“Seller lives overseas” – Five in six Westbank Vancouver House units on market empty

Five in six condo units at Westbank’s recently completed Vancouver House currently on the market are unoccupied and some sellers are overseas, sales listings show.

Out of the 18 listings currently on the market, only three are listed as being occupied, and listings for some empty units indicate that the seller is overseas.

UnitSqftCurrent PriceOriginal PriceOccupied?Price per sqft
48012,728$6,799,000$7,399,000No$2,492.30
PH81,739$8,988,000$8,988,000No$5,168.49
2107514$929,000$929,000No$1,807.39
1506543$919,000$919,000Yes$1,692.45
2210482$759,000$799,000No$1,574.69
2502736$1,280,000$1,300,000No$1,739.13
2611415$758,000$758,000No$1,826.51
1002474$699,888$788,880Yes$1,476.56
21081,025$1,840,000$1,840,000No$1,795.12
2102757$1,388,000$1,388,000No$1,833.55
2303514$898,800$898,800No$1,748.64
2309515$799,000$829,000No$1,551.46
52051,566$2,988,000$2,988,000No$1,908.05
2109453$787,800$787,800No$1,739.07
1705853$1,450,000$1,450,000No$1,699.88
55061,665$2,800,000$2,800,000No$1,681.68
2711482$849,000$849,000No$1,761.41
1201685$868,888$868,888Yes$1,268.45

These figures explain why so few condo units appear to have lights on even as citizens are asked to stay at home during the state of emergency imposed in the province in response to the COVID19 coronavirus pandemic.

An analysis of Vancouver House presales we conducted previously showed that at least 100 out of the 118 presale flips were carried out by offshore buyers1.

These findings fly in the face of Westbank owner Ian Gillespie’s assertion that offshore buyers are not buying his condos for flipping.

“They never, ever buy just on speculation,” Gillespie told The Globe and Mail in 2014. “They don’t buy to flip it.”

“They buy because they think it’s going to be a second home or because they have a child who will go to UBC, or because they are thinking of leaving Hong Kong because they are worried about air pollution,” Gillespie added. “And the ones who don’t end up coming, it’s because their kid who they thought was going to UBC decides to be a rock star. Instead, they end up renting the unit out.”

Westbank’s marketing director Michael Braun is listed as the realtor in a number of flips.

Westbank also pre-sold nearly a quarter of all units of its Kensington Garden project — aggressively marketed in Hong Kong — to flippers2.

Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver threatened our parent publication ThinkPol with legal action after it broke the story about Kensington Garden presales3.

The controversial development company is open about only building for what it calls the “Chinese Market”.

“But right now I have a rule when we talk about projects if the Chinese market doesn’t want it, I have no interest in it.” Westbank’s Director of Marketing Michael Braun said on the Westbank website 4.

It’s unclear if this attitude will change now that

Westbank, headed by Federal Liberal and Vision Vancouver bagman Ian Gillespie, has gained notoriety for pitching Vancouver’s estate market to buyers in China with the “Vancouver’s becoming a safety deposit box for the global rich!” as the selling point5.

But a concerted effort by British Columbia’s NDP government to root out speculation and money laundering from the Lower Mainland’s real estate market combined with efforts by China to stanch the outflow of capital from the country seems to be cooling the region’s once runaway housing market.

The Province is currently holding a public inquiry into money laundering after a bombshell report from an expert panel concluded that more than five billion dollars of dirty money had been washed through the region’s real estate market last year alone6.

At the last municipal election Ian Gillespie bankrolled the so called “YIMBY” – Yes In My Backyard – group Abundant Housing Vancouver (AHV) director Adrian Crook’s campaign for Vancouver city council.

AHV claims that cracking down empty homes, which numbered over 25,000 in City of Vancouver alone in 2016, is expensive and ineffective.

The YIMBY group also disputes the figure of 25,000 empty homes, insisting that more supply is the only solution to the region’s housing crisis.

  1. https://openhousing.ca/2019/06/12/westbank-pre-sold-a-big-chunk-of-vancouver-house-condos-to-offshore-flippers/
  2. https://thinkpol.ca/2017/10/23/westbank-pre-sold-nearly-1-in-4-kensington-garden-condos-heavily-marketed-overseas-to-flippers/
  3. https://thinkpol.ca/2017/11/15/vancouver-real-estate-board-threatens-thinkpol-with-lawsuit-to-protect-foreign-buyer-privacy/
  4. Original: http://westbankcorp.com/michael-braun archive: http://archive.is/cwqJ8
  5. Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy
  6. https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Dirty_Money_Report_Part_2.pdf

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