Greg Carros, the new CEO of Engel & VÖlkers Vancouver, a new real estate arm of the giant German real estate company Engel & VÖlkers.
German luxury real estate service provider Engel & Völkers is adding Vancouver to its rapidly expanding list of North American markets.
And it is doing it with a surgical strike against its main competitor, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, by taking over that company’s largest service provider in Vancouver.
At the end of November, Sotheby’s Yaletown office, operated by longtime Vancouver real estate fixture Greg Carros, will change its colours to Engel & Völkers. Many of the 36 brokers will move over to the new company, Carros confirmed Friday.
Carros said his Sotheby’s office did $400 million in gross sales this year.
The changeover is a major shakeup in Vancouver’s emerging and competitive luxury real estate market. Sotheby’s arrived in Vancouver only a decade ago, with Carros joining the firm in 2008 to drive it into the company’s highest-yielding office.
It also comes as demand for Vancouver’s “prime” real estate — the top five per cent of the housing market — continues to escalate. A new report by London-based international real estate consultants Knight Frank says such prime Vancouver real estate rose by more than 20 per cent since September 2014.
Sotheby’s also recognizes the strong demand for high-end Vancouver real estate; it noted that in the first half of 2015 sales of Vancouver homes worth more than $4 million rose by 71 per cent.
Carros said he decided to move to Engel & Völkers after researching their rapid expansion and recognizing they had eyes on Vancouver.
“I saw this as a business opportunity. I did research for a few months, and I did not want to have them as competition. It was a business opportunity I couldn’t resist,” he said. “If it wasn’t me, it would have been somebody else.”
Carros said his franchise agreement with Engel & Völkers will lead to creating offices on the city’s west side in addition to the Mainland Street office, and branches in North Vancouver, West Vancouver and the east side of Vancouver.
Polly Cordwell, Sotheby’s managing broker for the area, welcomed Engel & Völkers, noting Vancouver is a growing market.
“Since opening our first Sotheby’s International Realty Canada office in Vancouver in 2005, the luxury real estate market has evolved significantly. But perhaps the greatest gains have been seen over the past several years and, with that, we have seen more international attention that ever before. The expansion of other players into the Vancouver market signals further confidence and continued strength in luxury real estate,” she said in a statement.
In an email she sent to Sotheby’s B.C. brokers, Cordwell said the company is looking for interim space while it upgrades another office it is opening on the city’s west side.
Vancouver’s attractiveness to high-net-worth individuals and world travellers is exactly what attracted Engel & Völkers North America, Anthony Hitt, the company’s CEO, said from New York.
“Vancouver is definitely an international market. We are looking for the international connection,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re looking for a place where our clients already are because they do travel internationally, they do travel and they expect a certain level of service. I do believe Vancouver has arrived from that standpoint.
Jon Stovell, vice-chair of the Urban Development Institute, said the interest of both Sotheby’s and Engel & Völkers is another validation of Vancouver’s emergence as a world city.
“It may be that Engel & Völkers has a global client list which will facilitate capital flow into this market. Sotheby’s was doing that already. But I see this as a vote of confidence for Vancouver,” he said.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the shops you would easily see operating in London, New York and Zurich are starting to set up shop in Vancouver.”
Engel & Völkers, which began in Hamburg in 1976, has experienced a meteoric rise in Canada, having arrived just a year ago with offices in Toronto and Montreal. It now has opened in Victoria, Calgary and Nanaimo.