The only thing between a beautiful 97-year-old heritage home in West Vancouver and demolition could be a new owner willing to keep the property as-is.
A 1919 Dundarave bungalow tucked in behind a tall laurel hedge has been mostly kept out of sight for the last several decades, but is now listed for sale during a time when small, older homes are continually demolished for mega-mansions.
That reality is not lost on realtor Vivian Harvey, who is hoping the house goes to someone wanting to actually live in it.
Asked if she’s concerned the house will be torn down, Harvey sighs crestfallenly: “Well, definitely.”
“Normally the people that are willing to pay big dollars are the ones who love the lot and want to build their dream home.”
She confesses the house is small for the price – currently listed at $3.688 million – at 1,659 square feet.
The flat lot is over 8,000 square feet and is located on Haywood Avenue, just two blocks from Dundarave Village and the beach.
The three-bedroom house is just under 100 years old but has been kept in its original state, with updates keeping the heritage aesthetic intact. It certainly has history, however it doesn’t carry an official heritage designation.
A wide hardwood floor porch juts out from the back with raw timber beams propping up the overhanging roof, while inside, floor-to-ceiling wainscoting envelopes the interior. The master bedroom takes over the small second-level, tucked under a vaulted ceiling.
An 143 square-foot studio sits in the landscaped backyard.
The current owners have lived there for 22 years.
“This is probably one of a kind. I’ve never seen one as cute as this one,” said Harvey.
“For a place that seems so enclosed, the house itself, fundamentally unchanged since it was built, is all about open and expansive spaces. This is not what one expects of a 1919 cottage in West Van,” said John Moir of the West Vancouver Historical Society in a statement.
“There is a spacious elegance suggesting a colonial plantation house,” he added.
Despite the home’s obvious charm, Harvey hasn’t yet received any offers.
“We’ve had a lot of people come through and a lot of them have expressed an interest but for one reason or another were unable,” she said.
Aside from the fact August is typically a slow month for real estate, Harvey calls out the elephant in the room: the 15 per cent foreign buyer tax.
Just nine days after listing the house for $3.988 million, the provincial government announced foreigners would pay an extra 15 per cent property transfer tax beginning Aug. 2, 2016, something she calls “unfortunate timing.”
Harvey said she had at least one foreign buyer interested in the property but he ended up passing due to the tax. She predicted he would have torn the house down.
“He was an investor so I assumed he would hang on to it for now, but being an investor, ultimately I would assume he would tear it down.”
She ended up re-listing the house on July 26, one day after the tax announcement, for $3.688 million, a 7 per cent decrease.
“We thought let’s not fool around at a price that might be a little bit too high, and get it at something that’s more aggressive and realistic.”
Just like many with an interest in real estate prices staying high, Harvey says most buyers she’s come across are in a “wait and see” position.
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Straying from positivity, Harvey wandered into the worst-case-scenario for her business.
“”I guess the press we’re going to get after August is ‘Oh the market has plummeted.'”
But the market taking a dive might be just what this character home needs to survive. If prices go down, the cottage might become a more attractive place to make a home.
In today’s climate, however, Harvey says it just doesn’t make much fiscal sense to sit on a house like this for almost $4 million – lot value for the area – when a developer could build up and sell for a few million more, which has become all too common on the North Shore and elsewhere.
Despite that: “We’d really love it to go to somebody who is going to retain the home.”
And with the way the home has been kept up, there’s no reason a new owner shouldn’t be able to enjoy the antique claw-foot bathtub or bright stained-glass windows without a bulldozer in sight.
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