Condo developers offer free wine, avocado toast to woo buyers in slowing B.C. market

A slowdown in home sales has developers getting creative

It wasn’t that long ago that prospective homebuyers in Vancouver would line up for hours to get into condo presale events or face off in heated bidding wars for a chance to buy property in one of the country’s hottest housing markets.

The heady days are gone, and buyers now have more control in the market, a shift that has some developers resorting to creative gimmicks like a year’s supply of avocado toast in an effort to appeal to buyers.

“It’s a slower, more competitive market,” said Brad Jones, vice president of development at Wesgroup Properties, a Vancouver-based real estate development company.

Prior to the August 2016 implementation of the foreign buyers’ tax in Vancouver, condominiums in Metro Vancouver were firmly in seller’s market territory, defined by a sales-to-active-listings ratio of more than 20 per cent for several months in a row, according to data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

But even condos proved unable to remain impervious to multiple government intervention measures. The ratio dropped from peaks of over 80 per cent to below 22 per cent in September 2018, where it’s stayed since. If it dips below 12 per cent for several months, it becomes a buyer’s market and prices tend to come down.

As the market slowed, condos began to take longer to sell, hitting 40 days or more on average between December 2018 and February 2019 — the highest since the board started releasing the figure in its monthly market report in September 2016.

“The onus is on us to show we have the most attractive offering,” said Jones of the new reality.

Condos at one Wesgroup’s newest developments, Mode in Vancouver’s southern Killarney neighbourhood, come with a promise of a free glass of wine a day for a year. That incentive comes as a $1,500 gift card to a neighbourhood wine and alcohol store, which equates to about $29 a week to spend on a bottle of wine.

The incentive generated a “massive amount of interest,” he said, adding traffic and website clicks picked up after it released the buzzy offer.

“Now is the time to be creative,” he said.

ALSO READ: Be careful when buying recreational property before a city home, say experts

It was a response to another developer’s pitch to buyers — free avocado toast for a year — that garnered a media frenzy earlier this year.

Woodbridge Homes Ltd. announced it would offer anyone who purchases a unit in its West Coquitlam development, Kira, a year’s supply of avocado toast — for a limited time. That incentive amounts to a $500 gift card to a local eatery.

The announcement went viral and the company has sold 60 per cent of the initial offering already, said Ryan Lalonde, president of MLA Canada, which provides real estate sales and project marketing services to developers, including Woodbridge.

In the first three weeks of sales, Lalonde said nearly 85 per cent of purchasers referenced the sandwich campaign and four buyers became aware of the building solely because of the media coverage of the toast offering.

“We wanted to find a way to cut through that noise (in the marketplace),” he said, adding the company was surprised by the scope of media attention it generated.

Some may scoff at a $500 or $1,500 gift card to spend on non-essentials when prices remain unattainable for many buyers. The benchmark price of a condo in Metro Vancouver in May was $664,200, according to the local real estate board.

But both developers paired their consumable incentives with limited-time financial ones.

Kira purchasers can put down a 10 per cent deposit, as opposed to the more traditional 15 per cent or more. That will help Kira’s target demographic of 25 to 40 year olds whether they are looking to break into the housing market, purchase a larger unit for a growing family or downsize, said Lalonde.

Those buying a unit at Mode can save $10,000 to $20,000 off their purchase price depending on the number of bedrooms in the condo.

“In combination, it’s a pretty compelling offer,” Jones said.

And while the marketing plans seem to have worked this time, Jones acknowledges the risk in continuing such incentives as potential buyers could tire of perceived gimmicks.

“If it was an every week thing, it may become stale, for sure.”

ALSO READ: Craigslist poster has the starter home for you

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No plans to rebuild Hardy Bay Industrial Centre after fire, owner says

A massive fire burnt down the old building in April

Port Hardy Fire Rescue adapts to new realities amidst COVID-19

Don’t forget to follow Port Hardy Fire Rescue on Facebook.

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Alert Bay: COVID-19 cases go from 30 to zero thanks to health and emergency planning

Dr. Cutfeet says community leadership set Alert Bay up for success

Kwakiutl First Nation cautiously eases restrictions around COVID-19; Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw to remain locked down for now

Both First Nations near Port Hardy have no COVID-19 cases, and are prioritizing community safety

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

CVRD testing Shawnigan water after complaints of metallic taste, odour

“This type of problem has come up a number of times in summers in the past”

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Three people facing mischief charges after protests at Premier John Horgan’s home

Special prosecutor was appointed to avoid real or perceived undue influence

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

Most Read