Machinist by trade, Charan Sethi immigrated to Vancouver from Britain in 1978 with his wife and two sons, in hope of a better life, only to discover the unlikely prospect of increasing his income on a machinist’s hourly wage.
A desire for more fruitful results led Charan towards a career in real-estate. As a machinist, the fixed wage per hour was limiting. As a real estate agent, he felt he’d get rewarded for how hard he worked. He acquired his real estate license in 1985 and spent the next 22-years effectively establishing himself in the industry. His practical background in addition to his business acumen proved to be a strong competitive advantage. His knowledge of construction was another advantage.
In 2003, Sethi founded Tien Sher Investment Group Inc., Punjabi for “Three Lions”. He has since developed a successful Group of Companies and offers a portfolio of single-family homes, town homes and multifamily sites in Vancouver’s suburbs of Richmond, New Westminster and Surrey.
For Sethi and Tien Sher, Fall 2012 brought the opportunity to redefine Canadian real-estate with the introduction of Tien Sher’s Balance Surrey Micro-Suites. The units went on the market in late April 2013 and, within weeks, Sethi became known as Vancouver’s “go-to” man for micro-suites offering Canada’s smallest ever condos. The smallest of the micro-suites, “Plan A”, measures 297 square feet and sells from $109,000.
Vancouver Lifestyles spoke with Sethi about his micro-suites.
Why did you choose to build micro-suites?
I wanted to provide an affordable option for first time home owners, lower income young professionals and tertiary students entering the ever-rising Vancouver real estate market. The micro-suites are designed to appeal to a new cohort of home-buyers who prefer to invest in experiences and are less focused on growing their material assets.
I was very involved with the space planning throughout the development of Balance – I can envision myself living in a micro-suite unit should I ever have to downsize.
What led you to introduce micro-suites in Surrey?
Surrey’s downtown core is rapidly expanding, with the addition of a new city hall and many more establishments. The micro-suites positively contribute to these changes and provide an ideal central base for modern urban residents. They are highly accessible to both the Pattullo and Port Mann Bridges by car, or a quick 5-minute walk to Gateway skytrain station, transporting passengers to Metro Vancouver in minutes. Shopping, entertainment and recreation are within walking distance; micro-suite residents will enjoy the benefits of central city living without the high cost.
Which buyer demographics do you believe the micro-suites have/will attract?
We expected the micro-suites would attract a younger generation of buyers, however buyer interest has come in many forms. Since the sales centre was launched in late April, we have seen an even split between investors and young first time buyers, earning between $22,000 to $55,000, in addition to senior citizens attracted to the low price point and home-maintenance of the units. Going forward, my expectations remain open to all possibilities.
Are you pleased with the public and buyer response you have received this far?
Yes, I am very pleased with the initial response. Within the first ten days of the sale, we sold over half, 32 of 56, of the micro-suites. To date, we have seen no sign of interest slowing. Over 1000 potential buyers registered their interest – many who scheduled sales appointments and have since become proud owners of Canada’s smallest condos.
Do you have any plans to build more micro-suites in the near future?
Yes. Due to the popularity of Balance Micro-Suites, we are now looking to embark on projects in Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver and possibly Port Moody, to satisfy buyer interest.
Micro-suites are a new approach to modern real-estate. They accommodate the changing economic and environmental landscapes we face as Canadians and will play an integral role in the future of property.