Archive for April, 2016

Millennials holding back on homebuying

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Steve Randall
Other

Younger Canadians are in no rush to buy a home, preferring to wait until they have saved enough to be able to get the home they really want. A survey by BMO found that although 60 per cent of millennials say they are tired of renting, 70 per cent will wait until they can afford a home that meets their requirements.

 ”More than the intangibles, the return on a home purchase is important to millennials and they take a thoughtful approach to how their home will fare in the current housing market. These are all areas where a mortgage specialist can help guide them through,” commented BMO’s director of home financing Damon Knights.

The survey also found that millennials view a home purchase as an investment and will not be pressured into buying to achieve the Canadian Dream; they are cautious about buying when prices may impact the return on the investment.

More than a third (38 per cent) are concerned that buying a home will leave them without disposable income; 31 per cent say paying down debt is a higher priority than homebuying; just 26 per cent of respondents are planning to buy a home within 2 years.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd

“Strong Evidence of Overvaluation” in Metro Vancouver Housing Market: CMHC

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Housing agency changes tune on Vancouver real estate prices, while arguing that ?weak evidence? of other market risk factors reduces the likelihood of a bubble

Joannah Connolly
The Vancouver Sun

Canada’s federal housing agency has adjusted its outlook on Vancouver’s housing market, citing “strong evidence of overvaluation” and “moderate evidence of problematic conditions,” according to a quarterly report issued April 27.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) spring 2016 Housing Market Assessment (HMA) report, which examines activity in the fourth quarter of 2015, said that there is “strong evidence” Vancouver real estate is suffering from overvaluation in its prices.

This isthe first time that CMHC has issued a warning about conditions in Vancouver’s scorching-hot housing market, and is an upgrade in status from the “moderate evidence” of overvaluation cited in the January 2016 report, which looked at Q3 2015 activity.

Every quarter, the CMHC examines real estate in 15 major metropolitan centres and identifies four high-risk indicators:

  • overheating of demand in the housing market (demand significantly outpacing supply);
  • acceleration in the growth rate of house prices;
  • overvaluation in the level of house prices; and,
  • overbuilding of the housing market (supply significantly outpacing demand, which can reflect excess new construction and/or a decline in demand for existing homes).

In its latest report, the CMHC reported that that “the observed level of home prices is higher than the level warranted by underlying economic and demographic fundamentals” – leading to its upgrade in its assessment on the risk of overvaluation.

However, it added that there was still “weak evidence” of any of the other three risk factors being at play in Q4.

Regarding overheating of demand, the report said, “Although the sales-to-new listings ratio has been firmly in sellers’ market territory (sales-to-new listings ratio of 45 to 60 per cent) since late 2013, this indicator remains below the [75 per cent] HMA threshold for overheating.”

On price growth, the report said, “In the fourth quarter of 2015, detached home prices grew at their fastest rate… [but] multi-family home prices have not surpassed previous peak rates of growth.”

The CMHC assessed that the strong evidence of overvaluation, combined with weak evidence in the other three risk factors, balanced out to create “moderate evidence of problematic conditions” in the Vancouver housing market.

Robyn Adamache, CMHC’s market analysis principal for Vancouver, confirmed, “Overall, we detect moderate evidence of problematic conditions in the fourth quarter for the Metro Vancouver housing market, a change from weak evidence in the previous quarter. This change was due to a shift from moderate to strong evidence of home price overvaluation.”

However, as this report assesses 2015’s fourth quarter, and does not take into account the sales and prices rises seen so far in 2016, it is likely that the next quarterly analysis will see another uptick in the CMHC’s assessment risk factors.

The CMHC report added that there was still “a range of housing available to buyers across a wide price spectrum.”

It said, “The top quintile of all homes sold in the fourth quarter averaged $2.15 million. When this group is removed from the data, the aggregate average home price declines by more than $300,000 to $548,000. The upper quintile comprises mostly single-detached homes. High net worth individuals and those who have gained equity in their homes from sustained price growth in the region are engaged in this market, while the majority of other buyers focus on lower priced homes in condominium developments and suburban locations. Low mortgage rates have aided affordability by keeping monthly mortgage payments relatively stable over time in inflation-adjusted terms.”

The report added, “However, the down payment remains a challenge for first-time home buyers and repeat buyers with little equity in their home as continued home price appreciation drives down payment levels higher.”

