Vancouver Land Development Guide

The Vancouver Sun has an interesting series of articles starting up on the myths of real estate which so far falls a little short of the promised “2 million reasons for the high price of Vancouver real estate” but has some interesting stats courtesy of the groundbreaking research out of the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.

“Depending where you draw the circle,” Somerville says, “70 per cent of the land isn’t developable. It’s mountains or water or the United States.”

Now I caution you all that this is preliminary data fleshed out with our best guess-work, but it’s ground breaking stuff to be sure. This new paradigm may be the difference we need to make the ‘running out of land’ meme have the holding strength that is hasn’t had in so many global real estate bubble markets before.

We suspect that this data may also come as a surprise to many of you who live on the north shore mountains, or who were under the impression that the “United States” was an entirely different country rather than a chunk of land to be considered in the development of the city of Vancouver. Some newcomers may also be surprised to see water mentioned as “undevelopable land” but most people who’ve been to Granville Island or Coal Harbor know it’s important to differentiate between water that is developable and water that is undevelopable.

In the end those are all just details. The important thing is the math:

“The higher the population of a city, the higher the house prices,” he says. “If we lose 70 per cent of the land, our metropolitan area of two million will have the same house prices as a seven-million metropolitan area. Because people have to commute the same distance.”

This simple equation makes determining the true value of a Vancouver house simple. Because of Mountain/Water/USA land, our prices should be much higher than a metropolitan area with a population of only 2 million and equal that of a population of 7 million. Chicago has close to 8 million people and a median listing price of $229,900.

*Graph neither endorsed nor condoned by the REBGV, UBC, The Mayors Office, The Illuminati or the wookie-busker. Please take with a giant grain of salt. If rash develops, discontinue use. See a physician before taking any expired prescription medications you may find in second-hand stores.
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August Van. West – NEW units sales (house+townhouse+condo)

1994 = 53

1995 = 72

1996 = 148

1997 = 220

1998 = 72

1999 = 144

2000 = 57

2001 = 90

2002 = 56

2003 = 89

2004 = 85

2005 = 138

2006 = 99

2007 = 96

2008 = 30

2009 = 94

2010 = 16 ***Aug 24


ok, and on another note…I visited a friends new condo today. Looked out the window directly overlooking the backyard of the neighbouring townhome complex. I said they must be pissed about the development because they just lost all privacy in their yards…(I was thinking to myself I would imagine that might lower prices on the townhomes)…my friend says that they are starting construction across the road on another tower which will only add value to their place…

How exactly does that work? Doesn't more supply, not to mention newer supply, generally mean lower prices on existing/aging structures? unless you own land that is…???


Hey…I heard today that Vancouver might get the next winter olympics…2014…because the Russian economy is in the crapper, and if they cannot afford to host then it defaults to the last host…any truth?



"Good so they won’t care one iota if prices fall 40%."

They'll possibly care – psychologicaly they'll feel as if they've lost something – but it's unlikely to have ever affected them anyway unless they'd been planning to sell up and rent or relocate.


Hmmm… interesting liknks below: suing journalists and newspapers for shamelessly midleading and influencing readers by pumping real estate values in exchange for full page ads, what a concept. Can't wait for it to happen here. It could pretty easily be proven that the Sun/Province rags were guilty of this given that reporter Wyng Chow was fired for essentially taking kickbacks in exchange for positive press involving a developer. How is that different from what is taking place now and in the last 5 years with the current "experts"? Remember the front page story in April 2008 "15 myths of Vancouver Real Estate" that was pretty much to the day of the last peak followed by a 15-30% correction. So much for the "myths". Now we have "2 million reasons Vancouver real estate won't go down". If thats not a sell… Read more »


@crashcow: Wow, that was hard to watch. I'm gonna go wash my eyes.


@Anonymous: "Many, if not most, look at their houses as a place to live, not as an investment."

Good so they won't care one iota if prices fall 40%.


Ian Watt says 40 sales last week in his area, with 1444 active listings.

With 21 working days in a month, this gives us an MoI of 1444/(40*(21/5))=8.595.

Anyone wanna buy a condo?


@crashcow: It looks like he is trolling for hookers



"It’s funny how some bulls claim that owners don’t have to sell. "

Many, if not most, look at their houses as a place to live, not as an investment.


“we got the crap kicked outta us“ – Ian Watt, Aug 23, 2010




It's funny how some bulls claim that owners don't have to sell. The shareholders of Nortel networks don't have to sell (unless they are on margain and can't fill). Where are the they now? Smart owners will sell for less then average because the average is moving downwards. You always need to be ahead of the curve. In a downward trend, its best to sell lower then what other people are asking. Of course you don't have to sell, if you like losing money.


Government-imposed costs are just the tip of the iceberg in home ownership


from paulb's daily numbers:

Sell list for June 56.1%

Sell list for July 56.3%

Sell list for August so far 56.2%.


Days elapsed so far 15

Days remaining 6

Average Sales this month 107

Average Listings this month 190

Projected Sales 2243

Projected New Listings 3990

Projected sell/list 56.2%



If we are going to get a rally in listing inventory (fingers crossed) I would expect action asap. Most people know that the Dec-Feb market is crap, so in a cooling market I would imagine vendors would want as much exposure to the fall market as possible. This would mean getting ones home listed right away

The potential rush could also be influenced by coming month end stat reports, each month that rolls by with gloomy housing stats eats away at investor optimism.


New Listings 186

Price Changes 106

Sold Listings 145


paulb, if one is keenly watching for a listings surge this fall, roughly when would your numbers begin showing this? (given your knowledge of the lag times in your data and the typical start time of the fall real estate season).



UBC 2 (current faculty), UofC 87 (which includes anyone ever affiliated with the university at some level ie. graduates, faculty, attendees or researchers). Not an apples to apples comparison. A more accurate count would be 2 to 8 (6 in economics and 2 in physics) In any case, I still agree with your point that UofC is as good if not better than UBC.

The reference of webometrics was just to point out that someone out there thinks that UBC is in the same ballpark as UofC. There are numerous ranking paradigms and each has their own criteria for scoring, but yes, generally, UofC ranks higher (often much higher) than UBC.


@metalhead: Whistler…I know someone who owns there. She's a fool. Bought the place about 8 years ago for about $249k. I see similar units are now selling there for $270k or so. So…what's the point? She loses $10k a year from this damn property (interest, strata, insurance, whenever the strata says they need new carpets etc). Waste of money! Of course, she thinks it's a "great investment" and once told me "Ya know, just between us girls, I really think you should buy a place!" And I just looked at her blankly, though I really wanted to say "Why? So I can lose $10k a year like you? Over 10 years that's $100k you know! Ya, I'll rush right in, sounds GREAT!" But I just said "Uh, oh ya." Because if I said all that I'm sure she'd stare at… Read more »


@The Pope: Vancouver is running out of vacant land, just not fast enough to make as big a difference to prices as we witnessed in the past 10 years. Sommerville's point that constrained land in a desirable locale will inflate prices is somewhat valid but the implied magnitude of its effect is grossly overstated. This is obvious when looking at condo rents compared to prices, as many posters here have correctly pointed out ad nauseum.


@The Pope:

"a huge swath of empty train tracks just to the east of the core"

I heard that some of this land is owned by a group who want to construct a larger hospital to replace St Paul's downtown – anybody know if there's any truth in this?


@fixie guy:

"Running around hair on fire yelling Asians! land! BPoE! just doesn’t work."

But running around hair on fire yelling "downsizing boomers!" does, apparently.