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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. 

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

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

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

International online retailer selling Canadian houses like shoes

Chinese real estate portal Juwai—which collects staggering quantities of data on Canadian housing—has struck a deal with online retailer JD.com to start selling homes like shoes.

Juwai markets overseas properties to buyers in China’s Mainland and, according to a JD.com statement buyers can view houses listed for sale “like milk, shoes and other household goods.”

In addition to Canadian real estate, home listings from Australia, the U.K. and U.S. will also be advertised on JD.com—all popular markets for Chinese investors.

JD.com, which is often referred to the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, made a special request for Canadian real estate because of how popular of a commodity it’s become among Chinese consumers.

China forbids capital outflow exceeding USD$50,000, but it’s in the midst of loosening such restrictions and retailers like JD.com—China’s second-largest retailer after Alibaba—are champing at the bit.

However, news about the deal between Juwai and JD.com is bound to inflame tensions between domestic and foreign buyers, whom believe responsible for rising unaffordability.

Countries like New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Switzerland and Singapore, to name a few, have taken measures to protect their housing markets from foreign speculators, while Canada has steep foreign buyer taxes in its two most expensive real estate markets.

by Neil Sharma03 Apr 2018 | .www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

B.C. commercial real estate investment up 83% year-over-year

Real estate sales over $5 million hit a new dollar volume high in 2017, led by institutional buyer demand

 

B.C.’s commercial investment value set a new record-high of $7.5 billion in 2017 – up nearly 83 per cent over 2016’s $4.1-billion value. 

A new year-end investment review from Avison Young Commercial Real Estate notes commercial real estate deals and dollar volumes have continued to rise astronomically since 2015. Avison Young cites a number of reasons behind this acceleration – primarily a divergence of market opinion between vendors and purchasers that has led to more assets for sale by owners and more demand for purchase among investors. 

The report tracks B.C. office, industrial, retail and multi-family property transactions greater than $5 million. Two hundred and thirty property sales were recording in 2017, versus 147 in 2016.

 2017 property sales continued to be led by redevelopment potential, regardless of asset class. 

"Ongoing price appreciation in all asset classes is being driven almost exclusively by land value and redevelopment potential," says Bob Levine, principal for Avison Young. "The acquisition of retail assets has morphed in many cases into land deals with lesser consideration or interest for the income in place or the retail asset itself.” 

Private investors accounted for 87 per cent of transactions in 2017 but only 46 per cent of dollar volume. Institutional buyers accounted for the other 47 per cent of dollar volume recorded in 2017. Institutional buyers were involved in most high-profile transactions of the year, including Cadillac Fairview’s downtown Vancouver office portfolio, Pacific Centre shopping mall, Oakridge Centre and Solo District office sales in Burnaby. 

Retail sales in B.C. claimed the largest portion of sales dollar volume, claiming 48 per cent or $3.6 billion of 2017’s 7.5 billion investment total. 

The year’s single biggest transaction was the $1.9-billion sale of Pacific Centre and surrounding office towers. It was B.C.’s second commercial real estate deal to surpass $1 billion, following the $1.05-billion sale of Bentall Centre in 2016. 

Avison Young do not anticipate a billion-dollar transaction in 2018 and believes institutional buyer demand will slow, leading to an annual dollar volume decrease. 
 

Tanya Commisso Western InvestorMarch 22, 2018

Major impact to B.C. real estate market expected from proposed taxes

New tax policies put pressure on Canadians to sell their secondary properties within the province

Albertans anticipated to look within their own province and to the United States for secondary properties

TORONTO, March 29, 2018 /CNW/ - According to a Royal LePage advisor survey, which consolidated the views of 535 real estate professionals in British Columbia and Alberta, the implementation of new housing taxes outlined in British Columbia's 2018 budget have the potential to significantly impact the province's residential real estate market. While previous provincial measures have targeted foreign homebuyers, the implications of the new tax policies will be much more widespread, primarily affecting domestic homeowners located in B.C., Alberta and other parts of Canada who have made the tourist-focused region their second home.

British Columbia's tax policies within its 2018 budget include the introduction of a speculation tax on qualifying secondary homes, an increase to the foreign buyer tax as well as an expanded list of affected regions and an increase to the property-related school taxes and land transfer taxes on homes worth over $3 million.  

When asked, 85.0 per cent of advisors operating in British Columbia said that the new tax policies have hurt consumer confidence in residential real estate across the province. A further 78.0 per cent of respondents believe that home sales will decrease within the first three months of the announcement of the new policies, while the majority (57.3 per cent) stated that prices will also decrease during the same period of time.

"The expected impact of the proposed housing taxes announced in British Columbia should not be taken lightly," said Phil Soper, President and CEO, Royal LePage. "Homeowners across the province will feel the effects as major policy changes like this are also amplified by a drop in consumer confidence. We saw this happen in 2016 when the previous government launched a tax on foreign investors. A small number of international purchasers withdrew from the market – along with a huge cohort of domestic homebuyers.

"Canadian homebuyers from coast-to-coast were already struggling with new federal restrictions on access to mortgage financing," continued Soper. "We expect the impact of the new government's housing tax policies to be even more pronounced as they will force Canadians, Americans and potential buyers from elsewhere in the world out of the market."

While 77.0 per cent of advisors stated that the provincial regulations will cause interest from international purchasers to decrease, this demographic was ranked last when respondents identified the group that was most impacted by the new policies. When asked, 44.8 per cent of advisors stated that the new housing policies most impacted residents of British Columbia, followed by 43.5 per cent who believed it was Canadians who own or are looking to buy property in British Columbia, but predominantly live in other provinces. Only 11.3 per cent of real estate professionals forecast that the policies would impact international purchasers the most.

"We expect that the new taxes will materially impact communities that rely on recreational property markets for the health of their local economy," said Soper. "There will be some Canadians in British Columbia and across the country that will choose to sell their properties in the province as the new taxes add to the cost of homeownership.

"There are further unintended consequences from these kinds of policy changes," Soper concluded. "If property values decline, property tax revenues decline. Local municipalities will have to deal with this added burden."

When asked, 81.5 per cent of advisors said the new tax policies within British Columbia's 2018 budget have already caused interest from Canadians living outside of the province to decrease, with 73.8 per cent believing that the move will lead the group to sell their property. This is predominantly led by the impending speculation tax, which 90.8 per cent of respondents believe will impact sales in the province from prospective homeowners located in other areas of Canada, like Alberta.

These sentiments were verified by advisors in Alberta, with 80.7 per cent believing that Alberta-based interest in B.C. recreational properties will decrease, and a further 75.6 per cent stating that Albertans who currently own recreational property in British Columbia would likely sell their secondary homes. Instead, it is believed that Albertans will now increasingly look within their own province (72.6 per cent) or south of the border (46.7 per cent) for secondary properties.

Survey Methodology

Royal LePage's advisor survey was conducted online between March 14, 2018 and March 20, 2018, polling a total of 400 Royal LePage real estate advisors from British Columbia and a further 135 from Alberta. Responses were anonymously recorded and analyzed independently.

On March 26th, 2018, British Columbia announced amendments to its speculation tax. These amendments do not change the opinion of Royal LePage and its network of real estate professionals. While the size of the new taxes has been reduced modestly in one of the categories, the entire scope of the new tax regime remains in place. The results of the Royal LePage advisor survey are reflective of current expert opinion on real estate in the region.

 

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Royal LePage

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