Two reports are shedding new light on the impact of foreign buyers on Canada’s luxury real estate market. One quarter of real estate advisors with Royal LePage say 25 per cent of luxury homes in key Canadian markets are being snapped up by foreign buyers. And a new report from Christie’s International Real Estate names Toronto and Victoria, B.C. as the second- and third-hottest luxury real estate markets in the world.
Foreign buying is concentrated mainly in Toronto and Vancouver, according to Phil Soper, CEO of Royal LePage – Canada’s largest real estate company. Buyers are attracted to Canada’s stable political and financial systems and Canada’s reputation for cultural tolerance, diversity and openness to immigration.
The low Canadian dollar makes Canadian luxury homes a relative bargain, Soper told BNN. “If you track the value of Canadian home prices – luxury home prices – in American dollars, they have actually declined over the past three years rather than increased,” he said.
According to the survey, 67 per cent of advisors say foreign investor activity is up this year. About 60 per cent of advisers expect that trend to continue this year. Royal LePage polled 250 of its advisors who specialize in luxury property in February and March.
The impact of foreign buyers in Canadian real estate markets has been a hot-button issue. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. recently released a report on the impact of foreign buyers on the Canadian condo market and says it is continuing to monitor its impact on the market. In the recent federal budget Ottawa set aside $500,000 for Statistics Canada to study the issue.
The increased interest from foreign buyers has driven prices through the roof. A luxury home in Greater Vancouver that sold for $2.6 million in 2005 would now fetch nearly $6 million dollars – an increase of nearly 125 per cent. The Royal LePage survey defined a luxury home as a property valued at no less than four times the average home price in the Greater Toronto Area, Greater Vancouver, Greater Montreal Area and Calgary markets.
Those sky-high prices are leading foreign buyers to look farther afield, according to Christie’s International Real Estate. Unlike Royal LePage, the Christie’s report did not distinguish between foreign and domestic buyers.
Buyers who find Vancouver too expensive are now looking to Victoria, B.C. – ranked the third-hottest global luxury housing market. Toronto is ranked number two, slipping from the top spot last year. Aukland, New Zealand was ranked number one.
“Citizens of Vancouver take advantage of the city’s property boom and rising prices, then relocate to Victoria to capitalize on the housing price differential between the two cities,” said the Christie’s report.
The shift away from traditionally hot luxury markets is being felt across the globe. In 2015, sales of luxury properties dropped four per cent in London compared to the previous year. Sales dropped five per cent in Manhattan and nearly 12 per cent in Hong Kong.
But foreign buyers – attracted to Canada’s stable markets and low dollar – are a significant factor in Canada’s luxury property boom, according to the Christies’s report. Foreign buyers come to Canada for vacation to take advantage of the low dollar and end up buying a vacation property.
“The last time our dollar was as low as this, we used to have a joke: Buy three and you get one free,” said a real estate agent quoted in the report. “And seriously, people were seriously buying three!”