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Land values beckon bulldozers

By Frank O'Brien for Business in Vancouver

The three houses on East Sixth Avenue in Vancouver would have likely lasted for years: two of them appear fairly modern, but the value of the land beneath them combined with higher-density zoning doomed them.

Assembled into a 14,000-square-foot land assembly, the detached houses sold in May for a combined $5.74 million, the equivalent of nearly $410 per square foot, for a new townhouse development.

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Soaring Vancouver land values are also leading to a rush of strata windups, where owners of older townhouse or condominium projects vote to sell the entire complex for the land value. A recent example is in the West End, where a 53-unit condo project on less than half an acre sold for $52 million. In North Vancouver, sites with old townhouses on them are selling for up to $10 million an acre.

In the first three months of this year, residential land sales in Metro Vancouver dominated real estate investments, with $1.14 billion in transactions, according to a survey by Altus Group. Land sales accounted for 57% of the entire real estate investment market in the first quarter, noted Paul Richter, an Altus Group director.

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