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Chinese interest in Vancouver real estate recovers

A fully reopened China could lead to a ‘rapid increase’ in local property investment
Photo: David GN Photography, Moment, Getty Images

Vancouver remains a choice investment as Chinese interest in Canadian real estate recovers post-pandemic. 

According to Juwai IQI, a n Asian real estate technology group, Vancouver is still popular with mainland and Hong Kong Chinese buyers, even though Canadian real estate inquiries collapsed to an all-time low in 2021’s fourth quarter. 

“Chinese demand for Vancouver real estate plummeted during the pandemic, but it has come back strongly since Q4 2021,” said Juwai IQI co-founder and group CEO Kashif Ansari in a statement. 

Ansari said that demand data is based on buyer inquiries and not sales. Canadian regulations, taxes and Chinese capital controls combine to limit offshore investment in Vancouver by Chinese families. But if China fully reopens, Ansari said Canada should expect a rapid increase in visits, property acquisitions and student and immigrant arrivals. 

Immigration and education are the main drivers of Chinese investment in Canadian real estate, with most parties buying property for their own use and for their own investment and diversification goals, said Ansari, who bases Canada’s popularity on its long-term appeal. When compared with the U.S., he said, Canada’s competitive advantage with overseas buyers has improved over the last two years. “

Canada’s high migration targets and appealing educational system are powerful magnets for migrants and expats from all over Greater China. Vancouver is one of the world cities that Chinese buyers like the most,” Ansari said. 

This means that Canada’s slowing real estate market may still welcome investment. 

“Most Chinese buyers today are purchasing for their own use, so we don’t believe the slow market will deter these buyers,” Ansari said. “They are driven by life events, not market timing.” 

He added that Hong Kong relaxing its COVID-19 restrictions and no longer requiring residents to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine is “good news” because it means Hong Kong investment “can climb more quickly.” 

Arrival numbers from China are expected to remain flat. 

“Demand in 2022 is at about half the 2019 average, although it has climbed in each of the past two quarters,” Ansari said. “We see demand continuing to grow slowly through the end of 2023, at which point policy decisions by the Chinese government will determine what happens next.” 

He added that he doesn’t see Canada’s impending ban on foreign buyers, which will come into effect in January 2023, as a deterrent for Chinese buyers. 

Only a small fraction of Chinese buyers still live in China, and Ansari said that most buyers are looking to live permanently in Canada. 

Brendon Ogmundson, chief economist with the British Columbia Real Estate Association, echoed this, saying that the majority of buyers from China are looking to settle here rather than use real estate as a hold for funds. 

“A lot of what is classified as foreign investor activity over the past several years was really about families immigrating to Canada and becoming permanent residents and purchasing in anticipation of that immigration,” Ogmundson said. 

Don Kottick, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, said that, despite all that is happening with the economy and the pandemic, Vancouver remains a global destination. 

“There’s a lot more interest because of everything that’s happening over in China,” he said. 

“This really is a safe place, especially with the volatility in the equities market. Real estate as an investment is also a great place to put your money, but first and foremost, it’s the standard of living and the quality of life of Canada that will continue to attract immigrants, not just from China, but from all over the world.” ■