Overseas buyers are playing significant roles in both the Vancouver and Whistler real estate markets — but with significantly different impacts, respectively. In Whistler, the amount of traditionally dominant U.S. investors is shrinking continually, and other potential foreign buyers in the resort town have not yet picked up the slack. The situation in the Vancouver area is very different, however: Chinese mainland investors are fighting to get luxurious houses and condos, keeping the prices high and sales lively.
There has been a downturn in sales of Whistler’s prime attraction, recreational property, largely because of the bureaucracy many Americans do not want to face on their trips across the border. Another reason for the lack of interest in the market is that the Canadian dollar is almost at par with the U.S. currency. The numbers of American buyers in Whistler are down by 3 to 5 per cent. Compared to 2002, when the Canadian dollar was worth just 62 U.S. cents, Canadian properties no longer look like a bargain to the U.S. investors pool.
The belief among U.S. purchasers that it is still not the right time to invest in real estate (especially with regard to resort properties) is not helping. “It’s going to be a little while before we see recreational real estate buyers and investors return to the kind of numbers they were at prior to the recession,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist for the British Columbia Real Estate Association.
If it wasn’t for foreign buyers, sales in the Vancouver real estate market would probably be endangered. Almost all the properties in the area worth over $2 million have been bought by foreign buyers — mostly mainland Chinese. A large portion of Canadian immigrants have enough resources to invest, and they often decide to do so in real estate.