Wealthy Migrants from China Change the Aspects of the Vancouver Housing Market

While Chinese homebuyer pockets seem to be limitless, the home supply in Vancouver certainly does have limits.  Physical limitations alone, with mountains, sea, and a United States border surrounding the city, offers up a city that is short on land and high on demand.  Factor in a high interest from abroad against locals vying to move to a property of their own and it all comes down to price.

For many local Vancouverites and homebuyers, the price is not right.

Home prices have surged over the last five years, with some areas seeing an increase in home prices by more than fifty percent.  The average home price in Vancouver is the most expensive in all of Canada, at more than $1.25-million, almost double that of Toronto.  Home prices are certainly outpacing earnings for local residents.  This is where the foreign investors and immigrants come in.  Some brokerage firms estimate that they are now selling more than thirty percent of their listings to homebuyers from China.

Vancouver has always been a city with a strong, multi-cultural, and diverse background.  With a long-standing tradition of Chinese immigrating to Vancouver, the current trend has seen an uptick with the government’s investor immigrant program.  Recently placed on hold, there is now a backlog of more than 75,000 people desiring to lend the government money interest free in exchange for permanent residency.  The program has largely drawn immigrants to the Vancouver area.

The economic rise in China has created a new class of millionaires and there is no indication of it slowing down anytime soon.  China is where families are making money and Canada is where families are saving money.  Canada is becoming a safe haven for many moving from abroad and Vancouver based real estate companies are setting up office overseas to lure Chinese buyers.  “Commuting” for work is not unheard of and many family members stay behind in Vancouver while spouses work in China.

While locals find it next to impossible to move to Vancouver, Chinese immigrants are more than happy to not only settle into the city but to purchase multiple properties as investments.  While prices are simply too high for many locals, most immigrants say that Vancouver house prices are just right and the influx of foreign cash is good for the economy.  Sellers can cash out to foreign buyers and baby boomers can easily retire.  While this incursion of immigrant money is driving the housing market and keeping the real estate, design, and construction sector busy, it is often sadly leaving many properties empty and downright abandoned.

Discussions on limitations on foreign investments often come down to a debate about whether or not that is racism.  Many simply point out that you cannot stop the effects of globalization and Vancouver is the “bedroom community” for this phenomenon, generating quite the distance to travel for work and quite a gap to close.  While there is absolutely the opportunity for some locals to cash out and foreign investors to buy in, there is very little opportunity for locals to buy up.

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