The truth about foreign property buyers in Canada

Investing in Toronto’s condo market isn’t the only choice available to foreign buyers, so a new trend is seeing the real estate industry go to them, with lucrative results says one agent.

Along with marketing their projects through brokers with ties to China, Toronto condo developers and agents are also travelling overseas themselves in hopes of raising awareness of Toronto as an attractive real estate market, both for investors and for families who might be planning to immigrate to Toronto.

The idea that many investors from China are looking for a quick flip is something quite out of touch with what Matt Elkind, an agent with The Condo Store Realty, experienced on recent trips to Shanghai and Tapei.

“Here many investors are concerned with how much they can flip their condo in a short amount of time, whereas the impression I get with the Chinese money is that it is more permanent money. They’re buying these properties to hold for the long term,” says Elkind, who is also the founder of Connect Asset Management. Many prospective buyers also have a connection to Toronto or Canada, he adds.

“The returns in our market have not been as good as those in Asian markets and all the money coming here is a flight to safety or has an educational component.

“On my Tapei visit, the most asked question was ‘How close is the project to a university.’”

There is also a different cultural attitude towards real estate, says Elkind. “They see real estate as inter-generational. For example when someone dies, instead of trying to sell the property for a profit, they honour the gift from the deceased and will try to purchase property around it.”

Despite what seems to be increased Chinese interest in Toronto’s real estate, not all developers are convinced that foreign investors represent much of a growth market for the city’s condo industry. They point to the U.S. as the top source of foreign investment and some developers have no plans to aggressively court Chinese buyers.

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