British Columbia Vancouver

Even Foreign Real Estate Buyers Are Dumping Vancouver For The Suburbs

Greater Vancouver real estate, once a hot commodity for foreign buyers, is losing appeal. BC’s non-resident homebuyers made a sharp decline in January. That might be a one-off, but last year’s numbers still show a modest drop in foreign buyers. There is an interesting shift in buying behavior though. Greater Vancouver is seeing a smaller and smaller share of BC’s non-resident purchases.

Non-Resident Home Purchasing Falls Over 37% In January

BC real estate sales may have had a big start to the year, but foreign nationals weren’t behind it. The province recorded 113 non-resident buyers in January, down 37.91% from the same month a year before. Greater Vancouver saw an even bigger drop, representing just 31 of the transactions. This represents a 74.17% drop compared to the same month a year before. The month might be a one off, with a much more modest decline over the past year.

BC Non-Resident Real Estate Buyers

The percent of BC’s residential real estate purchases involving a non-resident buyer, as a percent of total home sales.
Source: BC Land Registry Data, Better Dwelling.

Last year’s full year numbers only show a small drop in the number of foreign nationals. There were 1,705 non-resident home purchases in 2020, down 3.94% from 2019. Greater Vancouver represented 648 of the homes, down 18.08% over the period. That means Greater Vancouver saw a significant decline over last year, while the rest of the province made up some of the ground.

Greater Vancouver Real Estate Isn’t As Popular With Foreign Buyers

Greater Vancouver is even seeing foreign buyers flee for less expensive regions. Only 22.63% of BC’s non-resident purchases in January were in the Greater Vancouver region. The same month in 2020 saw 60% of the province’s foreign buyers pick up a home in Greater Vancouver.

Greater Vancouver Real Estate’s Share of Foreign Buyers

The percent of BC’s non-resident home purchases that were located in Greater Vancouver.
Source: BC Land Registry Data, Better Dwelling.

The trend is seen in 2020’s annual numbers as well, just not quite as extreme. In 2020, 38.01% of non-resident purchases in the province were in Greater Vancouver. That’s down significantly from 2019’s levels of 44.56% of transactions. The big drop isn’t quite as big as the one seen at the beginning of this year though. The month can either be a one off, or a sign of even less demand in the city. 

There’s two big takeaways in these numbers – volume and location. Residential home sales volume has been surging, while non-resident transactions are falling. That means non-residents aren’t behind this increase, like some have speculated. In fact, the surge in volume makes foreign buying an even smaller percent of transactions.

Greater Vancouver saw a sharp drop in foreign buying, while the province saw a modest decline. Non-resident buyers are following the trend of more affordable and rural homes. A small shack in small town BC isn’t exactly a typical buy for a second international home. This may show that money is either seeking appreciation in higher growth areas, or rental yield where domestic buyers are flowing.

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5 Comments

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  • Takashi 9 months ago

    That March spike related to Hong Kong security bill? I remember hearing about flight from Hong along, but it doesn’t look like all that big of a deal.

    • Carolyn Alexander 9 months ago

      Technically you’re not a foreign buyer if you’re a permanent resident.

      Might be people buying before moving here, but a resident doesn’t pay it. If you bought as a non-resident and became a resident that year, I believe you qualify for a refund as well.

  • Wesley 9 months ago

    Can confirm, the buying surge is just people with new budgets from lower real estate prices, motivated by the fear of foreign buyers that aren’t here any more.

  • Darren Close 9 months ago

    Your comment about small town, small shacks , is a bit of an uninformed opinion. Im very familiar with several markets, big and small, and a born and raised city boy now living in a small town. Small towns have high end high quality living, although compared to Vancouver prices, your small shack bughet there is will get a dream home in so many small beautiful BC towns, accessible and affordable.

    • AG 9 months ago

      I believe your comment might the uninformed one here. I’ve personally seen the transactions that show non-resident investment in cheaper homes in rural BC, around the $500k price point.

      A lot of these are places locals wouldn’t look at without thinking of tearing them down.

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