Vancouver prime property market sizzles, fueled by China cash

Thu Sep 11, 2014 1:07am EDT
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Chinese investors' global hunt for prime real estate is helping drive Vancouver home prices to record highs and the city, long among top destinations for wealthy mainland buyers, is feeling the bonanza's unwelcome side-effects.

The latest wave of Chinese money, linked in part to Beijing's anti-graft crackdown, is flowing into luxury hot spots. But it has also started driving up housing costs elsewhere in a city which already ranks as North America's least affordable urban market.

For decades Vancouver, along with Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore and more recently New York and London has been attracting Chinese and other Asian buyers.

And just like those other cities, Vancouver got caught in the most recent buying frenzy, which realtors say has intensified after President Xi Jinping announced his anti-corruption crusade in late 2012.

"In the last year there's been the corruption crackdown in China and a lot of people have seen their wealth evaporate over there because of that," said Dan Scarrow, a vice president at MacDonald Realty.

"So they want to put it somewhere they perceive as safe and there's nowhere safer than the west."

Canada does not track foreign property buyers, but analysis of city assessment data carried out by a leading urban planner and made available to Reuters helped identify Vancouver's hottest neighborhoods. Interviews with realtors active in those areas confirmed the perception that Chinese buyers were largely behind the latest rally.

Andy Yan of Bing Thom Architects found that values for detached homes in the C$2-5 million range have risen by 49 percent since 2009, making it the fastest growing segment in Vancouver's housing market. Home values in a handful of luxury enclaves in Vancouver's west climbed more than 50 percent over that period, driving city-wide values up more than 35 percent.   Continued...

A caretaker does yard work outside a English-style mansion listed for C$17.9 million ($16.3 million) in Vancouver's historic First Shaughnessy neighbourhood July 16, 2014.   REUTERS/Julie Gordon