What’s an insider’s take on the Vancouver Real Estate Market? Well, with a Spring Market that didn’t show up, an anticipated uptick in our Fall market & an election on the way, few people are offering an opinion. Until now. This week, Ben Taylor, Director of Sales at Anthem Properties Group and long-time real estate insider and investor, joins Adam & Matt to offer his two cents, unpack the mistakes that pushed him further, and highlight where he sees the opportunities. You’ll need confidence to keep up with Ben. Level up and learn from the people on the inside. Also, we have video now! Check us out on YouTube and watch the Scalena Brothers fluctuate in weight in real-time.
Vancouver Real Estate News, Market Updates, Insider Tips, Stats, & Analysis
Tell us about yourself
I’m a father of three and live on the North Shore. I work as the Director of Sales with Anthem Properties Group Ltd. If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I think I would be a busker in New York City, as I’ve always loved music and have toured around Canada with bands.
How did you go from touring Canada to Director of Sales?
Friends of mine were involved in rental properties and it appealed to me. A friend gave me a starting role in marketing at Polygon in 2006 so I left my landscaping gig and got in the front door with Polygon. It was a great place to learn. I was involved in multi-family developments, sometimes opening a new tower every week from Abbotsford to UBC. From there, I moved into sales and management.
What is a day in the life of a Director of Sales at a development company?
I have project meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Project meetings are very integrated so there’s not one person dictating orders. Everything is very collaborative. On Mondays, I check in with the team and see how the weekend went. Thursday, I check back in with the team and Friday we’re preparing for the weekend.
How long have you been at Anthem?
It’s been a year and a half. I call it the Goldilocks – I finally found the developer that feels right for me.
How much are you involved in the process from land acquisition all the way to sales?
It’s very integrated. From early days, we are all involved and committing to a project. We do a lot of due diligence before we make the call. It’s not just the owner making the call; everyone’s hands are in it and you’re responsible from day one.
What do those conversations look like when you’re deciding on land, neighbourhood, running numbers, etc?
We talk a lot in price per square foot. But for our buyers, it’s door price. Buyers want to know what they can get for a one bedroom for their ceiling price. We ask: How can we get the most utility out of a home? We also look at the amenity package, storage and urban location to offset a home not being as large. What does the buyer need to meet their expectations?
In terms of locations, where are you excited about and what makes a good site?
A few years ago, people had to go with their C property because there were multiple offers and they would miss out on the A and B properties. But we buy A properties. We need to acknowledge that we have those options. In urban areas, our locations are close to transit, parks, shopping and for our suburban properties, it’s that nice location. We also have some properties that are in between urban and suburban where you get a mix of both.
Let’s talk about Georgetown
We couldn’t get the presentation centre until February 2018 so in the fall we started hitting the phones. The layout is really efficient, there’s wrap-around balconies, great space, great door prices, etc. We really pushed to sell that tower and it was attractive to investors. We let realtors know we had this amazing investment opportunity in Surrey, the number one growing city in the Lower Mainland. It’s a great market and if you had been toying with the idea and didn’t want to miss out, Georgetown was a great option.
With Georgetown, we were at centre ice with the skytrain and the university on our doorstep. And our sizing put us above other developers in the area. Investors know the rental opportunity is there. Rentals are more focused on the number of bedrooms whereas resale is more focused on the price per square footage. So at Georgetown, investors save on door price and still get the renters in that they need.
The same realtors and investors who bought at Station Square went with us to Coquitlam and then to Georgetown. So not only did we have a great property and we hit the phones hard, but we had loyal realtors who knew they could promise investors the same success they’ve had with us in the past at Georgetown.
Is now a good time to buy a pre-sale?
I guess I have to say it’s always a good time! But yes, I do think so. I think developers are getting to their bottom line and it’s a buyers’ market. There are deals to be had. You can now get your A or B property at a good price, instead of having to settle for your C property.
What other areas in the Lower Mainland are you excited about?
We have towers coming up in the Lougheed area. We really like that area and the corridor up Burquitlam. And we’re still big on Metrotown after the success of Station Square. We are also planning a lot more in the Georgetown area in Surrey. We like to follow skytrain and transit routes. We also buy a lot in North Van where there is transit and where our owner is from.
Outside of where Anthem is developing, I’m also personally excited about Squamish. It’s a beautiful area and a really nice place to live. I enjoy the North Shore, where I live. I generally prefer community zones, like Port Moody and Steveston.
Is the pre-sale market the same as the resale market?
Resale is very individual. It’s a lot trickier with many different types of properties, locations, prices, etc. With pre-sales and new buys, you can focus more on the products and it’s easier to navigate. It also gives you more time where you’re not completing for a few years.
Is there room for offers and negotiations in pre-sales?
It doesn’t happen as much with pre-sales but definitely with finished product. The price is pretty set when we launch but at the end of the day, we do have to sell. If the market is a bit lower, we have to meet it without taking any bad deals. We try to price pretty spot on with the market.
What property type and where would you go for an investment property?
I would buy a concrete condo at our next Anthem project, no question. It’s hard to beat a sure bet. You’re guaranteed to find renters and likely to make money on appreciation. As much as I like Squamish, I don’t get up there often enough and I like to be able to drive by and check on my properties.
Thoughts on absentee landlording
I bought an apartment in Edmonton in 2012 when oil was high and it was a hot spot to invest. But there have been times when I wish I was closer to deal with issues that come up. My thinking now is that it’s great to be able to drive by a property and keep an eye on it. I also don’t know the Edmonton market as well so I have to take other people’s word on what is selling, what neighbourhoods are hot, etc.
What is one of the best and most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
Buying my house. I bought in the summer of 2009 when it was a pretty scary time. But I loved the neighbourhood and it was for the long term. I knew it was a good price and would be a good long term buy. People thought I was crazy but the price has continued to go up. You can’t time the market but that was a great pick. I also bought a few in 2013/2014, right before the big wave of buying from 2015-2017, which were great buys.
Is there industry advice you hear all the time that you don’t agree with?
One piece of bad advice I’ve heard is picking something you don’t really love or like because you have to compromise. If you have to live there, you should like it. Even if you aren’t planning to live there, you should want to. The other bad advice I’ve heard is buying cheap. It’s cheap for a reason. You won’t be able to rent it out and you’ll run into problems. Ask yourself if this is something you would want to own forever or if it’s just a short term flip, where you’d never live and the developer has a bad name.
In the last five years, what new belief/behaviour/habit has most changed your life?
Being more consistent with diet and exercise. With age, you have to be a bit more conscious. Especially with three kids, it’s a lot of work. So being on top of time management, exercise and diet helps me to stay solid seven days a week.
Has there been a real estate failure in the last 10-15 years that has set you up for later success?
I was so over-confident with my Edmonton investment and learned a lot from that. I’m now working with my parents in law, who also bought in Edmonton at the time, and they’re now selling at a loss. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to buy locally and buy a better quality property. It wasn’t a place I wanted to own forever or live in. I’ve learned those lessons and have now put my money where my mouth is. It’s made me more sharp about my investing.
Favourite Neighbourhood in Vancouver: Mt. Pleasant, False Creek, Chinatown area, Olympic Village – great restaurants and walkability.
Favourite Bar or Restaurant: Bao Bei
One book you would recommend that everyone read: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders
One piece of advice you would give your 18-year-old self: Don’t worry too much about getting it right or wrong, things will work out
Something you have purchase for under $500 that changed your life: Apple Airpods. He resisted for a long time, but is amazed at how much he uses them.