Foreign Buyers Own 1 In 10 Recently Built Condos In Canada, 1 In 20 Homes In Total

Canadian real estate might have a lot more foreign owners than previously thought. Diving through Statistics Canada (Stat Can) data, we found non-resident participation in homeownership soared in 2020. Non-resident buyers have a small share in property transfer records, but foreign capital is pouring in. In the four provinces tracked, about 1 in 10 recently built condos have a foreign owner.

Non-Resident Participation In Ownership Vs Non-Resident Ownership

Today we’re looking at housing with non-resident participation in ownership. This means at least one owner is a non-resident, though the majority ownership may not be. To determine this, Canada uses a new “linkage” process, primarily using tax data. If owners are linked to tax residency, they’re considered a resident of Canada.

If they can’t find the person’s tax residency status, they try to validate in other ways. Local contact information or emigration data are some of the additional tools used. If they can’t link a person to Canadian residency, that person is considered a non-resident. It’s an overly generous criteria likely to skew ownership lower.

Canada differentiates between non-resident participation in ownership and non-resident ownership. The former (today’s data) describes a home with at least one owner who has no link to Canadian residency. The home might share ownership with a domestic entity. In contrast, a home with non-resident ownership is majority-owned by non-residents. Both are still foreign ownership and investment, but have different tax views.

Too nerdy? Let’s say a $30 million home is owned by a foreign executive and an unrelated domestic student. A totally random example not referencing anything in particular, btw. If the exec owns the majority, the home has non-resident ownership. If a domestic student owns the majority, it’s a home with non-resident participation in ownership.

You might have noticed we said entity instead of person, and it’s because not all homes are owned by people. Some are owned by trusts, which can be used to skip foreign buyer taxes. Corporations are also often homeowners, with the idea being a foreign-controlled corporation is still foreign owned.

However, Canada doesn’t track the beneficial ownership of companies for the most part. This means they really don’t know who ultimately owns the company. In BC, they have started to track beneficial ownership, but it’s proving problematic. An anti-corruption organization found none of the data is validated, and no ID is required. The results are questionable at best.

Now, on to the data!

Ontario Has Seen Foreign Owners Buy 1 In 11 New Condos

Ontario still has it when it comes to attracting foreign homeownership. Non-residents participated in the ownership of 3.4% of the province’s homes in 2020, up from 3.3% in the year prior. When you isolate homes built after 2016, the share jumps to 5.6% for 2020, up from 4.9% in the preceding year. The total is already high, but surges to just under 1 in 17 homes. New construction is even higher.

Canadian Residential Real Estate With Non-Resident Owners

The share of homes where at least one non-resident is an owner. New construction is defined as homes built after 2016.

Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.

Condo apartments are of particular interest for non-resident homeowners, especially new builds. Non-residents had a stake in 6.5% of Ontario’s condos in 2020, up from 6.2% a year before. It soars to 9.2% for condos built after 2016, rising from 8.3% the year prior. All of that marketing overseas seems to be working quite well. 

BC Has Seen 1 In 8 New Condos Bought By Non-Resident Owners

British Columbia (BC) has a much higher share of non-resident owners than Ontario, but it’s falling. Non-residents were owners of 4.7% of homes in 2020, down from 4.9% the year before. They owned 9.0% of homes built after 2016, having fallen from 10.5% in the year prior. While the share is falling, we’re talking about 1 in 10 new homes built having non-resident ownership. This is significantly higher than non-resident transfer data from the province shows.

Canadian Condos With Non-Resident Owners

The share of condos where at least one non-resident is an owner. New construction is defined as condos built after 2016.

Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.

Foreign condo owners are falling in BC but unbelievably high for new construction. Non-residents had stakes in 8.4% of condos in 2020, down from 8.7% the year before. For units made after 2016, that share jumps to 13.4%, falling from 15.4% over the same period. As a share, it’s falling, but going from 1 in 7 new condos to 1 in 8 isn’t exactly fleeing the ship.

Nova Scotia Has 1 In 9 New Condos Owned By Foreign Buyers

Nova Scotia real estate has been quietly attracting a lot of foreign investment. Non-residents owned 5.6% of homes in 2020, but we don’t know how that’s changed since it’s the first year of data. However, there is a preference for new builds — scooping up 7.4% of homes built after 2016. Ontario’s share of non-resident ownership is even lower.

Condo apartments in Nova Scotia also are the preferred non-resident purchase. Non-residents had stakes in 7.0% of condos in 2020 and scooped 11.1% of condos built after 2016. It’s a share higher than Ontario, with non-residents staking 1 in 9 new condo units.

Foreign Buyers Owned 1 In 10 New Condos In New Brunswick

Lastly is New Brunswick real estate, which only has 2020 data available. Non-residents owned 5.6% of homes in 2020 and represented 5.0% of homes built after 2016. The old-world charm is more attractive to non-residents than the region’s new builds.

For condo apartments, non-residents expressed greater interest in new construction. Non-residents owned 4.8% of condos in 2020 and 10.0% of those built after 2016. One in ten newly built condos attracting foreign investment seems a little odd. Especially since it’s not particularly known as an immigration hub. 

High returns, low taxes, and little paperwork make Canada ideal for foreign capital. The investment may not show up in transfer data for foreign ownership, due to how it’s measured. This has been a central point of the foreign buyer-capital debate, with politicians often conflating the two.

Most people think foreign ownership is low due to property transfer data. However, Canada doesn’t actually know who owns any of the homes in the country. This info was also only collected when monetary penalties were involved. When you have a penalty involved, you also have greater incentive to create a structure to avoid said penalty. This underreports the impact of foreign capital in real estate, an issue Canada has tried to hide for 30 years.

2 Comments

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  • expat 11 months ago

    They’re even getting to New Brunswick now. lol.

  • Ron Bruce 11 months ago

    There must be a long list of so-called Canadians aiding and abetting the purchase of properties – lawyers, accountants, realtors, banks, developers, City Planning Departments, etc.

    Do you think the Cullen Commission will be able to expose all those moving illicit money into real estate?

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