. Seen in the background are the Hudson River and Jersey City. Also seen in the foreground are access roads to the Lincoln Tunnel.Large scale development projects are underway on the far west side of Manhattan near 34th Street and the Hudson River. This high angle view above Ninth Avenue looks south toward Manhattan West and Hudson Yards, two of the large development projects. Seen in the background are the Hudson River and Jersey City. Also seen in the foreground are access roads to the Lincoln Tunnel.

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Large scale development projects are underway on the far west side of Manhattan near 34th Street and the Hudson River. This high angle view above Ninth Avenue looks south toward Manhattan West and Hudson Yards, two of the large development projects. Source: Getty Creative.

The return on investment” data-reactid The return on investment

As one of the few developers making 5G-enabled properties like Boston’s Lovejoy Wharf luxury condominiums and New York City’s Equinox Hotel, Related said the high costs are worth the investment.

“Expense is always a factor. We would never mindlessly invest in infrastructure that we didn’t think would be foundationally important,” said Scott Evans, chief digital officer of Related. Fiber-optic cables will only become increasingly necessary as the infrastructure behind future innovations, added Kenneth Finnegan, chief technology officer of Related.

Fiber broadband cuts down on long-term maintenance costs for building owners. It also allows owners to charge more rent and increases the value of properties. According to&nbsp;Connected Real Estate Magazine, owners can increase rent by an average of 8% and property values are boosted by an average of 2.8%, if the properties are 5G-enabled.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”66″>Fiber broadband cuts down on long-term maintenance costs for building owners. It also allows owners to charge more rent and increases the value of properties. According to Connected Real Estate Magazine, owners can increase rent by an average of 8% and property values are boosted by an average of 2.8%, if the properties are 5G-enabled.

“I think there’s going to be a price concern for landlords and property owners, but I think there will be a demand for this infrastructure,” said Mike Baumstein, deputy head of Barings’ Private Equity and Real Assets team, an investment firm that recently bought Gigasphere, a fiber-optic telecommunications company serving the multifamily and commercial real estate industries. “Eventually, they [building owners] will have to make an investment to keep their properties updated and competitive.”

But smaller developers still say the cost is too high. Josh Schuster at New York-based Silverback Development uses traditional methods like routers and cell phone repeaters that allow only 4G into buildings, according Schuster.

“There is a cost-benefit analysis. Right now, there are inexpensive ways to include technology in design and construction,” he said. “We definitely incorporate that.”

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