After helping a number of foreign buyers recently purchase real estate in Vancouver, I’ve realized just how many people are interested in putting down some roots in our beautiful city. For those of you eager to have a bit more information, here is some straightforward yet concrete advice for non-residents looking to purchase real estate in British Columbia.

Where to Buy?

Where you buy in BC will depend entirely on what your ultimate goals are. If you plan on spending time in BC and would like to be close to amenities you will probably want to look at areas closer to metro Vancouver. If it’s peace and quiet you’re hoping to find, possibilities extend from the dazzling shores of Deep Cove and West Vancouver to Vancouver Island and beyond. But if it’s an investment property you’re after, the areas currently seeing heavy investment may surprise you.

Last year around this time, Maclean’s published an article entitled China is buying Canada: Inside the new real estate frenzy. While I strongly disagree with some of the sentiments expressed throughout this piece, it did present some good information for those thinking about investing here in BC.

Of its more informative points, the article referenced Canada’s hot spots for foreign investment. Among Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario—all provinces that have seen their total real estate investment value from foreign buyers skyrocket in the last 2-3 years—British Columbia leads the pack. There are, however, some outliers. Chinese developers, for example, have made purchases on Nova Scotia’s remote Eastern Shore, as well as an abandoned mining town in the B.C. Interior. With plans ranging from a luxury resort to a film institute, only time will tell what’s in store for these properties.

Organize Your Documents Ahead of Time

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, nothing will make your life easier than organizing your key financial documents ahead of time.

Making sure that all your financial papers are in order will not only help make the mortgage process go more smoothly, if you see a property you like you can confidently make an offer without scrambling at the last minute with pesky paperwork. In a city like Vancouver, where it is common to have multiple offers or bidding wars on a single property, being organized is among your best weapon to securing your dream property.

Using Your Leverage at Home to Obtain a Canadian Mortgage

If you are a non-resident and need a mortgage, you will essentially be beholden to the same process as any Canadian.

Those who are not self-employed will find themselves ahead of those who are. Assuming you fall into this category, you will want income verification. If you’ve been at your job for any length of time, a letter from your employer stating your work history along with recent pay stubs can act as leverage establishing your ability to consistently pay your mortgage.

Take care of your credit. Many lenders will require an international credit bureau and will not lend unless your credit is good. You may also want to ask for a bank reference letter from your home branch. This letter should state how many accounts you currently have open with your bank and that they are in good standing, and if you had any mortgage with them in the past.

Put Money Aside for Associated Fees

If you are thinking about making a purchase in BC, it can help to open a separate savings account where you keep your funds for related fees outside of your down payment. It should include enough to cover the following:

  • Strata fees (if buying a condo or townhome unit).
  • Appraisal fees.
  • Survey fee.
  • Lawyer’s fees.
  • Home inspection fees.
  • Realtor fees.
  • Emergency fund fees (in case of unforeseen damage or accident).
  • Property insurance fees.
  • Property transfer tax.
  • Title insurance fees.

Once you’ve saved enough to cover all of these expenses, this too can be reflected in your bank report with a note specifying that the money is there to cover all of the transactional fees you will incur outside the down payment.

Know What You’re Worth

Knowing what you’re worth is something surprisingly few people are able to calculate accurately. You should know exactly what tangible assets you have, as well as what qualifies as an asset.

This can include:

  • Machinery and/or technological equipment.
  • Medical equipment.
  • Buildings and/or commercial real estate.
  • Stocks and/or bonds.
  • Sports equipment.

While it may seem like overkill, if you possess substantial value in tangible assets it demonstrates a few key points to the bank. Not only does it illustrate that you have disposable income (assuming you have not bought it on credit and are still paying it off), it is viewed as collateral in the event that something transpires to hinder your ability to pay your mortgage. Having your most valued assets appraised and listed can be a valuable supporting document.

With clients hailing from countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia, I have a great deal of experience in helping to develop concrete plans that will leverage your strengths in your home country to your advantage.

If you would like to discuss purchasing a home in British Columbia, or if you have additional questions not covered in this article please feel free to contact me.