Tue, Jul 05, 2016 - Page 10 News List

Realtors pitch Canada as safe property haven

Bloomberg

Realtors in Toronto and Vancouver are pitching Canadian cities as relatively safe property havens now that London, for years one of the world’s leading targets of foreign capital, suddenly looks a lot riskier. Blame it on Brexit.

“Brexit’s good for us, not for them,” said Anita Springate-

Renaud, owner of Engel & Volkers’ brokerage in Toronto, who expects to field calls from clients seeking to redirect their investments. “We are a safe bet.”

If Springate-Renaud is right, there might be heightened demand from moneyed clients for homes and condos as well as office towers in two of Canada’s hottest real-estate markets, which already have seen prices soar from an influx of foreign money.

There is a record US$443 billion in global capital allocated to commercial property that wealthy investors have not deployed, according to figures from Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Within hours of the stunning Brexit outcome, Brian Kriter, an executive managing director of valuation and advisory at Cushman & Wakefield, was on a 6:30am call from his home in Toronto to discuss the potential ramifications of the referendum with colleagues in London and New York.

LONDON FREEZE

In the days since, Kriter has met with one Asian commercial real-estate lender who decided to freeze plans for a US multimillion dollar financing deal in London and is considering channeling that money to North America instead. Cushman & Wakefield is organizing a client day this month, potentially in New York, to discuss the early implications of Brexit’s fallout.

“You have this phenomenal amount of capital that’s looking to be placed in commercial real estate, and it’s very fluid,” Kriter said. “Foreign investors view Canada as an island of certainty.”

In the past decade, central London saw the biggest increase in residential property prices of any major city as the favored destination for global capital seeking a stable sanctuary.

Nearly three out of every four newly built homes in 2013 were bought by foreign buyers, half of them from Asia, according to Knight Frank LLP. Similarly on the commercial side, 70 percent of central London purchases were by foreigners last year.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU might not necessarily change that overnight. The pound’s record plunge could attract buyers seeking a bargain, Sotheby’s International Realty Canadian CEO Brad Henderson said.

The vote might ironically bring more predictability to the UK, but export uncertainty to the rest of Europe, Kriter said.

However, with China among Asia’s most vulnerable economies to Brexit risk, there could be an even greater appetite from Chinese buyers for North American assets, such as Anbang Insurance Group Co (安邦保險集團), which has snapped up multimillion-dollar assets in New York, Toronto and Vancouver.

CHINESE INVESTORS

A record US$18.3 billion flowed out of China globally in 2014 and nearly half of that went to just three markets: London, Manhattan and Sydney, according to a March report from Colliers International Group Inc, the Toronto-based real estate firm.

That flow has since diversified to other markets with Canada increasingly a beneficiary.

In the six months to February, foreign investment into Canadian commercial real estate surged to US$1.4 billion, more than double a year earlier, the brokerage said in a separate March report.

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