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How International Buyers Shape Canada’s Property Scene

A couple of people sitting at a table with a house model in front of them.

In the active urban centres of Toronto and Vancouver, the impact of international buyers on the housing market has been a topic of heated debate. 

The Canadian government’s recent foreign buyer ban, effective from January 1st, targets new purchases by non-Canadians, aiming to cool the red-hot housing market. Yet, with data on the ban’s effectiveness still pending, you’re poised to delve into the complexities of international investment and its true influence on Canada’s housing landscape.

Impact of International Buyers on the Housing Market Canada

As you explore the ramifications of international investment in Canada’s housing market, consider the weight of non-resident ownership. In Toronto, 2.6% of the housing stock fell under non-resident ownership as of 2021. The situation in Vancouver was even more pronounced, with 4.3% of homes owned by non-residents.

While these percentages might seem small, the influence of international buyers is often felt most in the high-end property segment, skewing perceptions and potentially influencing market trends. Their presence has raised concerns about affordability and availability, particularly for local first-time buyers. To counter these effects, the government introduced a ban, targeting purchases made by non-Canadians from January 1, 2023, onward.

Certain exceptions to the ban, including international students and individuals with temporary work permits who meet certain criteria, suggest the government’s approach is not absolute. Such nuanced measures aim to manage the market’s complexity without stifling equitable opportunities for internationals legitimately residing in Canada.

Economic Implications of International Buyers

A man and woman are sitting on a couch with a key in their hands.

The influx of international buyers has been a double-edged sword for the housing market in Canada. 

Increase in Housing Demand

International buyers have historically contributed to an upsurge in housing demand within Canada, particularly in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver. This demand often outpaces supply, leading to several significant ramifications:

  • Intensified competition for property
  • Reduced housing stock for local residents
  • Pressure on infrastructure due to increased density

In the context of Toronto and Vancouver, a minority stake in property ownership is held by non-residents. Yet, their presence is felt strongly in the luxury housing market, skewing perceptions and creating ripple effects throughout the entire housing spectrum.

Rise in Housing Prices

The entry of foreign capital into the real estate market has been closely associated with the escalation of housing prices. While it’s important to note that their actual market share varies, the psychological impact on pricing can be considerable.

  • International buyers often set higher benchmarks for property prices
  • Luxury property segments feel the most pronounced impact
  • There is a potential cascading effect on mid and lower-tier property segments

Data reveals that in some areas, the introduction of the Foreign Buyers Tax (FBT) has been linked to reduced price inflation, yet experts argue that the critical long-term solution lies in increasing housing supply.

Impact on Local Economy

The role of international buyers extends beyond housing prices and into broader economic considerations. With the Foreign Buyer Ban, there has been a notable shift in the investment landscape. Here’s how it may unfold:

  • Capital reallocation: The ban might divert foreign investments from residential real estate to other sectors like technology and manufacturing
  • Job creation: As investments spread into diverse industries, new employment opportunities could arise
  • Domestic market benefits: Canadians might find fewer barriers to homeownership, potentially increasing local investment and stabilizing the housing market

Social and Cultural Implications

Changes in Neighbourhood Dynamics

When assessing the impact of international buyers on Canada’s housing market, it’s essential to consider how neighbourhood dynamics shift. Properties often bought as investments by non-residents can lead to increased vacancy rates, changing the fabric of communities. This transforms bustling streets into quieter enclaves, which can have mixed effects.

On the one hand, vacant properties might result in reduced wear on local infrastructure. But the pitfalls are significant; fewer residents means less patronage for small businesses, potential for increased crime due to less community vigilance, and a general erosion of the neighbourhood’s vibrancy. Furthermore, cultural disconnection may arise when international buyers with no strong ties to the community invest in housing primarily for financial gain, rather than contributing to the area’s social and cultural tapestry.

Housing Affordability for Local Residents

The surge of international capital into the Canadian real estate landscape has arguably been a double-edged sword for local residents. While some communities have experienced economic benefits from foreign investment, the escalation of housing prices has created significant barriers to entry for locals looking to purchase homes.

Data has shown that the median price of homes has increased substantially in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where international buying is prevalent. Here is a comparison of house price growth in these cities:

Year Median House Price in Toronto (CAD) Median House Price in Vancouver (CAD)
2015 630,858 902,801
2018 785,223 1,092,000
2021 1,025,925 1,225,000

For locals, these price increments translate into a lesser chance of home ownership, especially for younger generations and first-time buyers. The dream of owning a home seems to drift further away as the market favours those with more substantial financial means. This condition fosters a divide, where the housing market is increasingly seen as an exclusive club, inaccessible to the average Canadian.

The Role of Real Estate Agents in International Buyer Transactions

A man and woman sitting at a table with a model house in front of them.

If you’re navigating the Canadian housing market as an international buyer, real estate agents are your firsthand ambassadors. These professionals are pivotal in ensuring transactions are compliant with the latest policies, including stringent government regulations that mandate additional scrutiny.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has expressed its concerns regarding the complexities these policies introduce. Realtors are now entrenched in a process that requires them to verify the eligibility of buyers with greater diligence. As a result:

  • You’ll be asked more probing questions.
  • You’ll need to provide comprehensive documentation.

Real estate agents are adapting to this new regulatory environment. They’re sharpening their knowledge to sidestep potential legal pitfalls that could arise from misinterpreting a client’s eligibility under the new rules.

It’s no secret the Canadian housing landscape has witnessed a seismic shift. With the Foreign-Buyer Ban, even entities like REITs and private equity funds with more than 3% foreign ownership, are now considered foreign buyers if they invest in zoned residential or mixed-use areas. The implications extend to acquisitions related to residential property, including mortgages and leases.


Staying informed and adaptable about managing the complexities of international buyers in Canada’s housing market is key to navigating this dynamic landscape effectively. As regulations evolve, your expertise becomes even more crucial in guiding clients through these changes. Remember, the market’s constant flux demands vigilance and a keen understanding of both local and global trends to ensure success in your transactions.

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