10% of Homes Being Resold In Vancouver Have Never Been Lived In

1235 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC - Living Room

Empty homes are a unique Vancouver real estate problem. There’s been so much land speculation in the tiny city, that people are literally just buying homes to have them sit empty – sometimes for years. Actually, sometimes for decades. Consequently, the city has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in North America, and has become one of the least affordable in the world. Not exactly a boasting point.

So we thought we’d use the power of natural language processing and data science to determine how many homes for resale have been sitting empty. What we found was almost 10% of homes being resold have never been lived in according to the sales listing.

There’s Plenty of Land, It’s Just Empty

There are currently 4,799 homes listed for sale according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), and 463 have never been occupied. This was determined by using voluntarily identifying  language from the listing agents, having said things like “never been occupied” or “never lived in.” A total selling point for most buyers, but likely a point of contention for Millennials and activists.

Sometimes Real Estate Sits Empty For Years

People purchase pre-construction and sell once the building is released. That’s pretty normal and not all that surprising. What was surprising is that some of these places have been left empty for years.

The oldest place the algorithm found was a condo unit built in 1989, but “never lived in.” The listing at 1235 West Broadway, Vancouver is a 1,885 sqft. condo with 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and an extensive recent renovation. It’s currently listed with Natasha Marjanovic for $2,698,000. Despite having never been lived in, the owners gave it a pretty modern and slick makeover that would put your occupied home reno to shame.

1235 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC - Living Room

Listing photos from the penthouse at 1235 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC.

That place is slightly unusual, and the majority of them were unoccupied for less than a decade. This condo at 8033 Saba Road in Richmond, BC that “no body lived in [sic]” since 2010 was a little more normal. The 1,320 sqft. unit is another beautiful penthouse with 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. It’s currently listed with Jade Shen for $1,188,000.

8033 Saba Road, Richmond - Living Room

Listing photos for 8033 Saba Road, Richmond, BC. 

Empty Home Tax

The City of Vancouver commissioned a study earlier this year, and last week passed a framework for taxing empty homes. The city is looking to collect 1% of the property assessment value, from each of the 10,000+ empty homes they found – plus another 10,000+ from “underused homes.” At first glace, you might think this resulted in a number of properties being listed to avoid having to pay it. Could be, but property listings are down by 25% from last month.

Since empty homes are self identified, we’re depending on a lot of honesty from homeowners. The penalty if you’re caught is steep, but it can be avoided by “proving” that you have been actively living there. Proof is as simple as having a driver’s license registered to the address. Since people in Shanghai are willing to divorce for the purposes of lowering taxation on property sales, I imagine there’s a good percentage of people in Vancouver probably willing to register a driver’s license or two to falsely declare residency. It’s a nice plan in theory, but one designed to please voters over any practical application.

Unfortunately this is the first time this data has been tracked by anyone, so it’s hard to determine if this is higher than usual or just inline. Over the next few months, we’ll begin tracking this to see if it increases or decreases over time.

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  • Reply
    Danielle 8 years ago

    From 1989? Seriously? That’s 27 years empty.

    • Reply
      Wayne 8 years ago

      Or another way to put it: No one has lived there for the whole duration of Taylor Swift’s life.

  • Reply
    Andrew Ward 8 years ago

    We need an acronym for new homes that aren’t recent developments. Kind of like BNIB, but for condos.

    • Reply
      Slo 8 years ago

      By avoiding paying the tax in China. Money laundry has deep roots in BC.

  • Reply
    Mortgage Guy 8 years ago

    I don’t know how anyone turns a profit on holding these places for so long.

  • Reply
    Thomas 8 years ago

    I doubt that first place has been empty since 1989. Maybe since the renovation, that looks like it was done maybe earlier this year.

    • Reply
      GVR Realtor 8 years ago

      Even if the renovation was recent, property records for that place show it hasn’t traded hands recently. Besides, the full listing says “brand new, never lived in.” It would be extremely unethical (and illegal) of her to say that if she meant “not occupied since recent renovation.”

  • Reply
    Sebastien Ledoux 8 years ago

    Here are my theories regarding the empty place since 1989:

    1. It’s a brothel.
    2. It’s a CIA and/or CSIS “Black site” . Waterboarding going on 24/7.
    3. It’s a mob ” safe place” to negotiate drug deals.
    4. It’s hold by a shady foreign company as a front asset. Maybe they use the place just for the address?

  • Reply
    Fred 8 years ago

    Could you do this for the City of Vancouver only? Dates will be hella important. Also, how about getting it before it goes into effect and once every three months, depending on how much effort you are willing to put info this endeavour.

  • Reply
    The Ghost City- Steve Saretsky 8 years ago

    […] on is the number of empty homes never lived in. A recent report from Better Dwelling highlights 10% of homes being resold in Vancouver have never been lived in.  Like this one at 1235 West Broadway, built in 1989 but according to the Realtor has had an […]

  • Reply
    Daniel 7 years ago

    Actually, I lived in this building from 1992 to 2003. The top floor was always occupied by Mr. Poole who was the original owner and family member of the Construction company that built it. So if there is any issue of discrepancy, you must say that it may have been unoccupied for quite awhile after 2003 but not since it was first constructed. The place looks completely renovated as it should since the amenities were very 80’s when built.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
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