Condos supercharge August home sales

The benchmark price of a house, condo and townhouse in Vancouver, 1977-2015

Plus, robo-tree planters and a wanton tax on Airbnb

August heat
The Lower Mainland’s real estate market showed no signs of slowing over the summer. Sales were up 27.9 per cent above the 10 year average for August, driven by condo sales, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s August report, which covers the Lower Mainland and Sea to Sky with the (notable) exception of Surrey. “There was no summer lull in our market this year,” said president Darcy McLeod in a statement. Buyers are competing for a smaller supply of homes for sale than is typical for his time of year, he said, as the total number of listings is down 26 per cent from last year. And where supply can’t meet demand, the inevitable: the average price of a detached house in the region is up 17.5 per cent from last year, at an eye-watering $1.16 million. The benchmark price of a condo, $404,000, is also up 6 per cent over last year. And its condos that drove the market this summer: sales of apartments are up 46.8 per cent over August 2013—or 1,494 units compared to 1,018 two years ago.

A tax on all your unlicensed holiday rentals growth
Vancouver’s tourism authority has an issue with Airbnb: the website doesn’t pay a room tax, mandatory for hotels, that goes toward Tourism Vancouver’s marketing budget. According to a report from CTV Vancouver, Tourism Vancouver president Ty Speer is in talks with Airbnb to charge a tax on stays booked on the website, which would make it the first city in Canada to do so. His comments come as Tourism Vancouver raises the hotel room rate from two per cent to three per cent of the cost of a per night stay. As for Airbnb, a spokesperson told CTV that it would be cool with such a tax, similar to what it charges in Portland and Paris. The obstacle? The City of Vancouver doesn’t license Airbnb properties, which it would need to do for such a tax to go ahead.

Robo-tree planter
Two University of Victoria students have built a uniquely B.C. robot: a tree-planting rover powered by two wheelchair batteries. Designed by engineering students Nick Birch and Tyler Rhodes, the prototype is controlled by a wireless radio module connected to a laptop and uses a pneumatic piston to drive a spiked tube into the earth, creating a hole for a young seedling. But don’t write off tree planting—a timeworn tradition for B.C.ers of a certain age—just yet: the bot still has significant mobility challenges and lacks the tactile grace only a human can provide on rough terrain. For now, at least.