Downtown Vancouver condo presales roar back

After a three-year slump, condo presales and new condo towers are rising in city’s core

Jon Stovell, president and CEO of Reliance Properties: downtown condo market is looking up | Rob Kruyt

After zero successful launches of presale condo projects in downtown Vancouver over the past three years, 100 units in the only presale tower on the market sold in a two-day blitz in June.

The sudden resurgence has persuaded developer Amacon to launch presales at the Block, a hotel-anchored, 160-unit condo tower in the 100 block of Robson Street, and other stalled core projects are expected to restart.

“Downtown demand is about to surge,” said Ryan Lalonde, with the market research team at MLA Canada.

The downtown is catching up with suburban markets, which led a rally that saw 3,000 presale condos released in 20 new projects in June, the highest level since November of 2018, according to MLA.

The Pattison Group and Reliance Properties kicked off sales of 2 Burrard Place in late June and sold more than 100 condos (out of 239 offered) in the first two days.

Urban Analytics said the early success of 2 Burrard Place is being watched by developers whose projects have been in limbo.

“Downtown Vancouver felt the brunt of government housing policies and taxes introduced in 2018, resulting in zero successful condo launches in the core since,” said Dillon Sangha, market and advisory manager at Urban Analytics. “Developers tried to launch, but cancelled or delayed plans after failing to achieve sufficient sales.”

Those housing policies and taxes include Vancouver’s vacant home tax – which increased this year to 3% of a home’s assessed value; the B.C. speculation tax, which ranges from 0.5% to 2% of the property’s value; and an increase in the provincial foreign homebuyer tax to 20%.

COVID-19’s arrival early last year likely further eroded confidence in the suddenly quiet downtown market.

The first tower at the Pattison-Reliance mixed-use Burrard Place development at 1290 Burrard Street, the 60-storey One Burrard Place, sold out within weeks in 2015 and is nearing completion.

Sangha said swift sales at 2 Burrard Place can be attributed in part to a unique mix of units that include “convertible” floor plans.

“The project offers smaller homes with living rooms that can convert to bedrooms at night, something that, to our knowledge, is a first for downtown,” said Sangha. “The project’s success demonstrates that demand we’ve seen in other parts of Metro Vancouver this year also exists in downtown and could open the door to additional project launches in the coming months.”

The smallest units in 2 Burrard Place are 435 square feet, but Jon Stovell, president and CEO of Reliance Properties, said smaller space does not equate to lower luxury standards.

“We’ve created two show-suites that demonstrate that living your best life is possible in a well-defined compact space,” he said.

2 Burrard Place residents will have an in-home control panel that gives them on-demand access to a butler, personal chef and wine specialist, along with 30,000 square feet of comprehensive amenities like health and wellness spa facilities, a full-size lap pool and yoga space, Stovell noted. Prices at 2 Burrard Place start at $539,000, or about $1,240 per square foot. The larger units in the 36-storey tower range to 1,800 square feet.

“Downtown will always be a great investment,” said Stovell. “It is the hub for commercial, social and cultural activity, the heart of the city.” •