Having added Vancouver to the list, the federal housing agency highlighted problems in 10 out of the 15 largest local housing markets in the country. However, it said despite concerns in key metropolitan areas, it believed that there is little evidence that the overall national housing market is likely to see a correction.

CMCH repeated its concerns from earlier reports over Toronto, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon, where it said it found “strong evidence” of problematic conditions. 

To read the full report on the Vancouver market, click here.

© 2016 Real Estate Weekly

Vancouver housing market shows “strong evidence” of overvaluation

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Emma Crawford Hampel
The Vancouver Sun

A Vancouver home for sale. A new CMHC report said evidence the housing market in the city is overvalued has increased since January. Photo: Rob Kruyt

As Vancouver’s housing market continues to heat up, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced April 27 the city is now showing strong evidence of overvaluation.

In the CMHC’s previous assessment, released in January, the organization had found moderate evidence of overvaluation.

“Single detached home prices are higher than levels supported by economic fundamentals, and inventories of new and resale homes are declining while demand remains high,” said Robyn Adamache, the CMHC’s principal market analyst for Vancouver.

“We’re also keeping an eye on overheating and price acceleration, which are slowly advancing, but evidence of these conditions remains weak.”

In compiling its overall assessment of whether a city is showing evidence of problematic conditions, the CMHC considers overheating, price acceleration, overvaluation and overbuilding.

Despite the strong evidence of overvaluation, the CMHC said Vancouver’s housing market shows evidence of moderately, but not strongly, problematic conditions.

There is little evidence of overbuilding, overheating or price acceleration in the city, the CMHC said in its report, which has kept the overall assessment from crossing into strongly problematic.

The housing market in Vancouver has been soaring in 2016. In March alone, a total of 5,301 homes were sold in the city—up more than 28 per cent year-over-year—according to British Columbia Real Estate Association data released April 15. The benchmark price increased almost 23 per cent over that period, reaching $1,093,267.

Across the province, the number of homes sold soared 38% over the year. BCREA chief economist Cameron Muir said this increase is tied to strong employment growth, increasing wages and inter-provincial migration into the province.

According to a Central 1 report released April 19, there are no signs Vancouver’s market will cool anytime soon.

© 2016 Vancouver Courier

Leaked audio says towers part of First Nations’ Jericho Lands vision

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Bob Mackin
The Vancouver Sun

In a recording that was leaked to the Courier, Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell told a March 23 band meeting in North Vancouver that the partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band and Tsleil-Waututh Nation wants to get the Jericho Lands rezoned for townhouses and towers. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Two weeks before the provincial government announced it sold its part of the Jericho Lands, Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell told a band meeting in North Vancouver that the partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band and Tsleil-Waututh Nation wants to get 38.8 acres rezoned for townhouses and towers.

“This land can yield way more than 140 houses,” Campbell said in a recording of the March 23 meeting that was leaked to the Courier.

The land was valued at $480 million, but the three nations are paying nothing to acquire it. Campbell said the B.C. Liberal government agreed to give them a $96-million accommodation payment and a seven-year loan at two per cent interest. In 2014, the trio combined with Canada Lands Company to acquire the $237-million, 52-acre federal portion of the Jericho Lands.

Campbell explained that achieving higher density would increase the land value and make it easier to gain financing to payoff the provincial loan. He mentioned the potential to build single-detached houses on the top of the property, townhouses down the slope and midrises and highrises along West Fourth Avenue. He told attendees to expect opposition.

“If you can get a 2.0 [floor space ratio] or more, you can get a lot of highrises, but that means that the discussions with local residents, they’re going to give us feedback, they’re going to give us pushback,” he warned. “They’re going to argue that we’re blocking their views, that they have a say. The local politicians over there are already beaking-off and chirping. You’ll see in the media that [David] Eby, the NDP critic for the province is already talking, as well as Joyce Murray, the federal MP.”

Campbell said the trio has talked with Mayor Gregor Robertson and city hall bureaucrats. “They’re saying yes, there’s a relationship with the city, a city of reconciliation,” but the rezoning process could take two or three years and there are no guarantees.

Campbell said the trio had also met with the West Point Grey Residents Association, but “they seem to think they have a lot of power over there as non-native residents. We’re saying that’s fine, you benefited for 150 years at our expense, it’s now our turn to step in here.”

