I recently mailed a marketing flyer to homeowners in West Vancouver. It spoke of how I would market their homes to engage with Chinese buyers in order to maximize the sale price for the homeowner. My Chinese buyer agent translated portions into Mandarin. A week later I received my flyer returned in the mail with a yellow sticky note with the word "Offensive!" written on it. Nothing more.
Along the breadth and depth of the North Shore where I live and work; from Braemar to Lions Bay, from Gleneagles back over Eagle Ridge to Caulfeild, there are common themes to discussions I'm involved in. Similar questions get asked over and over...
- when will this enormous influx of foreign capital end?
- what are your thoughts on foreign ownership?
- is it fair that our children cannot afford to buy a home in the neighbourhood they grew up in or, let alone, Vancouver as a whole?
- should, and if so what, restrictions or impediments be put in place to slow down these trends in neighbourhoods right across Vancouver?
- how do you feel about affluent, absentee owners who have parked money in real estate but make no effort to integrate into the wonderful plural mosaic that is Canada?
Now I've never been short on an opinion...letting people know how I feel...taking a stance on issues that I feel strongly on. I hope that I never will.
I'm a Realtor® and there is this assumption that I will think a certain way. Act in a certain way. A belief that I'm a mercenary to the free market, a carpetbagger, snake oil salesperson or some other classification for someone who is driven solely by his own personal wealth creation.
Here's what I see my role as. I help homeowners, usually my age or above, generally English-speaking, maximize the return on their most important life asset. If I didn't (at the very least) look to achieve the best price for a Seller by exposing their home to the most active buying group then I wouldn't be doing my job.
You see, it's my chosen business and I have always sought to be as good as I possibly can in what I choose to do. Most importantly, that is the expectation of my clients.
Here is an article that sets out a discussion of some of the above issues. The author has the courage to set out his views. I respect that. A number of Vancouverites think similarly.
Just for completeness (I wrote above that I can have opinions whilst still acting stridently in my clients' best interests) here are my dot-point thoughts on the above 5 talking points:
- Canada will remain attractive for buyers from China and other parts until such time as our Federal Government regulates against foreign ownership or the Chinese government restricts outbound money flows. The recent enhanced Chinese QDII2 outbound investment program (see my earlier blog) suggests this may not be the focus for China.
- I like any ownership regardless of nationality (I'm an immigrant and I own a house) on the basis that it adds value to the country/province/municipality including our economy/tax base, neighbourhood harmony, education/ethnic tolerance of our kids.
- No. It's not fair. Unless my kids float a tech company on the NASDAQ or I gift them my house they probably won't own a detached house in West Vancouver. Will dampening foreign ownership allow for that? I don't know. There's always been plenty of competition from within Vancouver for real estate in desirable areas.
- This is a great question. If "free market" proponents (that is, those encouraging a global buyer into Vancouver) are winning the day, how "free" does our market need to be? Why not use the desirability of Vancouver, and the willingness of foreigners to buy/invest in Vancouver real estate, to fill our public coffers to enhance the life of all? "Free" in terms of a marketplace should not mean without restriction or price of some kind.
- I'm against this. I don't want to live in an absentee ghetto. Moreover, I want my children to grow up in a vibrant, plural neighbourhood where they are exposed to all ethnicities that want to integrate from the beautiful larger world we are all part of. If you buy here at least be required/prepared to have someone live in the home.
Enough for a Sunday morning. Enjoy your Eggs Benedict!!