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episode # 120

VREP #120 | Townline’s Chris Colbeck Talks Vancouver Real Estate

The last few years have been big years for Vancouver developer Townline and 2018 is no different. Townline’s Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Chris Colbeck sits down with Adam and Matt to discuss the state of the housing market and future plans for the city and region.

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Episode Summary


About Chris:

Chris is Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Townline Group of Companies. He has been in real estate development since 1990, focusing on sales and marketing for development groups. Chris was born and raised in Metro Vancouver and got started as a realtor on the North Shore. After a few years, he got involved with developers in-house, working exclusively in sales and marketing.

Chris is most excited about areas throughout Metro Vancouver. Depending on motivations to purchase or rent, transit-oriented locations close to green space and schools are great. We are moving towards more vertical communities (a “street to sky” feel). Condos are getting smaller as affordability becomes an issue. The outdoor environment and sense of community at the sidewalk is so important. Transit-oriented locations are market-proof or insulated from the market, no matter what changes. They provide an opportunity to be close to shopping and parks, and get to transit quickly.

On market protection:

Over the past 30 years, affordability has been an issue in Metro Vancouver. This reiterates choices of where prospective buyers need to look, which reinforces the need for transit and infrastructure to support people getting around the area easily. Going into 2018, like other cycles we’ve seen, urban locations or places with easy access to public transit seem to be the safer way to go. As affordability is an issue and continues to be, transit-oriented, vertical communities provide the greatest flexibility [and protection] for purchasers or tenants.

On advice for millennials looking to get into the market:

We are in a challenging market, currently with a supply issue. The best way to get into the market is to continue to save as much money as possible for a down payment, somewhere you can afford. This is [likely] outside of the downtown core where it’s very expensive. Some of the suburban communities, like Burquitlam, Port Moody, and south of the Fraser, are more affordable than the urban core. Transit-oriented locations will provide the most opportunity. As well, co-ownership between like-minded millennials is an option to get their foot in the door.

On whether Townline foresaw the market taking off in 2014 and exploding as it has:

Each cycle in the last 30 years has surprised Chris. Nobody’s crystal ball works as well as they want it to. A differentiating factor over the last cycle we’ve been in, compared to others, is that supply is the key issue—demand cannot be met. Policies have been put in place to control this, so we’ll see what happens with them.

On predictions for how policies will impact the market and which segments or areas could be affected most:

Some recent tax and policy changes, such as increasing the foreign buyers’ tax from 15% to 20%, will cause a minor hiccup. The original shock of the 15% has passed, and the additional 5% will work itself through in a couple of months. The speculation tax has been adjusted after yesterday’s announcement. This will take a few months to flow through, as the public absorbs the information. Changes addressed concerns in certain areas regarding vacation homes. The speculation tax will be problematic in some areas, like Kelowna, and for out-of-province purchasers, like Albertans. We will see how it plays out, but it will take the market time to absorb it. The areas and product types being most influenced will be urban areas and certain pockets of single-family homes, such as on the west side and North Shore.

On whether he’d wait to purchase if he had currently been looking for property:

Chris believes if you’re looking for property with a long-term goal in mind, there is never a bad time to purchase. Don’t over-leverage and do ensure you can manage the payment. The opportunity to get into the market is always good if you know what’s affordable for you and you have a long-term plan. It’s difficult to predict the market; we’ve seen unprecedented growth in prices, which is starting to level off in certain parts of Metro Vancouver.

On what Chris would buy for $2 million right now:

Chris would personally look in the Tri-Cities or south of the Fraser areas for a townhome or a single-family home with a basement suite, to help with the mortgage. New infrastructure (bridges, highway improvements, SkyTrain), schools, and parks make it great for young people or growing families.

It’s surprising how high the rents are throughout greater Vancouver and that they’re close to Vancouver-proper rates.

It’s all because of low supply. Townline has finished five rental buildings in the past four years. Three years ago, they built the first purpose-built concrete rental in Victoria in 30 years. Subsequently, they had two other high-rise rentals go up in Victoria. They also built them in Richmond and Cloverdale. In all these cases, there was much more demand than the available supply. Even with rentals, the market rate is the market rate. New rentals free up older rental stock and give people options, but it always comes down to supply.

On the state of the Victoria market:

Townline specializes in Metro Vancouver, Victoria, and L.A. In the past couple of years, Victoria has seen a high acceleration of prices, just like Vancouver. It’s also a supply issue there. It’s been a number of years since they’ve seen new condos and rental buildings, which have been built again over the past two years. Right now, Townline is launching a 25-story high-rise project called Hudson Place One, in the Hudson Place district that they’ve been involved with since 2007. There has been a lot of demand from the local market due to the lack of solid supply of homes, and due to the population growth Victoria has seen as Metro Vancouverites move out to the island.

On why Chris chose real estate:

Chris was 19 or 20 when he got into it, so it may have been a rash train of thought. Chris started selling in West Vancouver, and one of the first properties he sold was a building lot in Camelot in the British Properties. He enjoyed the process of new construction and realized he liked the sense of ownership and working for the developer—he knew the product, had good input, controlled the process of what was offered to the consumer, and was involved from concept to key turnover to the warranty period—there was a sense of ownership through to the customer experience. Chris likes the physical nature of real estate: it’s tangible; he can see and feel it. This is what got him involved on the development side and what keeps him there.


  1. Favorite neighbourhood in Vancouver: Growing up, Chris enjoyed Kitsilano – its views, beach, and walkability. Now in his fifties, he enjoys the suburbs’ peace and quiet with his family.
  2. Favorite bar or restaurant: Carderos and Chambar
  3. West-side mansion or downtown penthouse: West-side mansion, because of the yard
  4. First place he takes out-of-town guests: Dinner downtown – they can see what Vancouver is all about.

To find out more about Townline:

Visit They’re involved in projects throughout Metro Vancouver, ranging from high, mid, and low-rises, to townhomes and rental homes.

The Strand in Port Moody, a program with BC Housing and CMHC, is closing in June. It is the first of its kind, allowing 84 owner-occupiers, who would not have otherwise had the opportunity, to own a home. There are discussions about similar future opportunities, which Townli

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