Some residential developers create cookie-cutter housing projects, then leave as soon as the work is done. The opposite is true of Azora Group, which builds communities. While Azora’s design-oriented multi-family and single-family dwellings are of exceptional quality and value, Azora also designs them for real family life.
“When we build houses, we usually look at, ‘what can we create that is family-oriented?’ because we all have our own families,” says Masoud Sanai. “We look at tiny details, like putting in a small closet here, a crawlspace there, or a corner for a desk. Even things like a glass railing instead of a normal railing to give a better view and create spaciousness. The small things make it more liveable.”
Along with brothers Farhad and Amir, Masoud is one of the co-owners and Directors at Azora Group, one of Vancouver’s premier residential developers for over 12 years. For the privately held company, the word ‘family’ doesn’t just apply to the brothers, but also to new home buyers.
For the Sanai family, construction has been a part of their lives for decades. About 80 years ago in Iran, their grandfather was a renowned architect and construction developer who created many successful projects; in fact, some architectural monuments are still under protection from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Following in the family tradition, Farhad, Amir, and Masoud’s father and uncle created their own building company, focused on developing houses and road construction.
At age 13, Masoud — the eldest of the brothers — moved to Germany where he lived for 17 years before coming to Canada, while Farhad and Amir moved with the rest of the family to Dubai, where they lived for a few years before meeting up in Canada. Masoud received his education in Germany in Economics and Mechanical Engineering before attending Harvard Business School. One brother studied Integrated Engineering at the University of British Columbia, while the other brother attended the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) alongside his degree from Iran in Integrated Mathematics in Economics, and earned his real estate license.
“So we put all this knowledge and education together,” states Masoud. “We are the third generation.” Even though they didn’t have the same network and connections as in Iran when they came to Canada, a passion for building has led them to great success. “We had the luck to be the third generation and have the mindset of being a developer.” Starting off small, one of the first projects in Canada for the brothers was creating a duplex house in the British Columbia city of Coquitlam. Soon, this led to the creation of other duplexes, then fourplexes and increasingly larger townhouse projects.
No matter the type of project – multi-family, single-family, or custom – they are backed by new home warranties of two years, five years, and 10 years. Clients are always thrilled with their homes and the service they receive, which reflects Azora Group’s longstanding commitment to craftsmanship. “We look at our projects for the long run, and don’t skimp on quality, because our names and reputation are out there,” states Masoud. On the rare occasions where there are deficiencies, Masoud or his brother will visit the homeowner personally with one of their sub-trades to correct any issues. “Sometimes we do more than we should, because we think the relationship is worth more than saving $100 or $200 on deficiencies.”
This type of customer service, along with backing from one of the province’s best-known warranty companies, keeps paying off in repeat clients and word-of-mouth referrals.
Building residential projects that they themselves would want to live in, the Sanai brothers’ outstanding projects include Shannon 18 and Brock House. Now selling, Shannon 18 will be a collection of 18 contemporary three-bedroom townhomes of 1,300 square feet in Vancouver’s west side, at 7659 Granville St. With luxurious finishes and private balconies, Shannon 18 will offer homeowners stunning views of Vancouver, gorgeous landscaped entryway patios, an open, common courtyard, and much more. It is, says Masoud, a way of getting new neighbours to know one another in a community setting while still having their own private oasis.
Always mindful of creating outstanding properties, Azora Group also provides homeowners with great value. Priced at around $1.5 million, Shannon 18 is in a location where most homes sell in the $4 million to $10 million range. Popular with young families who want to be in an excellent area near quality schools, the project is also a hit with empty-nesters who don’t need much space but still want to live near their children and grandchildren. “I would say 70 percent of our buyers are young families, professionals who want to be in that area, because we are always looking to create something valuable for people,” comments Masoud, adding that instead of spending $2 million, Azora buyers can purchase one of their townhomes for $1.3, which boast the same infrastructure, spaciousness, and number of bedrooms.
Along with Shannon 18, another recent project is Brock House, a collection of 10 exclusive homes — eight duplexes and two single homes — all with three bedrooms and competitively priced between $1.3 and $1.5 million. Four of the properties also have downstairs rental units complete with separate kitchen and bathroom.
Situated in East Vancouver’s Kensington-Cedar Cottage neighbourhood at 2310 Brock St, these two- and three-storey homes seamlessly combine contemporary materials with classic architecture and design. Brock House features private patios for every unit, and an open, common space courtyard.
While the property offers the beauty of General Brock Park — which evokes feelings of being in the middle of a natural oasis with a children’s play area — homeowners are also close to nearby conveniences, including a community centre with a 4,000-square-foot fitness centre, gym, ice rink, music studio, licensed preschool, dance studio, art studio, café, and plenty more, truly embodying the best of modern family living. And since it is a strata-managed property, homeowners can enjoy the grounds without having to worry about gardening.
Previously the site of two older homes, Brock House is an ideal property because it has three-corner sides. “That’s an advantage for us, because if you have three-corner sides, you can have much more exclusivity for parking and entrances and so on,” explains Masoud. Negotiations with the city took two and a half years, since Vancouver wanted nine homes, not the 10 requested by Azora. “If we went for nine units, they would have been much bigger, but it wouldn’t have been that affordable for families to live in,” he says. “That’s also another thing to think of: affordability for a family to live in a three-bedroom house, possibly with the mortgage helper downstairs.”
Prior to planning projects, Masoud and his brothers review the drawings of their long-time architect, who is open to collaboration and suggestions. Operating with a modest back-end team, the company works with about 30 to 40 others, including sub-trades, who are treated like extended family members. This friendly, community mindset is carried over to all Azora developments, which sees neighbours become friends and enjoy get-togethers and barbecues.
Today, many of Azora’s projects are in the $20 million to $30 million range. Operating mainly in Vancouver itself, the company is eyeing North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Richmond and Burnaby. And while the desire to expand is strong, Masoud and his brothers remain realistic. “We want to grow as much as our abilities,” he says, “and do the job we are doing now, but on a little higher scale with more projects, and grow organically instead of exponentially. We want to be safe, keep our clients safe, and let them know they have a partner they can work with for years.”