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Five hottest British Columbia news stories of 2018

Western Investor's most-read stories, from dual-agency regulation to new and expanded residential real estate taxes

During a year of major real estate policy and regulation change, it comes as no surprise that WesternInvestor.com’s most-viewed B.C. stories gave readers the insight into these new developments, including B.C’s foreign buyer tax, restrictions on assignment sales to prevent ‘shadow flipping’ and ‘ double-ending’. Readers also frequented the sight to get the lowdown on up-and-coming investment destinations.

Here is our annual countdown of our five most-read British Columbia stories published in 2018.

5. Mill town of Powell River becomes low-cost investment destination

Our first story to garner the most views this year focuses on the economic growth of Vancouver Island town Powell River, a los-cost alternative to the mainland with a 80.3 per cent increase in housing sales year-over-year. 

4. Dual agency rules will disrupt housing market, real estate agents claim

Changes to the B.C. Real Estate Services Act that came into effect June 15, 2018 prohibited "double ending" – representing both a buyer and a seller in a real estate transaction. In our story, real estate professionals worried it could slowdown sales – and as the year progressed, they may have had a point. 

3. China's largest online retailer to start selling Canadian real estate

This quick-hit story on Chinese real estate portal Juwai.com and retail site JD.com teaming up to offer Canadian real estate to Asian consumers garnered the third-most views this year, showing us that readers are still drawn to stories on foreign investment in Vancouver property. 

2. Higher-priced house markets nailed by tax hike

Our second-most read story of the year focused on the first effects on the housing market following the B.C. Budget 2018 housing measures announcement. Pricey markets like Vancouver’s west side were the first to fall, seeing prices down 70 per cent in April 2018 versus April 2016. 

1. Canada Revenue Agency recruited to help fight mortgage fraud

Our most-read story of the year covered the CRA’s recruitment to combating mortgage fraud together with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, by allowing lender to have access to an applicant’s tax data. Together with numerous Bank of Canada interest rates this year, it’s no surprise that readers we’re reading and watching to see how new regulations would affect mortgage eligibility in a changing market. 

REMAX forecasts Canadian markets in 2019

According to the REMAX 2019 Housing Market Outlook, the country’s average sale prices will get a 1.7% boost, an indication that the balance has finally returned to Canada.

The report notes that markets throughout the country stabilized this year after the 2017 aberration that saw prices in markets like Toronto’s surge beyond reasonable levels. Stabilization is expected to continue through 2019, a likely consequence of interest rate hikes that are believed will increase as the year goes on.

Thirty-one percent of REMAX survey respondents don’t believe interest rates have hitherto affected their ability to afford a mortgage, but that optimism doesn’t extend beyond December. Another REMAX survey of its brokers and agents revealed 83% expect interest rates to make Canadians’ home purchases cumbersome next year.

The report also expects sale prices in Vancouver to decline 3% in 2019 because obtaining a mortgage in the Metro region is becoming well-nigh impossible.

"The drop in sales in key markets across British Columbia can be partially attributed to Canadians' increasing difficulty in getting an affordable mortgage in the region," says Elton Ash, REMAX of Western Canada’s regional executive vice president. "The situation created by the introduction of the mortgage stress test this year, as well as continually increasing interest rates, means more Canadians will be priced out of the market."

The Greater Toronto Area, on the other hand, is expected to fare better next year as REMAX predicts sale prices will rise 2%, thanks to high demand for homes priced below $1 million. Demand will be weaker for homes above $1.5m, though. According to Christopher Alexander, REMAX’s vice president and regional director for Ontario-Atlantic Region, looming rate hikes might be spurring the restraint.

“People are a little more cautious than they were in the past because interest rates are starting to rise,” he said. “Government said it would be more aggressive with interest rates and people are waiting to see how it will all shake out.”

Alexander added that Toronto remains a popular destination, which should balance out weaknesses in its market.

