Foreign Buyers Increase Condo Stakes in Canada Cities

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Foreign owners are taking a larger share of the condominium markets in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada’s housing agency said.

Foreigners owned 3.5 percent of all condos in Vancouver and 3.3 percent in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, according to a report Thursday from Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. which surveyed property managers. That’s up from the 2014 share of 2.3 percent and 2.4 percent. In the downtown core, foreign buyers made up 5.4 percent of Vancouver condo buyers this year and 5.8 percent in Toronto, both up from last year.

Politicians have been under pressure from many quarters including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, HSBC Holdings Plc and local residents to start monitoring offshore money that may be pushing up home prices, particularly in Vancouver. Average home prices rose 10 percent to C$632,685 ($474,241) in Toronto in November from a year ago while Vancouver home prices soared 18 percent to C$752,500.

The housing agency reiterated that more information is needed on the subject and it’s looking to fill that gap, it said in the report. Next steps could include surveying realtors, developers, and banks, and gathering data from municipal land registries or other levels of government.

“A lack of accurate and reliable data makes it difficult to determine if or how foreign ownership may be affecting the market,” Evan Siddall said in a speech Thursday to the Montreal Board of Trade. “It’s clear that we need to capture more detailed information on both foreign ownership and investment intentions.”

So far, the agency’s data is limited to condominiums and based only on a survey of property managers who are asked for the total number of apartments owned by people whose permanent resident is outside of Canada. Offshore buyers can keep their location and identity secret, Siddall said in a speech last month.

A Start

As CMHC only has about two years’ worth of data on foreign ownership, “we’re not quite sure of the impact,” Siddall told reporters after his Montreal speech. “The good news is, we’ve started measuring it, we’re attending to it. That’s what we think our responsibility is.”

CMHC’s results are lower than third-party reports that found foreigners make up a much larger portion of home buyers in Canada’s two most expensive real estate markets. A Sotheby’s survey of realtors in 2013, for example, found that international buyers made up 40 percent of luxury sales in Vancouver and a quarter in Toronto, according to the CMHC report.

The Ottawa-based agency released the data as part of its Housing Market Insight series, and will publish about 40 more reports on different cities and housing topics throughout 2016.