As construction on both buildings gets underway along Yates and Johnson streets just east of Cook Street, Chard Development’s reported sales success is perhaps the clearest indicator of Victoria’s core resuming where it left off pre-COVID, and the new wave of buyers, according to developer Byron Chard, is bullish on downtown’s future.
“There has been a marked shift in demand for downtown Victoria pre-sale homes over the last several months, and since December, we’ve seen a downtown-focused demographic propel both of our projects to reach aggressive pre-sales targets,” Chard said, adding that many purchasers “had been waiting on economic and political changes to take root in the Capital as we emerged from COVID-19’s turbulence, and with the spring buying season two months away, we saw a sentiment emerge among buyers choosing to secure their pre-sale purchase now, with the sense they could lose out later.”
Chard says the fast pace of sales has caught some would-be purchasers off-guard, who assumed the winter season would be like it has traditionally been, a slower time of year for buying activity. Some individuals that had visited the Nest and Haven presentation centres last fall put buying decisions off until late winter or early spring, when the market typically spools up. However, this year, Chard notes, things appear to be different.
“The real-estate market tends to see its biggest demand cycles in spring and again in the fall. This winter, though, demand has thus far proven to be a surprise both in terms of overall interest in the Victoria real-estate market, and the veracity with which the downtown condominium market has rebounded from its slower pace in 2020 and into the first half of 2021,” Chard said.
“What we’re seeing is the entire market spectrum, from downsizers, to first-time buyers, to investors planning to make their purchases available for rent, viewing downtown through a lens of resiliency considering how strong the economics of Victoria remained despite the impacts [from COVID-19] all cities experienced.”
|A rendering depicting the interior of a residence at Nest. The highrise condominium tower features market-leading finishings and technology throughout its 107 suites. Chard Development|
Currently available homes at Nest range from a collection of homes starting at 480 square feet to just under 1,000 square feet with prices starting at $484,900. Slated for completion by early 2024, Nest will rise from the former site of a single-storey commercial plaza adjacent to a five-storey office complex on Yates Street at Cook Street. The tower’s ground floor will include well sited retail units fronting onto both thoroughfares, and a corner space designed to accommodate a restaurant.
Building on Chard Development’s tradition of creating functional, contemporary interior spaces notable for their efficient layouts and creative design considerations, Nest’s condominiums feature sought after (albeit rarely on offer in Victoria) air conditioning alongside ‘HRV’ fresh air circulation technology.
In a market like Victoria’s, BC Housing’s initiative – known as the Affordable Home Ownership Program or AHOP – presents a unique opportunity to match a purchaser’s 10% down payment with an additional 10%, allowing the purchaser to apply for a mortgage as though a 20% down payment has been secured. This additional down payment can make the difference between a would-be buyer qualifying for a mortgage, or having to delay homeownership in order to amass more funds. A 20% down payment also frees the purchaser from paying Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) insurance premiums, which help with the mortgage qualification process by further lowering the monthly mortgage cost.
|Chard Development's Haven condominium is delivering attainable condominium housing to Victorians through a partnership with BC Housing. Chard Development|
“The AHOP program has been one of the most comprehensive affordable homeownership initiatives in Victoria, and given the high cost of delivering new housing on the south Island, financial assistance in the form of a down payment boost from BC Housing has piqued a lot of interest from buyers of all ages,” said Heather Harley, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Chard Development.
Available homes at Haven start at just over $300,000 for a studio and just over $400,000 for a one-bedroom. In order to qualify, buyers must reside in BC and cannot currently own real-estate anywhere in the world. Their household income must fall below a threshold set by BC Housing based on the 75th income percentile for BC households. This means that to purchase a studio or one-bedroom home, a household must earn below $118,440 per year. For larger suites, like two and three-bedroom homes, household income may not exceed $168,310 per year.
The pre-sale process is also a respite from the fast-paced re-sale segment of the real-estate market known for its bidding wars and a tight supply that favours unconditional offers, particularly for highly desirable entry-level listings. AHOP’s partnership with pre-sale offerings is designed to mitigate those pressures by giving would-be purchasers choice, more time to make an informed decision, and up-front pricing.
That being said, the fundamental benefit of an affordable homeownership program with a matched down payment, Harley points out, is access to one of the most desirable real-estate markets in Canada for a larger pool of buyers.
“The reality is, housing costs in Victoria are high. Working with BC Housing, we are taking steps to assist individuals with transitioning from renting a home to owning a home,” Harley said. “Programs like AHOP are a leading way to help British Columbians achieve their homeownership goals, regardless of their age, and whether or not they may have owned real-estate in the past.”
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