“It’s not surprising [November sales in the GTA] were down year-over-year, but because Toronto is such a big destination, both domestically and globally, there will be good pockets of the city that balance everything gout.”

by Neil Sharma12 Dec 2018 | www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

After a relatively sedate 2018, Toronto is heating up again

After exhibiting relatively modest performance for most of 2018 with the advent of stricter mortgage qualification rules, Toronto is seeing a resurgence in market competition once again.

The latest numbers from the city’s real estate professionals’ association indicated that the total number of active for-sale listings in the GTA saw a 9.8% year-over-year decrease in November, down to 16,420 units.

During the same time frame, the volume of new for-sale listings in the region shrank by 26.1%.

“New listings were actually down more than sales on a year-over-year basis in November,” TREB President Garry Bhaura said, as quoted by Bloomberg.

Read more: Toronto apartment inventory having trouble catching up with demand

“This suggests that, in many neighbourhoods, competition between buyers may have increased. Relatively tight market conditions over the past few months have provided the foundation for renewed price growth,” Bhaura added.

Average home sales price last month was $788,345, growing by 3.5% from the same time last year.

Meanwhile, total sales in November stood at at 6,251 completed deals, representing a 14.5% annual decline.

TREB stressed, however, that any year-over-year comparison should take into account that November 2017’s performance is “distorted” due to a large number of buyers rushing to beat the implementation of B-20 in January 2018.

www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca
by Ephraim Vecina07 Dec 2018

Mortgage stress test could become election issue

The Conservative Party of Canada plans to make the mortgage stress test a hot button issue in time for next year’s election, but explaining such a convoluted issue to Canadians could pose a challenge.

The party’s Deputy Shadow Minister for Finance tabled two motions this year to study the impact of the stress test, known as B-20, but they were both rejected by the Liberals. Nevertheless, MP Tom Kmiec has vowed to put the mortgage stress test on the agenda in time for the Oct. 2019 federal election.

“It will be an election issue, absolutely,” said Kmiec. “I’m willing to use procedural tools to get this study done. I’m not necessarily saying to get rid of B-20 completely; I’m saying take a look at the data and then make a decision on it. I’m asking the Liberals to provide any internal documents they have showing why the mortgage rules were introduced in the first place.”

Kmiec has started a website to pressure the Liberals into studying B-20’s effects. He claims that he was initially told B-20 wouldn’t be examined in the absence of more data, however, much has since come to light about Canadians being shut out of the housing market.

Kmiec is dogged, to be sure. He participated in the electoral reform committee’s filibuster.

“If it comes down to it, I’m happy to use up every two-hour time limit on every single committee until we agree to do a mortgage study,” said Kmiec. “I’m not asking for the moon, either. All I want are a few meetings in Ottawa where we can invite people with data who can then tell us what’s happening with the market.”

But communicating the message will doubtless be challenging for the Conservatives. Ron Butler of Butler Mortgage can attest to how difficult buying homes has become this year, but too few Canadians have born that brunt for the impact to truly be understood.

However, given that mortgage renewals are subject to the same stringent B-20 qualification rules, Butler believes it is still possible to make Canadians understand how detrimental the stress test is.

“It won’t be hot button, but if it’s messaged right, it could be,” he said. “If it’s presented properly as a group of themes about the incompetence, in terms of the ability to handle the file—why has Mexico settled NAFTA already and Canada hasn’t? Why did we buy a pipeline that got shut down? It’s a good thing to add to the general list of incompetence. On its own, it isn’t a hot button issue, but if you want to weave it into a tapestry of every day, practical fiscal management, it could work.”

 

by Neil Sharma01 Oct 2018, www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

Commercial sales volumes down – except in multi-family market

Multi-family assets continue to be crowd favourite among investors, while sales in office and industrial properties slow due to limited supply

 

Sales volumes in nearly every commercial real estate sectors have declined in the second quarter of 2018 – though not for a lack of demand, according to a new report. 

The growing disconnect between supply and demand in Canadian real estate has lead to a decrease in sales velocity and an acceleration of lease rates, according to research by the Morguard Corporation

"A drop in transaction volume in the second quarter is very much a function of low product availability rather than a drop in demand," said Keith Reading, director of research at Morguard. "With quality office and industrial space at a premium, apartments are a crowd favourite as investors search for yield."