The highest and best use of the land is residential, but Campbell said they are willing to negotiate community amenities with Vancouver city hall to gain higher density. “A school is an encumbrance, but if you want the school it’s going to cost you a number of decimal points of [floor space ratio], which is going to increase the value,” he said. “We can build the school and lease it back to them.”

Campbell said the provincial government wanted to be a partner, but “we said no way, once the transaction’s done you’re outta here, you no longer have a say, you no longer have any value other than the purchase price.”

There is no development partner yet, but Campbell revealed that David Negrin, president of Aquilini Construction and Development, was an advisor. Aquilini partnered with the same bands in 2014 to buy the Liquor Distribution Branch warehouse in East Vancouver.

The meeting’s question period was, at times, raucous. One woman said “we own this land, we didn’t sign this away, this is unceded land” and described the Musqueam as “squatters” on Squamish land.

Campbell said the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh, part of the Four Host First Nations for the 2010 Winter Olympics, agreed in 2014 to collaborate, instead of compete, to jointly own land that is subject to overlapping claims. A 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling said governments must consult and accommodate First Nations when disposing Crown land.

“We’re hearing the same things in every community. They’re wondering, why are we working together?” Campbell said. “We tried doing it ourselves and it’s very challenging.”

Another attendee slammed Squamish Nation leadership for cutting a fee simple deal instead of relying on the treaty process to increase reserve lands. Campbell said treaty talks with Victoria and Ottawa are slow and expensive. Squamish Nation negotiations stalled two decades ago.

“We’re not extinguishing our title to this land, we’re enhancing it,” he said. “It’s from our title that we have the ability to reacquire these, because they once were stolen from us. We now get them back 100 per cent.” Chief Ian Campbell did not respond to a request for comment by the Courier’s press time.

© 2016 Vancouver Courier

Canada real estate is reliving 30-year-old history : analysis

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Ephraim Vecina
The Vancouver Sun

While the continuously growing prices in Canada’s real estate sector might come across as a shock for industry players and would-be market participants, an article from way back in 1988 shows that the state of the country’s most dynamic housing markets is nothing new.

Posted by The Globe and Mail real estate reporter Tamsin McMahon on social media, the near-30-year-old report focused on the impact of low mortgage rates on the then rapidly growing home prices in Toronto.

“Politicians and tenants’ groups have declared a housing ‘affordability crisis’ – again – and have called for a tax on speculators’ profits to cool down the frenzy,” the article read. “Dark words are muttered about how foreign money is to blame. Or yuppies.”

Another 1989 BCTV story provides a window on the Vancouver market of that era, which back then saw host to plenty of opposition to increasing foreign investment in the city.

“People like us, a young married couple and we’ve lived here all our lives, and we can’t afford to buy a house,” the report quoted one woman as saying. “We save and we save, and it doesn’t matter, because the prices keep going up because the foreign people keep coming in and keep buying.”

In an analysis for The Huffington Post Canada, industry observer Jesse Ferreras said that with just minor changes to the figures involved, one can see that the situation is essentially the same.

“Substitute the numbers for today’s prices and such a story could have been published last week,” Ferreras argued.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd

Competition Tribunal rules against TREB

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Neil Sharma and Tony Palermo
other

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has engaged in anti-competitive acts that had “a considerable adverse impact on innovation, quality and the range of residential real estate brokerage services that likely would be offered in the GTA” without TREB’s restrictive rules, the Competition Tribunal has found.

During the tribunal hearing last fall, the Competition Bureau said that TREB stymies fair competition by monopolizing the MLS terms of use to the detriment of virtual office websites (VOWs), as well as to TREB’s 42,000 members and to consumers.

In a statement, the tribunal says the Commissioner of Competition “has established, on a balance of probabilities, that the three elements of section 79 (of the Competition Act) have been satisfied.” It says, “TREB substantially or completely controls the supply of MLS-based residential real estate brokerage services in the GTA, within the meaning of paragraph 79(1)(a) of the Act.”

