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In the Press

Tip to invest in Whalley launched developer's career

November 23, 2006

By Malcolm Parry,The Vancouver Sun

RANDEEP SINGH SARAI, 31, was still in high school when he began using summer job income to buy residential lots in Whalley.

"I didn't really know where Whalley was," the baptized Sikh and former law-firm partner says. "All the other Sikhs were in Central Surrey. But I heard [real estate analyst] Ozzie Jurock on the radio say 'Invest in Whalley.' "

Sarai also heard SkyTrain was due to reach the area, and that a Kwantlen College campus might be built.

The latter turned out to be Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus. By then, though, Sarai, late father Mohan Singh Sarai and best friend Tarminder Singh Sumba had assembled two acres of view property on a side-street stretch of 112 Avenue paralleling the King George Highway. Their first $250,000 purchase, in 1996, was a 240-by-120-foot lot and house. They added 60-by-240-foot adjacent lots as they became available.

"Economically, it is better to buy two-acre lots with a single home than six homes on smaller lots," Sarai says. "But, if you are young and your financial means are lower, its easier to buy single homes you can rent, and easier to secure mortgages because of the rental income."

Redevelopment began in 2004, and by early next year Sarai will have built eight of 16 houses ranging from 3,000-to-4,000-square-feet and in value to $600,000. He even lives in one with wife Sarbjeet, the former Jean Chretien and Herb Dhaliwal communications assistant, and their two children.

Meanwhile, Sarai, Inder Mann and Sandeep Bains are completing the $21-million Gladwin Crossing project in what Sarai calls "the eye of the core of Abbotsford." The four-floor project includes a 9,000-square-foot Scotiabank branch and other commercial and retail premises on two acres of a three-acre site. It's located a block away from a 943-unit, one-million-square-foot project Abbotsford-based Columbia National Investments CEO Steve Dunton has said will be completed by 2011.

That latter project, Sarai says, may spur zoning changes that would see the three develop their remaining acre with a $15-million residential tower higher than the 12 floors permitted today.

Closer to the ground, Sarai personally has a $7-million strip plaza and a $3-million, 16-townhouse project under construction in Whalley, and a $10-million, 37-townhouse development in Clayton Hill.

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