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Yet the self-same conditions are adding handsomely to the net worth of millions of homeowners, and supporting a constellation of housing-related industries, from real estate sales to interior decoration.They could be considered the main engine of Canada’s stop-and-go economy, and for those along for the ride—builders, property lawyers, revenue-hungry local politicians—the question isn’t so much what Chinese buyers are doing to the Canadian property market. How far we’ve travelled down this bejewelled highway is only starting to come clear.
“We just followed our hearts to begin a totally different life,” he tells , adding: “We can make the house dream come true in Canada.” The starting point was one-half of a modest duplex near downtown Victoria, close to the university where his wife is seeking a master’s degree, and priced about right for their limited means.In Vancouver, for instance, foreign ownership of condos built before 1990 stands at just two per cent.For structures completed since 2010, that number climbs to six per cent.It’s common for foreign-based buyers to send their children and spouses here while remaining in their home country.Should such buyers be lumped in with overseas owners of income properties?Quebec saw its numbers more than triple, while Alberta’s numbers rose 70 per cent. The stated reasons for such purchases don’t entirely compute (neither seems the likely site, as owners and local officials suggest, for a full-service, self-contained vacation community). Next to China’s own volatile real estate markets, property almost anywhere in the Western world can seem an island of financial sanity, says Matthew Moore, president of Juwai’s North American operations.
Meanwhile, Chinese developers have made buys in locations that have left analysts scratching their heads, including Nova Scotia’s remote Eastern Shore and an abandoned mining town in the B. “The year-on-year property increase in Shenzhen, one of China’s tier-one cities, was close to 60 per cent,” he observes.
“This is about wealth preservation.” Adding to that sense of urgency: even the most privileged Chinese mainlanders have for decades been shut out of buying property, which Moore describes as the “favourite asset class” of Chinese dating back to its pre-Revolution days.
This is on top of profound worries many Chinese have about their country’s overbearing political system, the lack of transparent rule of law and rampant corruption.
Estimates peg the amount Chinese investors and companies moved out of the country last year at nearly $1 trillion, up more than sevenfold from 2014. But a sizable portion was directed into overseas real estate.
Much of that money is being spent by Chinese companies looking to snap up Western assets, such as Chem China’s US$43-billion bid to take over Swiss seed company Syngenta, or to pay down U. With diversification as the new mantra, China’s newly rich—as of 2014 there were 3.6 million millionaires in the country—are desperately seeking safer places to park their money.
All of which has landed Canada in an economic paradox.