Metro Vancouver remains a top destination for offshore buyers of luxury properties — with marketers saying COVID-19 is stimulating their demand for “safe” havens.
A global real estate publication with 3.3 million mostly Chinese clients, Juwai, spotlights a Vancouver mega-mansion in its brassy promotion of “ the eight most expensive properties for foreign buyers. ”
The palatial house, on the cliffs near the University of B.C., is on the market for $43 million. Hidden behind a gate at 4743 Belmont, the grand property features every luxury imaginable, including 12,000 blooming flowers. The real estate consultancy ranks the castle-like Vancouver house as its fourth most expensive property on the planet.
Metro’s dramatically fragmented housing market is shooting off in multiple directions during the pandemic . Many local buyers appear to be snapping up single-family homes under $2 million in the suburbs, while those who invested in downtown condos are suddenly pushing to sell them .
Wealthy transnational migrants appear to be doing something else again, at least according to global real-estate marketers. The companies that specialize in finding investments for rich people — whom they refer to as high-net-worth individuals — are promoting Vancouver and Toronto as highly desirable. They’re seen as relatively stable and safe during the turmoil brought on by the coronavirus.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic many people find the idea of a secondary residence or citizenship appealing,” says Henley and Partners, a global firm specializing in tracking down investment properties, as well as visa and passport opportunities, for the world’s affluent.
“As a tried-and-tested hedge against volatility, securing alternative residence or citizenship through property purchase is one of the safest, smartest, most sustainable investments you can make right now,” Henley CEO Juerg Steffen said this summer . He maintains his clients are looking for countries with quality medical care and resilience to COVID-19.
Knight Frank, another global real estate firm, also has rich customers, particularly in non-Western nations such as China, India and around the Persian Gulf, where industrialization has ignited a rapid rise in the number of multimillionaires. Knight Frank reports 34 per cent of its clients want to relocate to a different country.
However, while the international property companies that serve affluent clients are being upbeat, this year’s data does not suggest a mass influx of offshore investors into Metro Vancouver. Luxury housing values in the region were down for the two years prior to COVID-19 . And indications are that prosperous buyers are only gradually picking off properties in the city, seeking out possible COVID-19 discounts.
Still, welcoming Canada — which last year brought in 370,000 immigrants and 642,000 international students, offers 10-year visitor visas and contains many provinces marketing so-called golden passports to “investors” — remains near the top of the wish list for the globe’s well-to-do.
Although moneyed buyers come to Canada from Iran, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., India and Pakistan, those from the economic powerhouse of China often lead the pack, in part because they’re drawn to how one-in-five residents of Metro are ethnic Chinese.
“Where are Chinese looking globally?” asks Juwai.
Canada is the fifth most popular nation for high-end property investors from the world’s most populous nation. The only countries ahead of Canada are China’s relatively nearby neighbours of Thailand, Australia and Japan, as well as the U.S.
The Hurun Report, which also tracks the real estate desires of affluent Chinese, says that Metro Vancouver is the world’s seventh most-sought-after “investment destination for high-net-worth individuals.” That’s ahead of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“What kind of homes appeal to international luxury property buyers during a pandemic?”
That’s the headline of a recent feature on Juwai, which provides insight into what the worried wealthy want.
“As the world witnesses the non-stop pace of digital lives, climate change, rise in chronic illnesses, an aging population and a raging coronavirus epidemic, wealthy cross-border property buyers are increasingly looking at homes that will help to not only keep them safe, but also assist in keeping their well-being at optimum level,” says the article
Because of the pandemic, it maintains, the foreign rich, particularly “Chinese millennial millionaires,” are “searching for peace of mind in more ways than one. Hence, they are looking for bigger gated properties that are more isolated and far from human congestion.”
The rich wish to “add another feather to their status cap” by snapping up global residences that have much more than “the ubiquitous pool and gym,” says Juwai. They’re buying “bigger gated properties” that contain “detoxification saunas, private yoga studios, water purification systems” and “top-of-the-line security.”
Canada, and especially B.C., emerge as prime candidates for wealthy people wanting a safe landing, in part because the country and province have proved reasonably successful in keeping a lid on COVID-19.
Canada has been ranked 12th best of 30 selected countries for its “economic, social and health stability” during this time of COVID-19, according to the Deep Knowledge Group. That puts us behind more problem-free Germany and Singapore, but ahead of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
A publication called Mansion Global provides hundreds of pricey Lower Mainland home options, especially in West Vancouver and the west side of Vancouver, for high-net-worth individuals pursuing a physically and economically safe harbour in the pandemic storm.
In addition to the Belmont estate overlooking English Bay, Mansion Global highlights a Shaughnessy house priced at $21 million, a Southlands residence for $15 million and a downtown condo apartment at $12 million.
What’s more, high-net-worth individuals are trying to leverage the pandemic to grab a “COVID discount” in the worldwide housing market, say Henley and Partners.
The bargain-hunting global rich are “looking for signs of distress” among the property sellers who, presumably unlike them, have been financially battered by the pandemic.
A real estate surprise also seems in store for those who imagine Asian investment in Canadian property might be discouraged by increasingly tense relations between this country and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping , particularly over imprisoned Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
If Australia is any guide, that isn’t the case. Australia’s wary politicians are far more aggressive toward China’s autocratic leaders than our government in Ottawa is. But the cross-border real estate industry suggests that’s not a problem for many affluent residents of China who want a safer place.
In August, Juwai ran an article under this headline: “Wealthy Asian property investors determined to buy Australian real estate despite COVID-19 restrictions and tense Sino-Australian relations.”
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