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Investment transactions surge thanks to key downtown deals; Anthem lands Downtown East Side’s BC Electric building

A year’s worth
Anthem Properties has paid an undisclosed sum for 425 Carrall Street, which will be Earls Restaurants’ new headquarters next year

A year’s worth

Anyone who’s been through a cycle or two in the Vancouver real estate market knows that global risk bodes well for local investment properties. A decade ago, risk-averse investors responded to geopolitical tensions following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., by buying retreats in Canada.

Today, global economic uncertainties are driving record investment activity in B.C.

“Investors continue to seek safe haven and crave the stable yields that are currently unavailable in the stock and bond markets,” reports Avison Young in its review of investment transactions in the first half of 2012 valued at $5 million or more.

Sales volumes totalled $1.42 billion, a record volume that trumped the previous first-half record of slightly more than $1 billion, set two years ago when the global economy was rebounding from the financial crisis of late 2008.

While just seven major deals accounted for $682 million of the total volume (the $401 million deal for Bentall 5 among them), the number of transactions was also significant: 63, more than the total in five of the past 10 years, and just one less than the total in 2003.

The numbers put the province on track for a record-setting year all-round, even though Avison Young principal Michael Gill expects transaction activity to moderate in the second half of the year. A lack of large transactions will prevent dollar volumes from keeping pace with the first half, and sales volumes may also ease as investor concerns regarding the outcome of next year’s provincial election take hold. Some owners may opt to realize the high valuations being seen now rather than wait and avoid possible uncertainty next year.

“Those sellers that may view a change in government as potentially having a negative impact will be motivated to sell in the back half of this year, prior to 2013, because pricing is still strong and interest rates are very low,” he said.

Deals setting the pace in the second half of the year include Whitgift Gardens, a 311-unit complex in Coquitlam on 8.3 acres that recently sold for approximately $60 million, and retail properties in secondary markets outside Metro Vancouver.

Anthem investment

One of the deals kicking off the second half of the year was Anthem Properties Group Ltd.’s purchase of the BC Electric building at 425 Carrall Street.

The deal closed at the end of July, giving Anthem a century-old property in a rapidly gentrifying quarter of the Downtown East Side. A purchase price was not disclosed.

Situated just down the Carrall Street greenway from the False Creek seawall, the 119,334-square-foot commercial property is home to many non-profit organizations as well as technology and entertainment companies, including Bruce Allen Talent – manager of singers Anne Murray, Bryan Adams and Michael Buble and others. Earls Restaurants Ltd. recently signed an agreement that will move its head office into 14,000 square feet in fall 2013.

Seasonal shift

A reader last week asked if this columnist is noticing any trends in the residential market. One that stands out is the dynamic regarding pricing based on MLS sales.

A glance at data provided by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) last week indicated that in each of the past three years, the benchmark price for resale properties has increased in the first six to nine months of the year and reversed in the latter half (or last quarter) of the year. Values typically increase beginning in January, and in 2010 and 2011 lasted through August, going negative in September. A similar trend was seen in 2008, while gains prevailed in 2009. This year, the tide turned in June and the latest REBGV stats show the decline in resale prices continuing. The benchmark price for the region’s resale homes was $609,500 in August, down 1.1% from July 2012. •