HOUSING Cost of new housing stabilized in 2018
fter almost a decade of rising home prices, the residential real-estate market underwent a fairly radical transformation in 2018. What was once a boom became a property bust, wiping out big chunks of equity, particularly on the West Side of Vancouver.
Here are some significant stories in this sector in 2018.
FOUR NDP TAX CHANGES
In February, Finance Minister Carole James announced four major changes to fiscal policy: a surtax on $3-millionplus homes, a new speculation tax (which is actually a vacancy tax), an increase in the foreign-buyers tax from 15 percent to 20 percent, and a hike in the property-purchase tax. They were supposed to generate almost $1.3 billion over three years, according to budget documents. However, that may not materialize, given the slowdown in sales and declining prices. SLUMPING SALES
November was the bleakest month since the 2008 global meltdown, as far as local real-estate agents were concerned. The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board reported that sales were down 42.5 percent from the same month in 2017. With just 1,608 transactions, it demonstrated that buyers were taking a break in the wake of tighter mortgage-qualification rules and previous interestrate increases. The benchmark price for all residential properties was still more than $1 million, but this was down 1.4 percent from November 2017. It’s too early to call it a crash, but it’s certainly a correction. VANCOUVER HOUSE RISES
It’s hard to miss the twisting tower rising above the north end of the Granville Bridge. Architect Bjarke Ingels designed Vancouver House, a 59-storey luxury condo building that has transformed the skyline. The developer, Westbank, recently secured London Drugs and Fresh St. Market as groundfloor tenants in the 600,000-squarefoot complex in what’s being called the Beach District. When it opens next year, it will be augmented by artist Rodney Graham’s Torqued Chandelier, a five-metre light that will be suspended below the Granville Street Bridge.
WHERE ARE NONRESIDENT OWNERS?
Social media is full of complaints about foreign buyers, but data released this month by Statistics Canada suggested that the vast majority of residentialproperty owners are domestic. Only five percent are nonresident owners. The rate of nonindividual ownership in Vancouver—i.e., companies or organizations—was just 5.6 percent, according to Statistics Canada. MONEY-LAUNDERING
In November, Global B.C. reported that it had obtained a secret police report, which purported that more than $1 billion had been laundered through Vancouver real estate in 2016. No names were released. But the study of 1,200 luxury purchases claimed that more than 10 percent were linked to people with criminal records. AGENT PAYS FOR REFERRALS
Last month the Straight’s Carlito Pablo revealed that a Richmond realtor was paying immigrant-settlement companies for referrals. In three cases, Di (Tony) Xu used this information to close deals. The Real Estate Council of B.C. determined that he committed professional misconduct by not revealing this to his managing broker. He also didn’t think that these referrals needed to be disclosed to his clients. Xu ended up with a 30-day suspension and a $1,500 fine.