Vancouver becoming tourist destination for house-hunting Chinese

Posted on 29. Jun, 2010 by in General

Derek Penner, Canwest News Service · Monday, Jun. 28, 2010

VANCOUVER — Chinese interest in Vancouver-area real estate is so strong that it’s fuelling a market for real estate tourism, with groups of wealthy travellers scheduling visits to the city for the sole purpose of house hunting.

China-based Internet sales company SouFun is organizing two tours — groups of about 20 each from Beijing and Shanghai — that will visit Vancouver and Toronto in August on the hunt for “million-dollar or multi-million-dollar” listings.

As first reported in Vancouver’s Ming Pao Daily News, and repeated on the news blog Chinese in Vancouver, a SouFun spokesman said potential buyers are particularly drawn to neighbourhoods with “famous” schools or ocean views.

Ming Pao reporter Eric Chan said SouFun drew a lot of participation for the tours from areas around Shanghai.

China’s burgeoning wealthy class has been a dominant presence in Metro Vancouver’s high-end property market for some time now, so for many people, news of specific buying tours is not a surprising extension.

“I’m surprised why people think it’s news,” said Angel Wang, an agent with Royal Pacific Realty in Vancouver.

Ms. Wang said it has been more common for Chinese visitors to tag house hunting on to the end of a conference or another type of business trip rather than straight real estate tourism.

“I’ve worked with some business groups before,” Ms. Wang said. “And maybe they have been with a business conference and will stay here for a few days extra to look around at houses.”

They are attracted to Vancouver prices, Ms. Wang said, that, despite being the highest in Canada, appear to be bargains compared with Shanghai, Beijing or other international cities they might look at.

Ms. Wang said Canada also appears to be a more stable real estate market to Chinese buyers.

Even without specific tours, Tom Gradecak, owner of Westside Tom Gradecak Realty, said about 80% of showings for his west-side Vancouver listings are to Chinese buyers, and the majority of sales are within that demographic.

“When [prices] are getting over $2.5-million to $3-million, then predominantly that’s our market,” Mr. Gradecak said. “Over [$4-million to $6-million], they’re almost the entire market.”

But other agents are skeptical whether such tours wind up in buying sprees rather than window shopping.

“It’s more of an introduction service [to Canada],” said Dan Scarrow, vice-president of strategy for Macdonald Realty in Vancouver.

Mr. Scarrow said he is aware of other such trips in the past, and when the Chinese visitors do not have their immigration status in Canada sorted out, they are more reluctant to buy homes.

The trips, he said, are more a chance to get a “lay of the land” for what Vancouver’s neighbourhoods are like and what types of homes are available before securing landed immigrant status.

Vincent Chen, a representative for the Chinese immigration consulting firm Visas Consulting Group, said Canada is currently the most popular destination for mainland Chinese using his firm. They are attracted by its quality of education and quality of life, the safety and stability of Canadian society, and its “attractive investor immigrant program.”

Mr. Chen said Visas, which is among the largest immigration firms in China, has “organized many property exhibitions” for Canadian developers.

George Wong, principal of Magnum Projects, the marketing firm selling the River Green waterfront community near the Olympic oval in Richmond, B.C., said that some 60% of the first 150 pre-sales his company has made in the project were to Asian buyers.

“B.C. has been a destination for a lot of international people to come and buy real estate,” Mr. Wong said. “In that context, it’s nothing new, it’s just that the players have changed.”

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.