Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday Open Houses

We popped into a couple of open houses this afternoon just to try and get a sense for what's happening out there. A few observations:
  1. People are still feeling greedy--no panic visible
  2. Prices are completely out of line with available product
  3. Very few people are looking
In The Julia, two potential buyers were looking at units. The place still isn't completed, but one building has owners moved in. By my quick count of the occupied vs still available chart, one building is just over 50% sold. I'm guessing that makes the whole development close to 75% sold. And at $360K for a ground floor 960SF 2-bed 2-bath condo, I can see why. This place reminds me of Tuscany Village, only it's cheaper (if that word can be used here). The only thing cheap about the place is the quality. You're looking at almost $400K if you want to be top floor of the four story complex.

I don't understand why marketers keep up the quality-hype. I'm no building expert. Heck, I can barely change a light bulb. But even I understand that the little metal ring that goes on the outside of the shower head pipe is supposed to be flush with the drywall behind it. But when you tile half-way up the pipe and don't either finish the tiling or cut out a semi circle, you end up with a plumbing problem and a clear indicator of bad finishing.

Again, The Julia uses that age-old technique of metal drawers affixed to real wood fronts. Plywood isn't that expensive folks. And real wood drawers in the kitchens and bathrooms go a long way at demonstrating quality, as do solid core doors. If you bill a suite as luxury, it shouldn't look like you shopped for finishings at Home Depot.

If I think I can do it myself, why wouldn't I just buy that $220K same-sized unit two blocks north in a building I know doesn't leak because it's been there for twenty years and spend $15K making it "luxury" myself? If I were to buy this place so I could tell all my friends at Bayview that I own a luxury condo too, it would be a bit like showing up to a 7-series BMW rally in a Hyundai Sonata. There's nothing wrong with driving a Hyundai (trust me :)), but you don't tell the world it's luxury when clearly it's not.

The unit we checked out was ground floor. It had a patio that faced West, so you weren't going to see much sun on it. Fair enough. But for all the landscaping they did there, why the heck didn't they make the patio large enough to have a BBQ and a small patio dining set? I'll tell you why. Because they don't care about anything other than getting as much money out of you as possible and doing as little as they must to get it.

The next place we checked out was a townhouse on McKenzie Avenue. It was an end unit on the street-side of the building. It was big: 3 beds, 2 baths, a living/dining combo and a nice enclosed family room. It had a nice patio and a bit of a flower garden. It also came with a price tag of almost $390K. And the nice ambiance of a four lane major thoroughfare in town.

The one we missed was a house for $389K on Cedarhill close to La Colina. It's a 1300SF 2-bed 1-bath up with a 1-bed mortgage helper down. It had a really nice deck and looks like it's been taken care of. Obviously overpriced and on a busy street and at nearly a month on the market, not an in-demand place. I did see an agent sitting outside waiting for a client for what must have been at least 10 minutes. I wonder if he felt hungry? Too bad I didn't have a Snickers bar instead of our giggles.

We keep meaning to go into Amara during their showtimes. But they keep changing them. It's OK though because they've had two units left for over a month now, so I don't think we need to rush in real quick.


Anonymous said...

We just took a walk through Fairfield this evening and saw about 6 for sales signs in a 5 block radius. Haven't seen that for a long time.

The roads were crowded with cars which we were thinking had to do with the suites in the basements. Some of the houses were nice and lots weren't...not for the prices anyway.

My DH kept saying he thought he was in Vic West or Esquimalt the houses had that feel about them.

Some of the streets were really dark because of all the trees which I thought I would love but I had a claustrophobic feeling.

We'll wait and keep looking.


Anonymous said...

Was sitting behind some loud obnoxious "pro" contractor consultant types the other day (at least that's what the label said on his truck). It was all about how the USD exchange is hurting them - harder to export/import water coolers or something to that tune. Also about construction work slowing down, the profitable water cooler biz had to be sold to cover other debts they'd incurred in building.
How long before we see cracks in the veneer (sp?). These guys cant last forever, once money isnt cheap anymore and the buyers hold out for price reductions because of over supply maybe we'll see an end to these flash in the pan entrepreneurs. I left thinking "Well, that was a loud and irritating way to spend my lunch hour" but I had a little smile to know that these guys are desperate beneath the bravado and glossy ads.


Anonymous said...

HHV, Amara will impress those FTBs because the one I saw was nicely "staged", but beware. They are cheaply built, and VERY small, and on a very busy corner.

The Master bedroom can barely fit a bed, and the washer/dryer is in a closet there too. You literally hit the night table when opening the closet. The living cum dining area had tiny furniture, because that is ALL that CAN fit! Dining looked 'cosy' , but only fit a small circular table (nice for feng-shui!) jammed into a corner with 4 chairs.

Those condos are only good for a single person or very minimalist couple. If a young couple were to even have a baby while living there, there's NO ROOM for a crib..

solipsist said...

The "quality" of construction everywhere is extremely low IMHO.

A lot of contractors have multiple projects on the go, and really have no need to heed the call for quality. Booms create this environment.

It's disheartening to see fixer-uppers torn down, and maximum building allowance employed to build a brand new tear-down.

Most people have no idea of how to look for quality, and only find out much later that what they bought is a piece of shite - despite the cheap granite counter tops.

Oh, the stories that I could tell.

vg said...

Credit crunch is coming,that will hurt the construction guys some more....only thing I differ on is that according to analysts it can tighten much faster than people think.

Anonymous said...

You only have to see The Amara from the outside to know it's gotta be cheaply built. Homewood is doing a MUCH nicer job on Richmond Gate though.

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