experts: real estate column Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Magic Word - Densification?

A mere 11% of Vancouver's land is currently used for multiple residences. Can we, will we adapt?

By Alan  Skinner

Whenever I see a new word (manufactured jawbreaker!) I am reminded of the term - floccinaucinihilipilification, at 29 letters, said by some to be the longest word in the English language. Meaning, ironically - “the action or habit of estimating as worthless”! Go figure!! The Latin (root) scholars would be able to pronounce – all others will have to hear my podcast to see if I can do it! But what does this newer “buzz-word” mean? Simply ‘making more dense’ or in the real estate sense more human beings living in each square mile. The obvious question is “why?” – A few points; because people want to live in a desirable area such as Vancouver (or the North Shore to be specific) and these high demand locations are running out of that scarce commodity – space. Again, and I make no apology for my overplayed theme, we are back to Supply and Demand. A quick, ‘related’ diversion and I’ll come back to Demand.

Mayor Sam Sullivan is concentrating efforts on the term Eco-density (simply a coexistence with the local ecology in a more concentrated way). The Vancouver City Director of Planning, Brent Toderian explains Sullivan’s message as “whatever will convince people to love higher density”. A far cry from the lyrics of the early 20th century song – “Give me land, lots of land and the starry skies above…”! He went on to say that a mere 11% of Vancouver’s land is currently used for multiple residences. Can we, will we adapt? It seems that we will need to do so if we wish to coexist in a paradise such as Greater Vancouver (or in our sub paradises of North Vancouver and West Vancouver).

A recent Vancouver Sun article reinforced the “living in a smaller space” trend by highlighting the fact that “Boomers” are driving the demand to downsize. Strangely enough, this demand will make many smaller homes (1/2 duplexes, multi-bedroom apts) more costly than larger “family” homes geographically further out. The point is that these “wealthy” boomers are going to be demanding the prime smaller dwellings and unless the market makes provision for an increased supply of these – the price of the existing stock will surge. So, potential retirees, this is a “buyer beware” that you should heed!

Now, the North Shore figures (North Vancouver first). Overall, March was again more buoyant than the prior year. The YTD (year-to-date) figure comparison shows comparable levels of sales as last year. Detached average prices +8% and inventory of “resale” homes down 18% from a year ago. On the attached (t/hse and apt) front, sales numbers same as ’06 (t/hse) and up 12% (apt). Average prices up 12% (t/hse) and up by 14% for apartments. Inventory (t/hse) 12% lower than ’06, and (apt) up from ’06 by 33% (largely new construction). The lagging inventory in the first two categories combined with the evident demand will likely foreshadow a gently continuing rise in those prices.

In West Vancouver, detached number of sales down 14%. Average price up 6% and inventory only 2% higher than ’06. On the condo side – attached (t/hses) sold are down 35% over 2006; average price change up 7% based on 13 sales YTD. Active listings roughly the same as last year. Apartments reflect 5% more sales vs. ’06; with average price up 4% (41 units sold) and active listings 38% lower. The North Shore demand is healthy with inventory still not nearly enough for a balanced market.

Again, visit my website to see and “hear” the new developments. I continue my commitment to keep you ... This work in progress strives to be the “go to” site for North Shore Real Estate analysis and jumping off point for FULL market listing information.

To join the group subscribing to the e-mail version of this “update” - send a request now to (or from the website) and you’ll be assured receipt; phone me at (604) 988-7368 or visit

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Recent Articles by this columnist:

Keeping Realtors Honest
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How well do we stack up?
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Resistance to change and compliance delay
Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Of urban planning and municipal wisdom
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yes, it's official - demand is rising
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

All articles by Alan  Skinner

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