Category Archives: economy

Some thoughts on the Vancouver foreign buyer tax

Yesterdays surprise announcement of a 15% tax on purchase of real estate by foreign buyers has some people cheering, some jeering and some people scratching their heads. Here are a few thoughts pulled from yesterdays thread:

Franko sees it as a positive for affordability:

The province taxing foreign buyers.
The city taxing vacant properties.
The CRA going after tax evaders.
It all would have been unthinkable a year ago, but the biggest hit by far will come from China clamping down on money fleeing the country. HAM is soo over….and it will lead the stampede to the exit.

Patriotz is a little more sceptical:

Christy wants to eat her cake and have it too, i.e. be seen to be “doing something” in Vancouver while keeping the floodgates open and directing the money to Abbotsford and points east – which is where her greatest electoral support is. And get extra revenue from foreign buyers who just have to buy in the taxable area.

MarKoz points out the obvious:

Foreign speculators could avoid paying the tax by getting friends or family who are permanent residents to buy on their behalf. Or the tax may lead to inflated housing prices in cities such as Victoria, Kelowna or Toronto.

LS in Arbutus says maybe not so easy to avoid the tax:

I wanted to point out that there are anti-avoidance measures in the legislation. An Anti-Avoidance Rule is typically a statutory rule that empowers a revenue authority to deny taxpayers the benefit of an arrangement that they have entered into for an impermissible tax-related purpose. Soooo I guess you can still gift your wife/kids money to buy a house, but you generally much more shenanigans than that would be caught in this type of rule. They are very wide sweeping these rules.

bullwhip29 points out how lucky some politicians are that the tax only applies to one area:

as luck would have it, mike de jong has all his eggs located just outside of greater vancouver and wont be affected by any of this (or least not in a negative way)

No matter what your thoughts are on this issue you’ve got to agree it’s pretty much the big news story in the Vancouver real estate market lately and it’s likely going to take a while to see what sort of effect it has on the local and related markets.

CRA plans increased ‘lifestyle audits’ in Vancouver

The CRA suspects some people in Vancouver might not be paying tax on all world-wide income and are going to be taking an extra hard look at big spenders who aren’t big tax-payers.

Over at the Globe and Mail Christine Duhaime a lawyer who focuses on financial crimes explains how it works:

“They all follow what we call the same typology. … They all want an expensive Lamborghini or a Ferrari, they want a really expensive house, they send their kids to the most expensive private schools they can get in Vancouver,” she said. “So when you try to find money launderers, that’s what you look for. Who went to the Ferrari shop? And that’s what they mean by the ‘lifestyle audit.’”

Ms. Duhaime said while many people think of money laundering as something done by drug dealers, in fact the activity is more often associated with white-collar crime and usually involves tax evasion.

Will going after tax cheats have any effect on the overinflated housing market in Vancouver?  Read the original article here.

Is the end of the bubble near?

The latest spurt of ‘bubble is bursting‘ news is showing up in the local media.

Despite ever increasing sales prices, we’re also seeing a dropping sales to listing ratio month after month.

UBC’s Tom Davidoff, an associate professor at the Sauder School of Business and a real estate analyst, says the first signs of a bubble bursting might be sales volume slowing down and inventory rising. A rising rental vacancy rate could also be indicative of the market slowing down as well as lenders becoming more cautious about issuing and underwriting mortgages.

In the last few months, all of these red flags have been appearing in the Vancouver market, aside from a growing rental vacancy rate.

At the end of May, the CEO of Scotiabank, Brian Porter, said they were “a little concerned” with housing prices in Vancouver and had been easing off their mortgage lending business because of too much risk.

Read the full article over at Global News.

Damage from bubble bursting worse than affordability issue

What’s worse?

Working people not being able to afford a home or losing your life savings during a housing bubble burst?

This opinion piece at the Vancouver Sun says it’s not a question of if, but when – and when it does burst the damage to the economy will be far worse than the current affordability question.

The damage will be huge. In 1989, the Toronto bubble burst, and six years later house prices had decreased 50 per cent. Many speculators lost all of their life savings. Financial institutions were in crisis. All home building activities stopped. Unemployment increased. The flow of immigrants decreased sharply. A general economic recession developed.

Governments cannot prevent the bursting of the Vancouver bubble. They can only adopt policies to slow its growth. But these will be opposed by the many who benefit from the price increases and who, as is the case during all euphoric phases, insist that “this time, things are different”.

Read the full article here.

Canadian Banks could absorb losses in US-style housing crash

Good news for your monday morning!

If Canada saw a ‘US-style housing crisis‘ the big 6 banks could generate enough capital in a few quarters to cover losses.

If Canada were to experience a U.S.-style housing crisis, with house prices falling by up to 35 per cent, mortgage lenders including the country’s big six banks could lose nearly $12 billion, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service.

CMHC would also take a hit of about $6 billion if they challenge and reject claims, but if they decided not to they would take about half the loss as it would be more evenly split between the banks and CMHC.

You probably don’t have to worry about a US-style nationwide housing crash, because we have a different mortgage market that is explicitly backed by the government. The main concern would be rate increases and job losses as Canadian debt loads continue to increase:

There was almost $1.6 trillion in mortgage debt outstanding at the end of March, including home equity lines of credit, more than double the amount outstanding 10 years ago.

Read the full article over at the Financial Post.