Like many young professionals entering the hot sellers’ market, Lindsay Brookes had a hard time finding a place of her own in Oak Bay before the Bowker Collection launched. Brookes lived in the community with her parents through her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Victoria and worked part-time and full-time jobs to cover her expenses, deciding to find her own home after finishing her degree. This quickly proved more complex than she anticipated.
“It was difficult,” Brookes said. She and her realtor pored over ways to enter the market, but all three of her offers went unsuccessful. “One bid in particular was over one hundred thousand over the asking price,” Brookes recalled. Already, she was searching in the 700 to 800 thousand price range. “It was ridiculous. I could not compete.” Brookes points to the number of old homes in Oak Bay, whose age guarantees added expenditures in inspection and repairs.
The spacious and elegant penthouse along with a patio is one of Bowker Collection’s many jewels. Taking into account high prices, sky-rocketing bids and the age and condition of most Oak Bay homes, Brookes was forced to extend her stay with her parents. “It’s extremely frustrating, and I know a lot of my friends who are around my age express the same frustrations as well,” she said. Early June, Abstract Developments held a neighbourhood event for the installation of the Bowker Collection. Brookes was the first to purchase a one bedroom unit with a den. While the installation of the Bowker Collection has had mixed reception from the public, the development provides opportunity for older Oak Bay residents to downsize, and may be an option for more young professionals like Lindsay to remain in their home community. “I know it’s been ten years since Oak Bay had a development, and so I can understand and see the pushback,” Brookes said. “But I am very happy that it passed because it allows people like myself and other young professionals to continue living here, working here and contributing to the economic vitality of the community.”
While the collection has helped Brookes and several other first time homebuyers find a place to live, President of Abstract Developments Mike Miller said that the Bowker Collection is, for the most part, being bought out by those looking to downsize. “It’s selling fast because there is no ability to downsize in Oak Bay,” Miller said. As of June 25, 50 per cent of the Bowker Collection had already sold. “It’s such a pent-up demand,” he said, adding that the last time Abstract Developments built in Oak Bay was 2003, and previous to that 1990. The variety of units including one-bedroom and two-bedroom residences with dens, penthouses and terrace homes, range between $585 thousand and $2.5 million.
Not only is the collection brand new, making inspections unnecessary, but buyers are given full ownership of units rather than cooperative ownership. Cooperative housing is common in apartment complexes, where buyers own a portion of the corporation which owns the building, rather than their own residence. “That can be challenging for some people because it’s hard to finance.” Buying in the Bowker Collection means buying property in full – an appealing option for longtime homeowners who need to downsize but want to maintain their own property. In response to the character and architectural culture of Oak Bay, the Bowker Collection attempts to fulfill housing demands while fitting with the scope of its neighbourhood. The development mixes contemporary design with classic, including large windows and real brick exteriors. Those hoping to follow in Lindsay Brookes’ footsteps, or to downsize while maintaining the “Oak Bay way” in location and design, may wish to make the Bowker move.