The tribunal then found that “TREB has engaged in, and continues to engage in, a practice of anti-competitive acts, as contemplated by paragraph 79(1)(b). In essence, that practice is comprised of the enactment and maintenance of certain restrictive aspects of the rules and policy that TREB has adopted with respect to VOWs…”

The tribunal also found that “the VOW restrictions have had, are having and are likely to have the effect of preventing competition substantially in a market, as contemplated by paragraph 79(1)(c). The tribunal reached that conclusion after finding, among other things, that the VOW restrictions have substantially reduced the degree of non-price competition in the supply of MLS-based residential real estate brokerage services in the GTA, relative to the degree that would likely exist in the absence of those restrictions.”

The tribunal says the specific terms of its order will be determined “after the parties have provided written submissions addressing this issue of remedy” and have had an opportunity to make oral submissions on that issue.”

A confidential decision was released to the parties involved in the hearing on Wednesday. A public version of the decision will be released in the next couple of days. Watch REMonline for details and updates.

Update:  The full public decision is now available here.

John DiMichele, CEO of the Toronto Real Estate Board said in a statement to REM: “TREB has been advised by its legal counsel that they have received a lengthy confidential document containing the Competition Tribunal’s decision in the matter of TREB vs. Competition Bureau.

“At this time we understand that no order has been issued and that the tribunal has only partially granted the bureau’s application.  The tribunal has also asked that both parties provide input to remedies.”

During the hearing, the Competition Bureau’s lead counsel, John Rook, argued that TREB has substantial or complete control of real estate brokerage services in the GTA; that TREB has exercised that control in a manner that had the effect of creating or maintaining its market power to the benefit of its members; and that this has substantially lessened competition in the real estate marketplace. Rook described TREB’s business practices as predatory.

TREB counsel Don Affleck challenged the Competition Bureau’s position that TREB’s VOW policy was anti-competitive, suggesting that the evidence is “clear and abundant” that the policy is neither exclusionary nor disciplinary to members or entrants who want to offer a VOW.

TREB cited privacy concerns as its reason for prohibiting VOWs from displaying some information, such as sold prices, that can be gathered from the MLS. TREB currently permits the disputed information to be shared with clients in person, by fax or email only.

A bureau witness during the trial was Bill McMullin, CEO of Viewpoint Realty, which has grown into Nova Scotia’s largest real estate database, in part, said McMullin, because it makes all relevant information available to the public.

TREB’s lawyers said that Viewpoint was the subject of numerous privacy complaints and ignored them, and rebuked Viewpoint’s claim that its success is wholly attributable to making all sold data available to the public.

McMullin countered by stating that given the sheer scope of business Viewpoint conducts, a few complaints could be expected.

A key cog in TREB’s defence strategy was 38-year real estate veteran Pamela Prescott, the owner of Century 21 Heritage Group in Richmond Hill, Ont., who’s been involved in more than 45,000 transactions. She told the hearing that the reason clients’ sold data information is not published online is because they’ve expressed grim disapproval.

“If it’s necessary, they don’t mind Realtors seeing it, but they don’t want the public seeing it,” Prescott said at the hearing, adding that before discarding the practice altogether, it was brokerage policy to secure written consent before publishing sold data online.

Prescott said it was brokerage policy for both buyers and sellers to agree to publishing that information online for the public to see, and that, by her estimate, only five to 10 per cent consented.

Another witness during the hearing was TheRedPin.com Realty, which operates a VOW that had conducted $325-million in business at the time its co-founder and chief sales officer, Tarik Gidamy, took the stand in September 2015.

“Given the nature of this trial, having the ability to extract (MLS) data would do wonders for me,” Gidamy told the tribunal. “TREB is there to serve its members, which they do well, but there are some members that want to do better.”

CREA was granted intervener status at the tribunal.

“CREA has a valid interest in making sure it is not associated with a violation of privacy laws and regulations,” said CREA counsel Sandra Forbes during the tribunal. “There is a difference between disputed fields being available for everyone, who may have no interest in buying or selling (real estate), or for brokers who can use the information and disseminate it at their own discretion.”

But the bureau took aim at CREA’s participation in the trial, as well as its credibility. Counsel Andrew Little, cross-examining CREA CEO Gary Simonsen, had him confirm that TREB is CREA’s largest member, comprising between 35 and 40 per cent of its membership, and that several members of its Board of Directors were TREB members.

The complaint against TREB was initially dismissed on April 15, 2013, but the Competition Bureau successfully appealed the case to the Federal Court of Appeal the following February, arguing the previous committee improperly defined section 79 of the Competition Act – the “abuse of dominance” clause.

