Westbank pre-sold nearly 1 in 4 Kensington Garden condos — heavily marketed overseas — to flippers

By Amy Chen

Prominent Vancouver property developer Westbank pre-sold nearly a quarter of all units of its Kensington Garden project — aggressively marketed in Hong Kong — to flippers, according to documents sent to ThinkPol.

An industry insider sent ThinkPol 55 listings from the Multiple Listing Service[1]Producer: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver showing units from the project currently under construction at 2220 Kingsway have already being sold on assignments.

ThinkPol also received further 38 listings of units that are currently on sale on assignments.

At least 39 of units currently being flipped on assignment are publicly visible on Remax Crest realtor Jacalyn Wilson’s website[2]http://archive.is/1euXz.

Westbank’s Hong Kong office heavily marketed the condos in the territory[3]http://archive.is/LF1zy[4]http://archive.is/45tbS.

“As one of Vancouver’s premier landmark residential developments, buyers at Kensington Gardens benefit from an 8% rental return,” Westbank told Hong Kong buyers. “Making Kensington Gardens the best real estate investment in North America.”

While promoting the project as an investment opportunity in Hong Kong, Westbank marketed it in Vancouver as an attempt to revitalize the neighbourhood[5]http://www.vancouversun.com/business/game+changer+kingsway/9349543/story.html.

“It was marketed to revitalize the neighbourhood and over 5000 people showed up to the carnival labeled the ‘most sensational real estate event in a decade’,” the industry insider who sent ThinkPol the documents said. “Only to have 25% of the people buying really not having any interest in living in the neighbourhood but instead flipping the properties for massive profits instead.”

The notes section on an MLS listing reads “Seller in Asia and need time to accept”.

The City of Vancouver council last week passed Mayor Gregor Robertson’s motion that gives people living in Metro Vancouver first dibs at buying pre-sale property in the city[6]http://council.vancouver.ca/20171017/documents/motionb2.pdf.

The motion was strongly opposed by Metro Vancouver’s property developers calling the ‘locals first’ motion disappointing.

“While UDI and its members recognize this city policy may have public appeal, we
are disappointed that the motion was released with little notice, and no consultation with our industry,” Anne McMullin, the CEO of the developer lobby group Urban Development Institute wrote to Mayor Robertson. “We have been working constructively with the City on a number of policies to address the housing affordability crisis; and, we don’t believe this motion advances those affordability objectives.”

Ironically, Mayor Robertson’s motion mirrors Westbank’s own initiative the company was forced to launch in Horseshoe Bay, which was only implemented because the developer was found to be marketing pre-sales offshore before permits were even in place[7]https://globalnews.ca/news/2945647/horseshoe-bay-condo-development-to-target-local-buyers-only/.

Critics feel that Mayor Robertson, who has received big donations from developers, is doing too little too late.

Thomas Davidoff, a professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business said while some housing policies from Robertson and Vision Vancouver are praiseworthy, the new one would likely accomplish little[8]https://news.ubc.ca/2017/10/10/vancouver-mayor-eyes-locals-first-condo-initiative/.

Since the introduction of the 15% foreign buyer tax in August 2016, developers have been aggressively promoting pre-sales overseas as pre-sales are exempt from the tax as long as the buyers succeed in flipping them before closing.

Advocacy groups have long accused the BC Liberals for leaving an obvious loophole in the legislation for developers, who donate generously to the to party, to exploit.

“The BC Liberals defined the foreign buyer tax as being payable when the sales agreement closed not when it was signed,” the advocacy group HALT – Housing Action for Local Taxpayers said in a statement. “It is now well known this had the effect of exempting pre-sales and encouraging flipping practices that have a significant impact on housing affordability.”

We have reached out to Westbank for comment, but have yet to receive a response.

Complete list of pre-sale purchasers gleaned from MLS data

*** LIN *** Zhou *** DONG/ *** ZHANG *** Jiang
*** Wu *** TRAN *** YAN *** DONG/ *** ZHANG
*** ZHANG *** *** KUM & *** *** *** NEE *** DU *** WANG
*** LEE *** MARKOVA *** HU *** HUNG
*** Chao *** MARKOVA 2220 KINGSWAY LTD PARTNERSHIP *** *** *** YIU
**Privacy Protected** *** IRONS *** LEE WANG, ***
**Privacy Protected** *** Mingzhi & *** Lihua *** QIAN HAN *** HENHAO
*** Jiang *** YAN **Privacy Protected** Michael Tran 2220 KINGSWAY LTD PARTNERSHIP
*** SA HO,*** *** THANH *** WU
*** DONGYING Leung,*** ****** YU *** TANG
YIN,*** *** LE/*** LE *** Kandala &*** Kandala *** Nguyen
*** TING *** LI *** YE *** BIASE/*** ABDELNOUR
*** Jiang *** LI *** JIE *** Yi-Ting
*** WEI *** ZHAO *** YING,****** BIN ****** HUANG
********* Kuen ****** KHONG ***, NANYEN *** CHEN
LI,****** ***. PHAM ****** HOMSI ********* PANG
*** OU *** ZHOU &*** PAN *** HALIM
*** WANG ****** TAM *** HO
ZHANG,*** ***.***. Yang SUN,******
ZHEN,*** *** TENG *** LIAN
*** Cleaver **Privacy Protected** ***-*** Hu

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References   [ + ]

1. Producer: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver
2. http://archive.is/1euXz
3. http://archive.is/LF1zy
4. http://archive.is/45tbS
5. http://www.vancouversun.com/business/game+changer+kingsway/9349543/story.html
6. http://council.vancouver.ca/20171017/documents/motionb2.pdf
7. https://globalnews.ca/news/2945647/horseshoe-bay-condo-development-to-target-local-buyers-only/
8. https://news.ubc.ca/2017/10/10/vancouver-mayor-eyes-locals-first-condo-initiative/