The British Columbia government is reviewing the foreign buyers’ tax in the Vancouver area and the interest-free loan program to first-time homebuyers to determine whether they have helped improve affordability, BC's new housing minister says. A year ago, the Liberal government implemented a 15% tax on foreign nationals purchasing property in Metro Vancouver in an effort to cool skyrocketing house prices. This tax isn’t applied to commercial properties, only residential properties.

Selina Robinson and BC Finance Minister, Carole James, will review real estate transaction data to determine whether the 15% foreign tax should be kept, revised or scrapped altogether. The data will be analyzed in order to determine whether it has been beneficial in housing affordability.

“I don’t know that we have any plans to eliminate it,” Robinson said of the 15 per cent foreign buyers’ levy, nearly a year after the previous Liberal government introduced it for Metro Vancouver. “There’s certainly enough data that would help us to understand its value, and so, we have to look at that data.”

According to data from the B.C. Ministry of Finance, during the period of June 10 - August 1, 2016, 13.2% of all property transfer transactions in Metro Vancouver were involving foreign buyers. Once the foreign tax took effect, that figure fell to 2.6% during the period of August 2 - December 31, 2016. Figures recently released revealed that the government took in $102 million in revenue from the implementation of the foreign buyers' tax between August 2, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

In the months after the tax, there were signs of cooling in Vancouver’s housing market, with the number of transactions falling. However, there have been signs that the market may be rebounding, as prices continue to creep up. The Multiple Listing Service composite benchmark price for all properties in Metro Vancouver was $998,700 in June, an increase of 7.9% from the same month last year.

For all your real estate needs, contact Amalia Liapis at 604-618-7000 or alternatively at amalia@wesellvancouver.ca.

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Vancouver has seen slower home sales in August but there has been an overall strong housing demand across most regions within BC. There were 8,945 residential units recorded by the  Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) last month which is an increase of 1.5% compared to the same month last year. As for the total sales dollar volume, it has seen a decrease of 6.7% compared to last year with a total of $5.1 Billion in sales. The average MLS® price has also seen a deline of 8.1% compared to the same month last year which brings it to $569,393. 

"The newly introduced 15 per cent foreign buyer tax combined with the 3 per cent property transfer tax on homes over $2 million brought in earlier this year, slowed demand at the top end of the market in Vancouver last month." - Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist.

"The decline in the average home price was due to a change in the composition and location of homes sold in the province," added Muir. "Fewer sales of high priced detached homes relative to all other homes sales in Vancouver as well as fewer Vancouver home sales relative to the rest of the province has caused the average price statistic to decline."

Year-to-date, the BC residential sales dollar increased to $61.6 Billion (39.1% increase) when compared to the same period in 2015. As for the unit sales, it has also increased to 86,206 units (22.1% increase) whereas the average MLS® residential price totaled $714,400 (13.9%). 2016 was off to a good start with record-breaking sales while July and August saw more historically normal activity.

The new foreign tax implemented appears to be a factor in the downward residential sales within the Metro Vancouver area. It has reduced foreign buyer activity within the residential market and has caused some uncertainty amongst local home buyers and sellers. It may be a little early to see the true impact of this new tax but in a few months time, we would be able to analyze foreign buyer data more closely. As September comes to an end, stay tuned in the next few weeks for stats on this month. For all your real estate needs, contact the WeSellVancouver team at info@wesellvancouver.ca or alternatively at 604-801-6654.

Source: British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA)

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