Asian investors fuel Canadian housing bubble

Vancouver suburb's real estate prices soar $200,000 in 6-month span

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 28, 2011

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"If you were coming to the Vancouver region and were looking to buy houses and all of a sudden prices were literally shooting up $30,000 in a week, or 20 percent over a three-month period -- if that $700,000 home you were looking at was now selling for $900,000 -- you would back off and wait."

While the average price for detached homes in Richmond has declined, in July you would still be paying an average price of more than $1.1 million -- and we are not talking about a Beverly Hills, Calif., or Scarsdale, N.Y., but a community of tidy homes.

Or, they were tidy.

While it looks like Richmond offers a lot of room for expansion, there really isn't. Lulu Island boasts some of the most fertile soil in North America and large farms spread out over the land -- none of which can be redeveloped because the government strongly maintains agricultural land reserves.

"Any new development is now redevelopment, where they are knocking down homes in older subdivisions and rebuilding," said Russell. "Investors are looking for larger lots, 8,000 square feet or larger, and wide frontage."

Richmond's city planner would prefer no more big developments, Russell said. Meanwhile, midrise condominiums in the downtown section of Richmond are under construction.

Autumn is generally a busy homebuying season for the Vancouver area, so I asked Russell if he thought there would be a buying-panic redux later in the year.

"I don't expect a return to the frenzy," he said. "No matter what, affordability is always an issue. Somewhere along the line there is a price that people won't pay anymore, and they will start looking at other areas like nearby Burnaby (population 227,389, up 1.9 percent from 2009 to 2010) or Surrey (population 462,345, up 3.4 percent from 2009 to 2010)."

Well, even if the Asian investors don't return en masse, they have left a lasting effect.

"If you want the best Chinese food in North America, come to Richmond. We have hundreds of Chinese restaurants," said Moldowan.

Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis," is now available for sale on Amazon.com.

Contact Steve Bergsman:
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