Throughout the summer, The Globe's B.C. bureau is taking an in-depth look at housing in the Vancouver region, where skyrocketing prices are limiting who can afford to buy a home in Canada's third-largest city and what those homes look like. We're examining trends in the Lower Mainland's housing market, as well as following buyers who are trying to navigate it.
Outside, a tennis court, rock-lined pool and private dock large enough for a float plane sit on half an acre of land. Inside, a home gym is attached to a walk-in sauna. An industrial-grade eight-burner stove in the kitchen sits beside a rare granite countertop imported from Brazil, one of only two like it in the world.
This is Beachview Avenue, a North Vancouver residential street widely known for its luxury houses and waterfront views.
"This street is the most expensive street [in North Vancouver]," said Laurel Qiu, a real estate agent with Royal LePage whose client is getting ready to sell her house on the street.
These so called "top-tier" houses are in high demand. Earlier this month, Re/Max reported sales of luxury housing costing more than $3-million in Vancouver soared 79 per cent in the first six months of 2015 compared with the previous year.
Ms. Qiu said she expects to list her client's house for more than $10-million once renovations are complete. The house to the right recently sold for that price, while the one on the other side is listed for $12.9-million.
The Globe and Mail spoke with Ms. Qiu about what it is like to sell multimillion-dollar houses and what you need to buy one.
Tell me about selling on Beachview.
I've seen changes on this specific street. On the [waterfront] side of the street, almost every house has a dock, and you see so many new constructions – all the houses have been purchased to build a new house.
Last year, there was a $9.78-million house sold, a $9.3-million house sold and an $8.10-million house sold, all on this side because of the water.
Does that mean demand is high?
These kind of properties do not sell fast. [It takes] at least half a year to a full year to sell a property like this.
Why does it take so long?
The audience is very small. There aren't that many people who have $10-million, and you have to wait until the right person comes from a certain country [to buy] – like China or the Middle East.
And usually for a big house like this, the seller wants a longer time to complete a deal. Packing is a headache, moving is another one. So people realize they don't have to sell quickly and they can live here while they do the showings and agents' [open houses].
Houses like this don't do public opens.
Because there are far fewer legitimate [buyers] than in the $3-million price point, for example.
And we don't want to do an open house because the public can easily walk in and they are not the buyers. They are probably neighbours.
When my co-workers in West Vancouver list houses – especially over $10-million – they will request that you have bank approval first before coming to see the house.
Do you do that?
Yes. I don't want to waste my time working with a buyer who doesn't have the money to buy. If my referrals know them, I don't have to ask that.
Are the buyers usually from outside Canada?
Yes, the buyers are mostly from overseas. For this kind of property [$10-million], they're coming to live here.
For around $2-million in West Vancouver, they buy just for investment. For around $3-million or $4-million in Vancouver's west side, they may buy it and leave it empty. It depends what kind of investment they want.
Do you ever see bidding wars for these superluxury houses?
Rarely. There isn't much competition. But for anything under $2-million in North Vancouver, you see bidding all the time.
I tried to get a house for my client: It was listed for $779,000 and there were 12 offers competing for that house. It went up to $920,000. It's very, very hard. Under $1-million, you have to be so quick.
Or under $4-million in an area like West Vancouver, they also go very fast.
So does that mean buyers paying more than $5-million can take longer to look?
Yes. They have a larger scope to compare one house to another. For example, I have a client who is thinking either to buy the house next door [listed for nearly $13-million] or to buy an island somewhere. At a certain price range, they have more options and aren't focusing on only one city – so that takes a longer time [to decide].
And it takes a long time for them to get the money wired from a different county. It's not so easy to wire money. Each person can only wire $50,000 U.S. a year. It's very little compared to a $10-million house. If they have a foreign trade company, they can wire it from there. And if they convert the money to U.S. currency, for example, they can wire it from different channels.
This interview has been edited and condensed.