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To foreign investors, the Canadian market has gone on sale

 Jason Payne/Postmedia News, file
 

Canada’s two priciest housing markets may not need the boost, but Toronto and Vancouver could be on the verge of a spike in foreign investment.


‘There’s a huge demand for rental… We are seeing for the first time in 40 years people are starting to build rental,’ says managing director of Timbercreek Asset Management

With the loonie falling about 10% against the U.S. dollar in the last six months, foreigners who have their money parked in greenbacks or in currencies pegged to the American dollar are likely to ramp up their interest in the Canadian marketplace, say industry experts.

Alberta, which is now facing a crunch of new listings and weak demand, is unlikely to see any benefit as investors run away from the province over oil price fears.

“The reputation of the oilpatch here has been tarnished a bit,” says Dan Scarrow, the Shanghai-based managing director of Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre, which was set up just two months ago, and is run by Vancouver-based Macdonald Real Estate Group.

He says the opposite is true in Vancouver and Toronto, where prices in January were up 7.5% and 6.1% respectively from a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. “With the Chinese economy slowing down a bit and with the Canadian dollar depreciating 20% versus the RMB, it might change the calculus of some people of how much they want to leave in China and how much they want to bring to Canada.”

 

Mr. Scarrow’s firm caused a stir last year with data it produced from its client base that showed 33.5% of all single-family homes sales in the Vancouver area could be traced to buyers from mainland China.

Foreign buyers and their position in the marketplace have been a  concern for some market watchers, who fear these investors are inflating housing prices. But there hasn’t been definitive data. Even the chief executive of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Evan Siddall, conceded there were data gaps.

The Crown corporation finally produced data two months ago on the condominium market that showed as much as 2.4% of Toronto highrises were in foreign hands and 2.3% in Vancouver, with some people still disputing those findings.

Mr. Scarrow says in terms of Chinese investors they are divided between people still living overseas and people already living in Canada but with money still parked in RMBs. With Chinese New Year over, he expects investment to pick up.

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