Currently, the real estate industry is in the middle of its usual summer slowdown. — Image Credit: Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS
Slapping another 15-per-cent sales tax on homes to foreign buyers could cool the red-hot real estate market in higher priced areas of Richmond or Vancouver, but it might take longer to learn of any effect in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
The announcement by the B.C. government last week saw a rush to complete deals by the Aug. 2 deadline, but Tom Garvey, managing broker with Macdonald Realty, says it will be at least a month before the full effect of the tax is known in Maple Ridge.
“There’s not a huge amount of foreign buyers who are coming out to Maple Ridge,” said Garvey, who said he hasn’t noticed any effect so far in the local market.
But it’s early yet and time will tell.
“Let’s see what happens over the next two to four weeks.”
A whopping 90 percent of Metro Vancouver residents support the region’s new 15-percent tax on foreign buyers of residential real estate. At the same time, only three percent of respondents to the same poll, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, say the tax goes far enough, and 71 percent describe it as simply a step in the right direction.
While the region waits to see what kind of impact the new tax will have on the market, pundits are debating what additional measures the government should take. That’s turned a lot of attention to the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP), a path exclusively for wealthy immigrants that, despite its name, lets newcomers settle in B.C. Those home buyers are counted as locals and therefore are not subject to the region’s new tax on foreign nationals. Some observers argue the QIIP deserves much of the blame for driving up the price of a home in Vancouver.
On July 28, Premier Christy Clark revealed she’s approached her Québécois counterpart and opened discussions on the issue.
“We’re going to work together on it,” she told Global News. “We’re going to try and support him [Premier Philippe Couillard] in finding ways to make sure their program, their investor program, is for Quebec and for Quebec alone. And that when people come into Quebec, that’s where they stay.”
But eliminating this source of wealthy immigrants might not have as sizable an effect on Vancouver real estate as some have suggested.
Realtors and lawyers desperate to get in under the deadline filed a record-setting 15,000 property transfer applications on Thursday and Friday, the last business days before B.C.’s punishing new 15-per-cent tax on foreign property buyers went into effect.
More than 9,200 transactions were filed on Friday, breaking the 2007-2008 record of more than 8,400 in a single day, according to the B.C. Land Title and Survey Authority. It also reported over 5,800 transactions on Thursday, representing nearly as many deals registered at month’s end in April.
The demand was so heavy that it crashed the land titles office’s electronic filing service on both days, the authority said.
Now, as a new dawn breaks in Metro Vancouver’s real estate market, realty companies and real estate boards are reporting the first anecdotes of deals falling through as foreign buyers forfeited deposits on binding deals rather than pay the new tax. And they report evidence of local buyers withdrawing offers in expectation that the market will soften.
Elton Ash, executive vice-president of Re/Max Western Region, said it is too early to accurately quantify how many deals fell apart, but he’s heard from realtors in some of the company’s 30 Metro Vancouver offices of cases where foreign buyers who couldn’t rearrange previously negotiated closing dates have already walked away.
“Our expectation is that there will be a percentage of transactions collapse due to the buyer basically defaulting on the contract,” Ash said.
He and other realty experts say it may take up to two or three months to gauge the full effect of the new tax.
“I think the next chapters in this story are going to be written by lawyers”
Jonathan Cooper, vice-president of operations at Macdonald Realty, expects many cases to go to court because deposits are held in trust by realtors and usually can’t be released without a court order.
“I think the next chapters in this story are going to be written by lawyers,” Cooper said. “There are going to be cases for sellers trying to get the deposit out of trust and maybe suing the buyer for specific performance trying to get them to complete, and/or for damages if they are not able to find a buyer at a similar price point.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark says new data that show foreigners bought one in every 10 homes sold in Metro Vancouver’s superheated market over five weeks forced her government to introduce a new and substantial tax on international buyers, but she says the surprise levy is intended to stop the spike in prices, not devalue the equity built up by existing homeowners.
Foreign buyers in B.C.
Statistics the province released on Tuesday show buyers who were not Canadian citizens or permanent residents made up 10 per cent of all home sales in Metro Vancouver between June 10 and July 14. Those transactions totalled $885-million. An earlier release of data covering June 10 to 29 and not including end-of-month sales found only 5 per cent of the sales in the region involved foreigners.
The proportion of international buyers was higher in the suburbs of Burnaby and Richmond, with nearly one in five of all homes sold in those cities going to people from countries other than Canada. The rate for Vancouver proper was 11 per cent, and 7 per cent across all of British Columbia.
“There need to be more houses on the market that are available to local people,” Ms. Clark told The Globe and Mail.
Next Tuesday, 22 communities will start levying 15 per cent in additional property transfer taxes on any foreign home buyer without permanent residency in Canada, as well as foreign corporations or Canadian-registered corporations owned or controlled by foreigners.
Jonathan Cooper, Vice President, Operations of Macdonald Real Estate Group, was on Business News Network (BNN) speaking about the pick-up in American home buyers in BC and how the loonie has been driving that interest.
Click the video to watch.