Under the previous section 79 interpretation, it was determined that TREB could not compete with its own members because it is an incorporated trade association. Therefore, it did not circumvent the abuse of dominance stipulation.

“Allowing the tribunal’s finding to stand could leave a significant loophole in the application of the Competition Act,” then-interim commissioner of competition John Pecman said in a May 14, 2013 statement. “While most trade associations comply with the Competition Act, we are concerned that, if the tribunal’s decision is left to stand, trade associations may be tempted to develop rules aimed at preventing or eliminating potential new forms of competition.”

The case resumed in September 2015 in Toronto and was presided over by Chief Justice Paul Crampton.

© 2016 REM Real Estate Magazine

Condos surge in the Greater Toronto Area

Monday, April 25th, 2016

This market’s booming thanks to high-priced Vancouver

Steve Randall
Other

Condo sales in the Greater Toronto Area surged 21.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to a year earlier. The Toronto Real Estate Board says that there were 5,974 sales through the MLS during the first three months of this year with around 70 per cent taking place in the city of Toronto.

TREB President Mark McLean commented that the pace of demand was reflective of the important entry point to the market that condo apartments offer: “Recent polling undertaken for TREB by Ipsos suggested that approximately half of home purchases made in the GTA this year would be accounted for by first-time buyers.”

With the annual increase in listings down 1.7 per cent, there was an average selling price increase of 8.1 per cent to $393,589.

“While the condominium apartment market segment remains the best supplied in the GTA, market conditions have tightened considerably since the first quarter of 2015. Not surprisingly, the pace of year-over-year price growth has accelerated over the same period of time,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd

Vancouver Council Approves Next Steps for Affordable Home Ownership Pilot

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

City hall votes to begin proposed initiative to help middle-income long-term residents into home ownership, starting with 300 discounted homes

Joannah Connolly
Van. Courier

Vancouver City Council voted April 20 to approve the first steps towards a proposed pilot Affordable Home Ownership (AHO) program, which hopes to initially supply 300 below-market-priced units to eligible middle-income, working Vancouver residents.

The vote passed by City Hall was to request the province to amend the Vancouver Charter to permit the pilot program to go ahead, and to begin consultation with residents, stakeholders, mortgage lenders and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to come up with the best model for the pilot.

The three-year pilot program, which would be extended further if successful, initially aims to supply 300 affordable units for purchase. One discount model being considered would ensure the homeowner’s housing costs (mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, strata fees, etc.) do not exceed 35 per cent of their gross monthly household income. Alternatively homes under the scheme could always be priced at least 20 per cent below market value.

The program would be open to residents who:

  • have lived in Vancouver for five years or more;
  • are citizens or permanent residents of Canada;
  • have at least one employed member of the household;
  • earn a maximum total household income (singles and couples with no dependent children living at home: $67,540 a year; single/dual-parent families with dependent children at home: $96,170 a year); and
  • complete the required home ownership education workshops.

The proposed AHO program may use a shared appreciation model, with the buyer and the City sharing in the benefit of any price increases on the property, in proportion to their stake in the unit. This system is modelled on successful similar programs in the UK and other countries.

The proposal report said, “Under any future AHO program that Council would elect to approve, qualifying income bands for both initial purchase and resale would need to be reviewed and adjusted annually to reflect housing price, income and interest rate trends at the time.”

The AHO program would likely also have rental restrictions in place to prevent investors and speculators attempting to purchase the units. The report added, “Consideration will also be given to time restrictions on the first resale to minimize flipping.”

The City’s proposal puts a heavy emphasis on creating enough units for families, and would likely restrict singles and couples to studio and one-bedroom units.

“Given the significant affordability challenge facing families with school aged children, staff are recommending that singles and couples are restricted to units with less than two bedrooms and units with two or more bedrooms are restricted to offering to families with at least one school aged child.”

The pilot program may rely on the City working with the development community to build the units as part of larger developments. The AHO units could be partly paid for by the City in order to make them affordable under the AHO system.

The report said, “In the working model for an affordable home ownership pilot program, the City invests the value created from the density granted on the site to make units affordable. The affordability is then secured as an ownership stake for the City in all or some portion of the building’s units and at various levels of discount (e.g. 20 per cent of the fair market value). This City stake creates the opportunity for an eligible buyer to purchase an affordable unit.”

