Overseas Focus Vancouver - The cream of Canada

Shane McGinley, Sunday Tribune
May 18, 2008

Vancouver is officially Canada's best city to live in and the third best in the world. With rising prices, a low cost of living, geographical boundaries limiting development and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, buyers are now flocking to the city, reports Shane McGinley.

Where is it? Vancouver is a coastal city located in southwestern British Columbia, a province in Western Canada.

What's so special about it? Vancouver will host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and will welcome more than 5,500 athletes and officials from over 80 countries. Along with the nearby famous ski resort of Whistler, Vancouver is already seeing the effects of the games, with ?547m being spent on upgrading the road that linking it to Whistler and ?1.5bn on a new fast transit train line linking the airport and the city. The third largest city in Canada, Vancouver is surrounded on three sides by water and is nestled beside the Coast Mountain Range - therefore there are geographical limitations and a finite amount of property that can be built.

Best kept secrets - Vancouver's nickname is Hollywood North due to the many numerous films and TV shows that are filmed there. After LA and New York it is the third biggest film centre in North America and in many films the Vancouver skyline doubles for Manhattan.

Productions such as X Files, the X-Men movies, the Scary Movie films, Fantastic Four, Blade and Catwoman were shot in Vancouver.

Who lives here? Kitsilano is Vancouver's main celebrity neighbourhood and famous names that have lived in the city include Bryan Adams, Pamela Anderson, Michael Buble, Michael J Fox, Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn and Rudyard Kipling.

What's the property market like? The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reported that while the number of sales dropped by 16% prices still continued to rise. The CB Richard Ellis Market Outlook 2008 reported that this was because of British Columbia's economic boom with investment rising and unemployment falling.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) there will be a difference in supply and price over the next few years. In 2008 the number of homes being built in British Columbia is set to drop by 14.4% and in 2009 by 3.4%. By comparison they estimate that prices will increase by 10.7% in 2008 and by 5.9% in 2009.

However Forbes Magazine believes that in Vancouver prices are overpriced and Re/Max Associates report that the number of homes selling for around $2m has risen by 48%. For locals housing affordability has also deteriorated across the city and at present it is very much a seller's market.

How do you go about buying property? There are no major restrictions on foreigners buying land in Vancouver.

In most cases buyers can use a buyer's agent. When buying, an 'Offer to Purchase' is prepared by a lawyer and submitted to the seller with a 10% deposit.

Once accepted and a price agreed a home inspection and land survey is carried out, the lawyer finalises the agreement and prepares a 'Statement of Adjustment' and once all is agreed the deeds and keys are exchanged. According to Maggie Chandler, a Vancouver agent, "many of Canada's financial institutions have developed lending programmes to meet the needs of nonCanadian buyers. Typically the requirement is a minimum down payment of 35% of the purchase price."

Where are the best places to buy? Realty Times reports that Burnaby, Richmond, Squamish, Vancouver East and Vancouver West have all had good price increases. The Olympics stretch over a 120km zone from the shores of Richmond, just south of Vancouver, and one of the best areas to buy is Gastown - the original city core which is being developed at the moment and popular with the film making and creative community. Nearby Whistler is also experiencing gains because of the Olympics.

What's the rental market like? More than 50% of the city's population rents and in Gastown vacancy rates are near zero. Mercer Human Resource Consulting reports that average rent in Vancouver is ?1,033 a month. However rental yields in Vancouver are one of the lowest in Canada and on average are about 3%. While prices grew by 75% between 1999 and 2006 rents only went up 20%. According to the Central Credit Union of British Columbia rental vacancy rates however will decline in 2008 to 0.5% and rents will rise by 2%.

What's the resell market like? British Columbia has the second highest resale prices in Canada (after Alberta) and the Canadian Real Estate Association describes Vancouver as a "seller's market".

Average property prices? The average price of a condo in Vancouver is $261,667.

What are the tax breaks with Ireland? Tax on rental income is 25% on gross, capital gains tax is only applied to half the profit and property ranges from 0.72% for a bungalow to 0.57% for an apartment.

More information:

GALLERIES ON THE BAY, WEST VANCOUVER Price: From $455,000 (?292,082) Details: Located at Horseshoe Bay Village waterfront this consists of 16 residences with large terraces and solariums. Rents on a one-bed of $2,000plus per month are estimated.

Contact: Nicola Way, Assignments Canada 001-604 781 9279; www.AssignmentsCanada.ca

PARIS ANNEX, GASTOWN Price: From $400,000 (?256,747) Details: Located in the centre of Gastown, this six-storey building consists of 16 modern flats. In its second phase of development the 1907 building rents are predicted to start from approximately $1,600 month.

Contact: Nicola Way, Assignments Canada 001-604 781 9279; www.AssignmentsCanada.ca