Office sales have dropped nearly 50 per cent across Canada year-over-year, while industrial volume has plunged 17.8 per cent. Meanwhile, multi-family sales increased 17.5 per cent.

Average sale prices for multi-family properties also increased year-over-year, from $8.5 million in the first half of 2017 to $13 million during the same period of 2018. 

Morguard expects investor sentiment in residential rental properties to remain strong into next term. 

 


 

 Tanya Commisso | Western Investor | July 18, 2018

Zoning could be key to funding downtown relief line

Toronto’s downtown relief subway line—should the political will needed to build it ever materialize—could partly fund itself, to say nothing of the skyrocketing valuations that will result.

According to Andy Manahan, executive director of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, the municipal government can use zoning as a bargaining chip with developers to pay for the proposed network expansion by negotiating additional storeys.

 

“If a building is only zoned for five storeys but the developer is given 20 storeys, that extra 15 storeys is worth a lot of money and developers would be willing to pay it,”said Manahan. “If we build a relief line, we have to place more density at the station so that there’s more land value capture. If you do that link between land use and transit, you can do some creative financing in the long-run as well, and get some more developers on board.”

Many existing TTC subway stations were created as architectural monuments rather than into the sides of buildings, which is what would adequately succour density.  And if the mere rumour of below-grade infrastructure is enough to cause property values to rise, imagine what a unit 25 storeys above a subway platform would be worth.

“Typically, once an announcement is made about where the line will go, property values do increase, so the trick is how we ensure we can capture some of that increase in value,” continued Manahan.

However, more is at stake than optimizing real estate values. Toronto’s current subway network is overcapacity and its platforms dangerously brim with people. Given how many skyscrapers will continue sprouting downtown, not to mention the already low office vacancy rate, Manahan warns that the network’s capacity troubles are worsening.

“We have a lot of growth in the downtown core, and it’s not just residential,” he said. “There’s about 5.7mln square feet that will be added to the downtown office segment by 2020.”

Davelle Morrison of Bosley Real Estate echoed Manahan: “Right now, without further additional building of office space downtown, we already know we need the relief line. If you add more people working downtown and more people living downtown, because immigration numbers are high and more and more people are moving to Toronto in particular, it’s a no-brainer to me about why you would need the downtown relief line. It’s already needed, but 10, 15 years from now, it’s going to be needed even more.”

The RCCAO has been an outspoken proponent of the downtown relief line, taking out full-page newspaper ads and even launching a Twitter campaign called #GimmeRelief.

The earliest the downtown relief line could complete is 2031, however, there’s no official plan to build it. In fact, it’s as much of a pipe dream today as it was a decade ago—and making matters more frustrating for commuters, the Scarborough subway line has been given priority.

Backwards thinking, says Manahan, because sequencing is important and dictates building the network outward rather than inward, where support infrastructure is presently non-existent.

But he takes solace in Ontario’s political parties acknowledgment that the downtown relief line needs to be built.

“Over the last 50 years, the relief line is talked about occasionally and never gets built. It’s an important project and recognized by all four provincial parties. After June 7, no matter which party is in power, they will have to continue.”

by Neil Sharma30 May 2018 | Canadian RealEstate Wealth

Chinese e-commerce giant seeks real estate for Vancouver office

Alibaba is seeking to lease real estate for a Vancouver office that within “two to three years” will employ at least 30 people, Alibaba Group North America general manager Steve Wang told Business in Vancouver May 11 at a forum that the Chinese e-commerce company hosted at the Hotel Vancouver.

“We do not have a specific announcement about an office opening today,” he said. “Today, we are focused on educating on Alibaba’s solutions to help Canadian businesses access the China market. We are committed to Canada and Vancouver for the long term and intend to expand our operations here.”

Wang, who lives in Vancouver and travels extensively, oversees hundreds of Alibaba workers, who now are based in six North American locations: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Mateo, Washington D.C., and New York City.

Alibaba has yet to base any staff in Canada and no Canadian office outside Vancouver is currently being contemplated, although small teams may be created across Canada, said Candice Huang, who is Alibaba’s senior manager of international corporate affairs.