It went on to say there would likely be a minimum requirement – and an ideal target – for the proportion of family housing being built under the program. “Due to the limited supply of affordable family-oriented units in the City’s housing stock, the working model sets a target that 50 per cent of all units in a project must be two- and three-bedroom units developed for and sold to families with children, and requires a minimum of 35 per cent of units that work for families.”

The report also proposed hiring an independent third-party administrator to operate the AHO scheme on behalf of the City. The considerable tasks involved include:

  • designing and facilitating the required home buyer/owner education workshops;
  • screening applicant buyers for eligibility;
  • developing a pre-qualified list of mortgage lenders;
  • ensuring buyers have appropriate financing in place;
  • ongoing compliance monitoring and enforcement;
  • creating an annual program review and report to Council;
  • making recommendations to Council to ensure the long-term viability, sustainability and affordability of the program.

If launched, the AHO program, with its initial 300 affordable units under a pilot scheme, would likely see some stiff competition among thousands of potential applicants. The proposal report said, “An analysis of the City’s renting households through Statistics Canada reveals approximately 30,000 households earning between $50,000 and $99,000 per year could potentially qualify for the AHO pilot program.”

However, it did not specify how the successful applicants would be selected for the pilot.

© 2016 Real Estate Weekly

FinTRAC not doing its part enough ? CREA

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Ephraim Vecina
Other

Amid tighter federal legislation on large-sum transactions, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said that the government’s watchdog is not doing its part in ensuring that industry professionals get a better understanding of the rules.

CREA vice president of government and public relations Randall McCauley said that while there is indeed an immediate need for a better compliance rate, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FinTRAC) should address policy questions as clearly as possible.

“Any rule, regulation or law is subject to interpretation. We’re asking, ‘How would you interpret this regulation?’ … and they won’t give us a clear answer,” McCauley told The Canadian Press.

“If you were doing nothing and you do something then technically, I guess, yes that’s an improvement,” McCauley said of the FinTRAC’s recent efforts to improve its realtors’ education program.

For instance, the latest rules hold that those who conduct two transactions within a few years would be more closely monitored under suspicion of high risk and illicit activity. McCauley countered that this is an extremely common practice, especially among growing families looking for more and more space.

“I think there’s room for FinTRAC to work with us to understand the nature of the business,” McCauley said.

FinTRAC maintained that it has allotted “significant time and effort” in collaborating with the association. The agency said that it has assisted with the CREA’s drive to improve its anti-money laundering manual and online training.

“What we have found more generally in the real estate sector are issues with compliance regimes, policies and procedures, training, as well as record-keeping and reporting,” FinTRAC spokeswoman Renee Bercier wrote in an email.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd

Foreign investment not slowing down any time soon ? economist

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Ephraim Vecina
Other

The relative ease of purchasing, the low interest rates, and the generous currency exchange all make Canada an incredibly attractive choice for foreign nationals looking to expand their investment portfolios—and this trend is not dying down any time soon, according to an economist.

Case in point: China. Per estimates by National Bank of Canada economists, approximately $12.7 billion was spent by Chinese buyers on real estate in Vancouver last year alone. This amount represents nearly a third of the $38.5 billion in total sales in 2015.

“China is not a great place to invest and relatively Canada is, it’s certainly getting very expensive by western standards but it still appears to be cheap by major Chinese city standards,” UBC’s Sauder School of Business housing economist and professor Thomas Davidoff told Yahoo! Canada Finance.

The appeal of Canada’s cities is such that some Chinese nationals manage to get way ahead of competing investors via the Shanghai-based Vanfun.com, which provides access to Vancouver properties on offer culled from the realtor MLS—a few days before these listings become publicly available.

Local industry professionals called foul on the Chinese-language website’s use of the data.

“It’s pretty frustrating. It’s taking our copyrighted information and using it against our rules,” Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver official Dan Morrison said in an interview with Global News.

“If they are getting access to our information on our system, if someone is giving them those numbers…that’s clearly against our rules,” Morrison added.

At present, no apparent ties exist between Vanfun.com and any local real estate agency. The website’s owner, Shanghai Ruiying Internet Technology, splits commissions with Vancouver realtors and claims that it is collaborating with major banks.

“That they’re taking a share of commissions is pretty unusual. [But] it looks like it’s open season,” Davidoff said.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd