Putting on the Ritz

Ritz-Carlton Vancouver

Just yesterday, the top dogs at Re/Max admitted there’s something of a housing affordability problem in Canada. In a masterful display of verbal dexterity, they managed to say that things are both fine and going to hell.

“The impact of speculation, especially in Canada’s largest condominium markets, has yet to be determined but concerns for the future are relevant,” said Re/Max executive Elton Ash, quoted in Wednesday’s National Post.

Concerns for the future are relevant? Translate the real-estate speak, and this is akin to the sky is falling.

So what are we to do? What can be said of the young people and those hard-working folks like you and me trying to get into the market so we can have a place to live?

Re/Max’s Michael Polzler has the solution:

“Condominiums are clearly the answer to the skyrocketing cost of land and shelter that has all but eradicated the dream of home ownership for many first-time buyers.”

Condos are the problem, condos are the answer. It’s enough to make you crazy. And sick.

So what does this answer look like? Well, if I take Mr. Polzler’s comments literally — and I think that’s fair given that he says condominiums are “clearly the answer” — then I do no wrong considering them in context to the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Vancouver.

This “affordability solution” — the Ritz-Carlton is a condo — starts at $2.25 million and ranges up to $10 million. For those interested in the penthouse suites in this Arthur Erickson-designed twisted erection of a building, the price isn’t even listed. Gotta make a request and an appointment to learn how affordable it is.

The URL for the project is www.VancouversTurn.com. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but maybe the housing market collapse in the U.S. is a hint.

I’m sorry I’ve been angry lately, readers. Things are getting really bad out there.

Concerns for the future are relevant.

22 Responses to “Putting on the Ritz”

  1. Skye Says:

    Could that copy at the top be any more vomit-inducing??
    Do rich people actually go for that tacky ego stroking?

    Oh well, at least its not another bland glass box…. its a bland glass box with a 45 degree twist.

  2. jack Says:

    Well – I wouldn’t be trying to justify affordability with buying at the Ritz. This is not a first purchaser, nor is it likely to be full with full time residences or avg people.

    We can say that we are not Manhattan but there is always potential of reaching that category if we become a business hub. Vancouver, age wise, is very very young and there is still lots of growth. Manhattans’ avg condo is 1+ Million. Our avg condo prices downtown are not in that realm. Nor at this time should they considering our salary cannot afford it.

    Do I think the market is going to keep on growing, I have no clue. I think we need to plateau or decline a bit so that people can retain income to invest properly and not just save to buy real estate.

    Downtown is not going to be a place for the avg purchaser and that is just the way of life. It is like in many other major cities…you average do not live in the best parts of town and that is what Vancouver is!

    However, they should be able to afford to buy in the suburbs and that is a bigger concern to me.

  3. JSt Says:

    That glass awning really really looks like a set of testicles adding even more to the twisted erection aspect. I summer in the Hamptons, I winter in Aspen, and I fall in a giant penis.

  4. solipsist Says:

    I’m sorry I’ve been angry lately

    I actually thought that you have been an exemplar of constraint. I’m piqued at so much aside from RE (my personal life is fine!), that I can only sing I can laugh, when things ain’t funny…

    I kind of like this building plan (though I do hope they have done wind models on it), it seems almost a whimsy from E-wreck-son. He has been stuck in the 60’s for too long. Welcome to the new century.

    The prices, of course, are just a joke, but then, the whole crazy state of things makes me laugh.

    Oh, and nice pass on promoting Whistler, Blithe Renter – I winter in Aspen? I suppose that would have been awkward copy – who would spend $10 Million on a place only to winter but two hours away? And why the flip would anyone with that kind of cash spend spring and fall here? Spring in Paris, but here? The weather sucks. Fall? Why? The Atlantic seaboard (gasp – even The Hamptons) is much more flamboyant with colour and frosts, and they have Atlantic City, Coney Island, Grace Harbour, Burnt Harbour, and Charlottetown.

    Sigh.

  5. Bob Loblaw Says:

    Regardless of the price, at least a building with a sense of design and originality is going up and not the same cookie cutter garbage that typically goes up in this city.

  6. HHV Says:

    “I’m sorry I’ve been angry lately, readers. Things are getting really bad out there.”

    Watching all this unfold in front of us is akin to a parent watching their child walk barefoot on glass; it takes a super human effort to not scream and yell at the stupidity.

    Keep it up though, your blog is a welcome respite from the nausea inducing drivel we’re subjected to in the MSM.

  7. John Doe Says:

    The fact that there are at least two Arthur Erickson-designed condominium towers being built and sold in Vancouver reflects the level of insanity in this market. He designs buildings that are nice to look at, but anyone who has ever spent any time living or working in one knows that you sure as hell don’t want to own one.

  8. Greg Says:

    Where in New York or San Fran did they lift this ad copy from?

    Shouldn’t it say something like:

    I summer in Kelowna, I winter in Whistler?

    Why market to Americans now? Considering the exchange rates lately, those prices are actually higher for Americans than Canadians now. Isn’t that kind of expensive, even for New Yorkers and Googleaires?

    And when on earth or why would people who summer and winter in the Hamptons or Aspen ever fit Vancouver into their busy schedules?

    Yeah, I fall in Vancouver. Sounds wet.

  9. condohype Says:

    To HHV, Solipsist, and everyone, thanks for the kind words. It’s always good to know that the writing is resonating.

  10. Disbelief Says:

    I have trouble believing that anyone would choose Vancouver anyway. If I could choose somewhere it wouldn’t be a place with 2 seasons Cold and wet & Cool and wet. With these types of seasons I would be looking for a deal , not to pay through the nose…. Never ceases to amaze me. Rennies motto” If you build it some idiot with deep pockets will buy it”.

  11. Scullboy Says:

    Love the blog, keep it up.

    Jack:

    Vancouver’s not a major city. It’s not the major city in Canada. It’s not even the SECOND major city in Canada.

    I love Vancouer, wet and all…. don’t get me wrong. But Darling, you *can* afford to live in downtown Toronto. Easily. I was making about the same there as here, and THERE I was able to afford a penthouse loft, with 20′ ceilings, one wall (south) was glass, beautiful view of Lake Ontario, 2 parking spaces.

    Here I can *barely* afford a small apartment in the West End.

    I hate to tell you (and everyone else who thinks otherwise) but downtown WILL be affordable, and very soon. After the Americans get a nice haircut, the Asian economies will be next. Then all those “investment” condos in Cole Harbour that have been sitting idle will all go up for sale. After all the whole point of “investing” in an “asset” is that eventually you’ll cash out.

    Trust me bears, this will all end soon. I can smell it.

  12. hadenough Says:

    I love your blog. Please continue. I am in Victoria but I read it all the time.

  13. jack Says:

    Hmmm. Not a major city..That is probably one of the most ill stated comments I have heard yet. Without getting into any facts or trying to play a bear bull game every major report in the world lists Vancouver as one the top cities to live, above TO above Montreal, etc. Do I think it is the best, YES, and that is why I live here. I have worked throughout Europe and the U.S.

    Why do I like it, because of four seasons. People forget our natural lush green evergreens are here because of rain. Whistler is there because of winter, and are beaches are amazing in the summer. You can do anything imaginable within an 1.5 hours from Vancouver.

    As for living in downtown TO that would be miserable. You have a freakin freezin winter and freakin boiling summer. You have to drive to muskoka for good lakes and water sports and then you have your bunny hill with Blue Mountain for skiing.

    I can afford a penthouse loft in many places and I can sure as hell afford a 20,000 sq.ft place in Saskatoon but I am not going to live out there.

    RE is based on location. There is not a spot in Canada that can compete. Tell me a LOCATION IN CANADA that is better and more desirable then Vancouver and has all the attributes of our surroundings (Beaches, Skiing, Dining, Landscape beauty, proximity to airport, multinational, and a liveable downtown core)

    Then when you figure out the answer is that there is not a location ask yourself this: If you HAD the money (not for investment) where would you purchase?

    Even with Remax’s latest stats of this year they are stating only 50% are buying based on speculation. That still leaves 50% buying for buying.

  14. Disbelief Says:

    Jack…
    There is no question that it is the best in Canada and that is why I live here.
    To say that this market is justifiable is lunacy it is overinflated and if you are even a semi intelligent man you would think that a correction is coming… The only question is when and by how much. You might want to recheck that 20,000 sq ft place in Saskatoon… Saskatoon is incredibly overinflated as well. They have normal houses there for Over $400,000 for a little over 2000 sq ft. nothing special… I was shocked also

  15. Disbelief Says:

    I just checked MLS for Saskatoon and there is a place Approx 5000 sq ft, It is nice 16 ft ceilings etc… it is a little under a Million. 950k…. I don’t know how rich you are but at that rate It would definately be several million for a 20k sq ft place you speak of…. Saskatoon who would have thunk it.

