Paul Liberatore

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Flipping on the rise, but still a small portion of sales

Special Report: Flipping on the rise, but still a small portion of sales
 

Here’s an interesting tidbit to share with friends while rehashing Vancouver’s out-of-control real estate market: Nearly 600 homes were flipped in the city last year.

It is a far higher number than in 2014, when 356 homes were re-sold within a year of a previous sale, according to a Vancouver Sun analysis of every quick turnaround of houses and condos in the city of Vancouver between January 2011 and January 2016.

The practice is not illegal, and the numbers don’t explain why some buyers choose to re-sell so quickly, but it’s clear that flipping is increasingly lucrative in this hot market.

The Sun’s data, provided by Landcor Data Corp., shows increased activity on the city’s east side but little growth in flipping on the trendy and expensive west side. This may seem counterintuitive to most, but not to real estate experts who work in east Vancouver.

“East Van is very hot these days because East Van is still an area that people can afford. The west side is becoming unaffordable,” Realtor Amal Chebaya explained.

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Chebaya has clients who bought a modest house on East 3rd Avenue in October for $1.2 million, and sold it in February for nearly $1.5 million — pocketing almost $300,000 in just four months. Her clients, she said, had planned to live in the house but circumstances changed, so they put it back on the market and made a quick profit.

“We did just fine on the resale because the market went more crazy since January, and properties were selling more,” Chebaya said.

Still, she argues the new owners would not be able to quickly flip the property again because they’ve now paid “prime dollar” for it.

Landcor used B.C. Assessment rolls to determine how many of the 60,000 houses and condos sold in the city between January 2011 and January 2016 were resold in less than 12 months, so The Sun could say definitively how frequently flipping was happening and whether it was increasing.

The answer brought some surprises. There were 1,874 houses and condos flipped during those five years, roughly three per cent of all sales. The data shows the number of flips jumped dramatically in 2015 but, because the number of property sales was also up, the overall percentage of flips only rose to four per cent.

When broken down by year and property type, though, the percentage of flips climbed much higher for detached houses in 2016 and 2015, and condos in 2016. And each of those sub-categories had the highest or near-the-highest average percentage change between the sale prices, all of them between 22 and 26 per cent.

“The incentive to flip would be greater when there is a rapid increase of prices because you can get a very quick return on your investment,” said David Ley, a University of B.C. geography professor and an expert in real estate.

Landcor, a local analytics firm with a massive database of real estate facts and figures, also broke down the sales into 30 Vancouver neighbourhoods. Numbers were small in some communities, so Ley suggested analyzing only those with a minimum number of flips.

The Sun isolated the 10 neighbourhoods with the highest count of homes flipped in a year, which also had a correspondingly high percentage of flipped homes — all of them between seven and 10 per cent.

In all but one of these top 10, the average price change between sales was greater than 20 per cent, and in some areas as high as 30 or 40 per cent.

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