Blog by Mark Longpre

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Global property grab

Monday, August 09, 2010

Strong mainland interest in global real estate is boosting housing prices and house-hunting activities near and far.

And Vancouver has been the biggest gainer in this race for prime overseas housing over the past few years, as the Canadian city is among the favorites of Chinese big spenders.

"Chinese buyers have at least doubled or even tripled in the last five or six years," said Vancouver realty agent Geoff Chiu. "The origin has shifted from Hong Kong in the 1990s to the mainland now."

More than 70 percent of Chinese buyers are from the mainland, compared to less than 20 percent from Hong Kong or Taiwan, Chiu noted.


"Buyers from the mainland don't hesitate to pay for the properties they want," he explained, "and prices go up accordingly."

Britain has also been touched by the trend. "Buyers of our properties are very diversified," said Alasdair Nicholls, chief officer at British developer Native Land.

"About 50 percent of them are from overseas, [and] about 30 to 40 percent are from Asian countries, with Chinese buyers being the majority."

George Wong, agent at a Vancouver marketing firm for new residential projects, said around 60 percent of buyers are from Asia, including newly arrived mainland Chinese.

"Vancouver has long been a destination for many people from overseas to come and buy real estate," George Wong said.

"It's nothing new, just that the players have changed." These buyers usually target luxury homes with a minimum price tag of C$2.5 million (HK$18.89 million). But their interest in the market is raising the prices of ordinary residences as well.

The average house price in Vancouver was C$657,934 in June, up 14 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

That is almost double the national average of C$342,000.