One of the exciting aspects of real estate is that it’s always changing. There are always new buyers and sellers entering the market, new properties being built, and so on. One growing trend, for example, is foreign investment in Canadian real estate. While foreign real estate investment is certainly nothing new, it has become a much stronger force within the past year. In fact, foreign investors spent more than $3 billion to purchase Canadian commercial properties in the third quarter of 2016 alone, so it’s definitely worth understanding in more detail.
According to the Financial Post, the third quarter of 2016 was the second consecutive quarter in which foreign investors overtook Canadian private investors for deals that exceeded $10 million, highlighting the astronomical rate of foreign investment in Canadian real estate over the course of the past year. This makes foreign investors much more of a presence in the domestic market.
There is some concern, however, that foreign investment has a negative effect. Critics of foreign real estate investment argue that it artificially inflates the price of real estate and thus displaces native Canadians who can’t afford the higher costs. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) recently announced that rates of foreign condo ownership–which climbed in six of the nation’s largest metro areas last year–have reached “statistically significant” levels in Vancouver and Toronto. In addition, the average selling price of homes in the Greater Toronto Area rose by 17% between January and October 2016. Of course, there are many other factors in play, but these figures seem to lend preliminary support to the idea that foreign investment is driving up real estate prices.
Since there actually isn’t much information on the direct effect that recent foreign investment has had on Canadian real estate, the government’s 2016-2017 budget sets aside $500,000 so that Statistics Canada can “develop methods for gathering data on purchases of Canadian housing by foreign homebuyers.” In British Columbia, the local government has gone even further and instituted a 15% property transfer tax on foreign nationals or corporations that buy residential real estate in the area in an attempt to stem foreign demand and keep prices down for native Canadians. Since the markets will need time to react to these actions, all that remain are questions: Will these measures dissuade foreign investors or not? Will the government go to even greater lengths to address this situation? For now, only time will tell.