Transit has replaced location as key to real estate purchases

When a new condominium project sells out in one day, as it did with the Marine Gateway building in April, ever wonder who actually buys one of the units?

Real estate marketer Bob Rennie, whose company was responsible for selling the 414 apartments at the Cambie and Marine towers, gave some indication in his annual speech Thursday to the Urban Development Institute. "I think that the marketplace needs us to open the vault a bit here and share the consumer data that we received," Rennie told a crowd of more than 800 people gathered in a ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

In a survey sent to 414 buyers, of which 170 responded, Rennie said 66 per cent were from Vancouver, 16 per cent from Richmond and nine per cent from Burnaby. He didn't say where the remaining eight per cent hailed from.

Of those from Vancouver, 23 per cent came from the immediate and adjacent postal codes and 37 per cent from six neighbouring postal codes.

Rennie's survey found 48 per cent of buyers spoke Mandarin or Cantonese at home-he noted 28 per cent of Greater Vancouver's population is Asian-and 46 per cent identified English as their primary language. Of the 414 buyers, 405 had B.C. driver's licences and dealt with a local bank, he said.

The survey also found that 109 purchasers were first-time buyers and 44 per cent were under 40 years old. Half of the condos for sale were advertised for under $350,000. More than 70 per cent of respondents said access to transit was very important in choosing a location to live. Rennie noted 105 of the 414 sales were to people who will not get access to a parking spot. That's a trend that has occurred with other projects he's marketed, including downtown's "Electric Avenue," where 102 buyers didn't get a parking spot.

Unlike the '70s and '80s when the real estate mantra was "location, location, location," Rennie said he believes it's now all about "transit, transit, transit."

The Marine Gateway project, which features two towers, is on the Canada Line, which provides area residents with easy and quick access to downtown and Richmond. "If you're under 25, you don't own a car because it's an inconvenience and you care about the environment," he told the crowd. "And unlike the '50s, you do not need a car to find out where your friends are. The reality is, youth has replaced dependency on the automobile with the dependency on the iPhone. And unlike their moms and dads, youth [don't] require a car to get laid."

Rennie's company, Rennie Marketing Systems, is also responsible for selling the former Olympic Village condominiums. He said 516 of the 737 condominiums have been sold. "My company's job was to protect the asset," he said. "All of us at [my company] considered our newly named Village on False Creek quite possibly to be the most watched and quite possibly career making or career breaking assignment of our company's history."

The city took over the financially troubled project and, as of Dec. 31, 2011, its investment was $462 million. Recovery of that investment is primarily based on proceeds from sales of the remaining condominiums.





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