  16. Panda Says:

    Sure Vancouver is the best place in Canada if you view it just the right way. Great outdoors opportunities that are second to none. But is it so much better than T.O. or Montreal? Toronto and Montreal have more arts and culture, better night life, similar restaurant scenes. Since the average person spends much more time at work than skiing, a particularly relevant question is what are the job opportunities like? Vancouver is much worse that Toronto. Lower pay, less variety, and relatively speaking a dearth of high-quality jobs in business and technology. To say our weather is better is once again a matter of personal opinion. Six months of rain and short days is harsh.

    Vancouver IS the best place for me in Canada. But the difference is small, and it is not the best place for everyone, nor for most people. Nowadays we price similar to coastal Southern California, which is bizarre in the extreme, since there they have the pressure of a vast rich country pressing down on that strip of real estate. Also they have income distributions that support the prices.

  17. James Says:

    “and are beaches are amazing in the summer”

    Our beaches are amazing? Really? Have you been to the beach here? Stepping over rocks to get to foaming sewage. You are usually prohibited from swimming in English Bay because of the pollution and told not to eat the local shellfish. I went to the Bahamas a few years ago. That was an amazing beach. Gulf of Mexico? Beautiful. Vancouver? Not so much.

  18. jack Says:

    Let’s take this back a bit….my comments were in relation to the Ritz Carlton and other high-end offerings downtown (Residenes on Georgia, Fairmont, etc).

    These prices for high-end homes are not that out of whack as they are not targeting your average end user. This is for the wealthy and to the wealthy these prices are not that out of control for the best place in canada and a top place world wide.

    About beaches – are we the best in the world, not even close? However, compare any other major city center in Canada and let me know which downtown core has a closer proximity to good beaches. For me the beach is not just about swimming in the water, it is composed of good park area, good sand activty and access to water.

    Anyway, we can keep trying to explain each side but we will get nowhere. As I mentioned earlier, I am not worried about downtown prices as I am about prices in the suburbs.

    If you are trying to justify unaffordable prices by bringing the ritz I think you are using a poor comparable.

    On another note, keep up the good work condohype! This thread is one of the best out there and enjoy reading all of the articles you have posted.

  19. Kapownick Says:

    http://www.whoneedsdesigners.com/

    Sorry to interrupt all this very heated discussion with a bit of levity, but tell me this link doesn’t describe most of the real estate advertising in this city.

  20. Scullboy Says:

    Jack,

    There’s a big difference between “a nice city to live in” and “major city”. You could argue that Vancouver is nice because it’s NOT a major city, it’s a nice out-of-the-way kind of place that still offers lots of great amenities.

    I kind of smile when I see the line “without getting into any facts”.

    THAT is why Vancouver’s prices are nuts.

    It’s a bit charming in a way. My own theory is that most of the locals really believe the “It’s the best place in the world to live, at any price” hype. They’ve convinced themselves that because THEY will pay any price to live here, EVERYONE will pay any price to live here once the world sees Vancouver in 2010.

    It’s also why people are so touchy about real estate. They mistranslate “the current market is overpriced and out of touch with fundamentals” to “Vancouver sucks”.

    Look bud, I like Vancouver too. I sold a place in Toronto to come out and live here. But that doesn’t mean the market is prices correctly, or what the entire world will pay any price to live in Vancouver. If I were a “Wealthy foreign investor” would I buy low (anywhere else) and sell high (wait a few years), or buy high (Vancouver) and pray I can sell really, really high?

    It’s nice that you live Vancouver so much, it really is. I do too. But you shouldn’t let your emotional attachment cloud your financial decisions. That way lies madness, and will make you prey to bad condo marketing 🙂

  21. hadenough Says:

    It depends what you like. Vancouver does not have an opera house. Shopping and Theatre are better in Toronto and much better in Manhattan. There are good restaurants but there are also good restaurants in Paris (and shopping).

    I have met many people who did not like Vancouver at all and left and many who liked it.

    Frankly I prefer European cities and New York.

    But hey! That is just me.

  22. The Aesthetic Poetic Says:

    John Doe

    “The fact that there are at least two Arthur Erickson-designed condominium towers being built and sold in Vancouver reflects the level of insanity in this market. He designs buildings that are nice to look at, but anyone who has ever spent any time living or working in one knows that you sure as hell don’t want to own one.”

    To me, this comment reflects a strange vancouver-centric attitude. Any “world class city” has bizarre residential towers built by celebrated architects, take a trip to Dubai, Tokyo, London, NYC, and you’ll find countless examples.

    Vancouver is severely deprived in terms of architecture, so if anything this building is a step in the right direction for future core developments.

    At least for those of us who enjoy a visually stimulating, yet severely unaffordable backdrop. But if you’ve ever lived in a “world-class city”, then you should understand that unnafordability is the benchmark of an economically, and culturally enlightened civilization.

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