Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Real Estate

Unfortunately, I have no statistics to quote for this topic. Nor do I have a variety of anecdotes about the last time something like this happened. The reason why should be obvious, this is new ground in these parts and I haven’t been able to find any studies where someone has done a serious study of the effect that hosting the Olympics has on local real estate in years subsequent to the event. Would be a great thesis for someone to write in grad school though.

Instead, I offer my insights based upon my living a life saturated with real estate information and having lived in this area just across the water from Vancouver for most of my life. For a change, I won’t delve deeply into the inner working of real estate any deeper than talking about the creation of demand. One way demand is created is via advertising and you’d be hard pressed to convince me that holding the world’s largest media event isn’t going to have the effect of some major advertising for our corner of the world.

When it was announced that the 2010 Olympics would be held in Vancouver, I had just moved to Japan and heard this announcement that was certain to cause some excitement in the far off land I call home. I knew then that this would be the beginning of a major change of some kind to the west coast. On one hand I was concerned about how much natural space they were going to tear up to build everything for the Olympics, but I was also excited about how it would change the face of the west coast in the years to come.

For much of my student years I had worked in the tourism industry and I had already seen how a big international event could and did change the face of the economy in my corner of the world. I’m of course referring to Expo ’86, the great source of hats, t shirts and random trinkets laying in cupboards and the bottom of closets in B.C., and presumably the world, for many years after the fact.

During Expo ’86, B.C. had some time in the spotlight, as far as I know this was a first for us and this was therefore the first time many people in the world had even heard that we existed.  I mean, let’s not fool ourselves, we’re far from being a bustling urban centre. (Unless you happen to be a Canuck, a Kiwi or an Aussie.) We’re a young part of a young nation that has long subsisted on harvesting natural resources like forestry and fishing. Our province, at 944,735 square kilometers is larger than the average country (767,731 square kilometers) yet we only have about 4.5 million people who mostly live in the southern part of the province. I don’t think it would be going too far for me to say that Expo 86 literally put Vancouver (and those of us nearby) on the map.

Expo ’86 caused a big change in our economy. After a few years, people started coming back to explore B.C. further, and they brought or sent their friends too. Why? Because it’s beautiful, safe, the government is sane most of the time, the air is clean due to an abundance ofnature and the people are nice. Over the years we have seen more and more people coming to the west coast to vacation and speaking as a Realtor I can tell you that it’s not uncommon for people to travel somewhere on vacation and then fall in love with it enough to want to make it their home. Those of you from Vancouver Island will no doubt have noticed how much Tofino has grown since the early 80’s. It was then this isolated, remote beach town in the middle of tons of nature and now it’s a full blown resort town that has millions of visitors every year.

I think you get my point about what a difference Expo ’86 made, but here’s the thing that makes me think investing in real estate here is a great idea:

Without looking anything up, that is, just off the top of your head ask yourself where the last world expo was.

Where was it? Do they have it every year? I don’t know. I know they had one in Japan in 2005 because I was there. I also heard about one in Australia once… was it 1988? I’m really not sure, I’d have to look it up.

Now ask yourself the same question for the Olympics: Where were the last Winter Olympics? And the one before that? And the one before that? How often do they have them? I bet you can name the places going back quite a few years as well as accurately say what year it was held there. I still want to go skiing in Nagano, but for some reason I never did.

This corner of the world is already a very popular place to come and do things athletic in a natural setting, or just to come a visit and enjoy the natural beauty. And yes, we’re becoming more and more popular of a place to come for a skiing trip too. But think of the effect that the olympics will have on taking that to a new level. Who wouldn’t want to ski on the same hills as the top pros or hold some major event on the ice they played on? Can you imagine how many people will want to train in those places for years to come? But never mind that, think of all the minds who will be looking at images of our homeland thinking “Wow… it’s nice there…”

And for those of you who don’t already know. Nanaimo is literally a 20 minute float plane ride from downtown Vancouver, and it costs about one third of the price to buy real estate here. It’s also much safer in my not so humble opinion. (Had to plug Nanaimo in there somewhere!)


Ryan Coffey

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