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The home at 3738 Selkirk St., in Vancouver’s First Shaughnessy neighbourhood. Listed for $23,985,000 in August, it sold 16 days later, for $23-million.

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The most expensive property sale in B.C. in the last three years was finalized three weeks ago – and it’s only one of the many luxury houses that have been purchased since the pandemic began.

The house at 3738 Selkirk St. in Vancouver’s First Shaughnessy neighbourhood had been listed for $23,985,000 in August and sold 16 days later, for $23-million. The deal completed in late October. The 10,000-sqaure-foot mansion with four very large bedrooms, eight bathrooms, five fireplaces, indoor pool and spa, professional gym, wine room and painting studio, sold for 26 per cent more than the assessed of $18.226-million. It sits on a 33,000-square-foot lot and was built for the sellers 20 years ago.

Listing agent Elizabeth McQueen showed the house by appointment to 15 or 16 parties, she says. Most of them were forty-somethings with children and the buyers were Canadian residents.

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They picked a good time to sell. Ms. McQueen says that COVID-19 has not had an impact on prices, and she’d done a valuation on the same property about three or four years ago, for around $17-million or $18-million.

The 10,000 sq. ft. mansion has four very large bedrooms, eight bathrooms, five fireplaces, an indoor pool and spa, professional gym, wine room and painting studio.

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“What I’m seeing is the very high end of the market is fairly active, and the lower end of the market is quite active. … I remember hearing that September was the highest it’s been since 1992, the number of sales. I think it was more than 60 per cent higher than the average for the last decade, in sales.”

Properties priced at more than $5-million are moving, and the listings between $3-million and $4-million are much slower to sell, she says.

Super low interest rates are playing a role.

“I think everybody cares about low interest rates, and even people who don’t need mortgages are taking them.”

The ultra-luxury home market has been strong the last few months, says Adam Major, co-founder of real estate data site Zealty.ca. There have been 28 sales of properties over $10-million that have sold in the last two years, going back to November, 2018 – and 16 of them were in the last five months, he says.

“It is a definite sign that wealthy buyers are willing to part with cash in order to have a nice place to weather the pandemic,” Mr. Major said.

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To put it in context, however, he added that there are still 118 homes in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley on the market that have an asking price of more than $10-million. He said that’s a three-year supply of ultra-luxury homes, which makes it something of a buyer’s market for those with cash to spare.

The home at 3738 Selkirk St. sold for 26 per cent more than the assessed price of $18.226-million.

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There have been 19 property sales in the Vancouver and Fraser Valley region so far this year, which is an uptick because last year was fairly dismal for luxury sales. In 2019 there were only eight sales in that price category. The peak was 2016, which saw 57 sales, followed by 2017, when 46 ultra-luxury homes sold. That fell to 25 sales in 2018.

Metro Vancouver isn’t the only region seeing the uptick. Mr. Major says that Whistler just had its busiest two months for sales in the last decade, and the third and fourth most expensive sales ever reported in Whistler.

The sprawling mansion at 3102 St. Anton Way in Whistler sold just $288,000 below asking price for $16.6-million. The property had been listed in 2018 for $25.999-million, so there was a major price adjustment. And the contemporary view property at 2929 Kadenwood Dr., just sold for $11.25-million. It was listed in March for $11.9-million. Both sales have completed.

“It’s been incredible,” says Whistler realtor Maggi Thornhill, who sold both of those multi-million-dollar properties. She says the $16.6-million house had multiple offers. “It’s really surprising. We were kind of bracing for the worst once COVID-19 hit, not anticipating people buying.”

While March through June was quiet, by July the market picked up. Whistler has had 25 sales this year that were over $5-million, most of them since July. To put that in perspective, there were nine sales last year in that category, “and that was a reasonably good year,” she says.

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The year before, in 2018, there were 12 sales.

It sits on a 33,000 sq. ft. lot and was built for the sellers 20 years ago.

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“We are definitely seeing a lot more of the trophy homes selling.”

Most of them are buying secondary homes, and the buyers are coming from Metro Vancouver and the Toronto area, she says.

“They need somewhere to gather their families together, so they are buying something larger.”

Unlike Vancouver, inventory is really low in Whistler, at around 300 listings. That lack of inventory is also pushing prices up.

Overall, it’s a record year in sales for Whistler, which recorded 131 sales for October alone, according to Zealty.ca. Total sales this year for the Whistler-Pemberton region are 624.

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And while foreign buyers, mostly from the United States, had typically driven the Whistler market, they’ve obviously fallen by the wayside, what with the closed border. Instead of buying, some of them are now selling, Ms. Thornhill says. The current high-end market is Canadian driven.

But she believes that once the border opens up, there will be a second wave to eventually follow the current one.

“That’s when we’ll see another lift, the pent-up demand, it will definitely be coming. We’ll see people from Hong Kong, and I think there will be people from the U.S., because it won’t settle down for awhile there.”

Ms. McQueen also said she expects that part of the market to pick up once the post-pandemic recovery starts.

“I understand our immigration is down more than 33 per cent since the beginning of the year, and so those people, once they are allowed to come back into the country that will certainly fuel some of the sales, I fully expect,” she says. “Right now we’ve been doing pretty well here from a local perspective, local people moving their home choices.”

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