The move to make Vancouver the first city in Canada to get an office, instead of Toronto, is a surprise given that Alibaba's first Gateway conference was in Toronto, and the company had seemed to be making Toronto a first priority.

Huang said that staff in the future Vancouver office will likely work to help B.C. and other Canadian entrepreneurs understand and access Alibaba’s platforms. Other employees are likely to work to link tourism-related businesses with  Alibaba’s online travel platform Fliggy, which facilitates travel mostly for Chinese residents.

Canadian tourism-related businesses, such as Air Canada or the Capilano Suspension Bridge, would be able to create their own online stores on Fliggy, Huang explained.

B.C. businesses have long been selling products on Alibaba, and the number of those businesses has risen considerably since September 2016, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to China, met Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, and announced an agreement between the Canadian government and Alibaba.

That agreement aimed to make it easier for B.C. companies to reach what is now 500 million or more consumers who use Alibaba platforms.

The Canadian government then set up an online store on Alibaba’s Tmall platform.

 

Lululemon Athletica Inc.Arc’Teryx and Norco Bicycles are among the other B.C. companies selling products on Alibaba platforms.

By 2022, the combined population of Canada and the U.S. is expected to reach 378 million, while China’s middle-class population is projected to exceed 600 million people.

Cross-border retail e-commerce spending in China is expected to grow six-fold between 2015 and 2020, to US$245 billion, according to AliResearch, Accenture.

The largest import categories for products sold on Alibaba are beauty, fashion, healthcare, home supplies, baby supplies and snacks and beverages.

Selling on Alibaba, however, can be complicated.

The company operates various platforms, including Taobao, Alibaba.com and Tmall sites.

 

Chinese entrepreneurs pay to create online Tmall stores and then set up web pages to sell their products.

Canada’s Canadian Pavilion site is an example of one of those stores. When buyers click to buy items, they get redirected to one of the Canadian stores operating on Tmall.

SunRype’s Chinese partner, for example, operates a Just Order store, but the Kelowna-based company also resells SunRype products to owners of other stores so they can sell the goods.

Glen Korstrom Business in Vancouver

May 14, 2018

Unlikely Canadian city attracting foreign buyers

Ottawa is experiencing a rental shortage, and savvy foreign investors are swooping in.

“There’s a shortage of inventory in the rental market here, so there’s a need for rental properties,” said Chris Lacharity, a sales representative with Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, which deals in the luxury market. “An astute buyer knows that. There are a lot of foreign buyers who buy for personal use, but there’s a lot of investment, too.”

 

The nation’s capital is situated between Toronto and Montreal—two cities with significant foreign buyer activity—so the presence of non-resident investors shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

“Ottawa is growing faster than it ever has, but there’s still growth potential,” said Lacharity. “It has a ways to go, in terms of growth, but it’s also a capital city, a government city. It has rivers and lakes, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. If you have a family, it’s safe and hasn’t experienced all the issues that come with large metropolises. It’s also close to Montreal and Toronto.”

Montreal has arguably the hottest real estate market in Canada right now. Government initiatives brought in to cool skyrocketing housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto are believed to be responsible for that. But Ottawa is another city in the midst of a renaissance. In addition to an LRT project, it has a thriving tech sector, robust student population, and well-paying government jobs.

It is also very stable—and given investors’ distaste for volatility, that’s perfect.

“Real estate doesn’t just shoot up, it conservatively rises here 3-5% on average,” said Lacharity, adding foreign buyers park money in the city’s real estate. “It’s a pretty safe bet for that.”

Bernadette Deschenes of Your Choice Realty notes overheating in Toronto and Vancouver are catalysts for foreign buyer activity in Canada’s capital city. But the city’s two universities have also impelled foreign buyers into action.

“They buy more student residences, like condos or townhomes,” said Deschenes. “Most of our foreign buyers are buying for their children who are attending university. We have a huge student population in this city. There’s a fair bit of older brownstone that’s near Ottawa U in the Sandy Hill region.”

by Neil Sharma09 May 2018 | www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca