CMHC data show low rate of foreign ownership

The presence of foreign real estate investors has been a hot-button issue in markets like Vancouver, where many residents support a vacancy tax on non-residential owners. Until recently, many people speculated about a high incidence of foreign investors (with some saying it’s a quarter or even higher), but they lacked concrete numbers to back up those assertions. Lack of transparent data in general has been frustrating to those working in real estate.

On Tuesday, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) released data on foreign ownership of Canadian condos in its twice-yearly rental market survey, and the numbers do not reflect the high rate of foreign ownership that many people expected. CMHC’s report covers 11 Canadian markets in the period up to October and show that Metro Vancouver’s overall percentage of foreign condo ownership is 2.3 per cent (Vancouver’s Burrard Peninsula stood at 5.8 per cent, however). That figure was slightly higher (2.4 per cent) for Toronto and lower for Montreal and Victoria, which had rates of 1.5 and 1.1 per cent, respectively.

Here’s how these markets stacked up, according to CMHC data:

Toronto 2.40%
Vancouver 2.30%
Montreal 1.50%
Victoria 1.10%
Ottawa 0.70%
Quebec City 0.60%
Saskatoon 0.30%
Calgary 0.20%
Edmonton 0.10%
Regina 0.10%
Winnipeg 0.10%

Not surprisingly, real estate insiders including mortgage brokers were sceptical of CMHC’s findings, calling into question the methodology used to gather these numbers. According to a piece on, CMHC relied on responses from property managers of structures with three or more units. Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre told MBN:

“We don’t actually call the person living in the units for the foreign investor (survey) – we’re calling the property manager. We ask them about the owner of the unit and it’s not necessarily the person living in the units. If someone lives in the unit and it’s the son or the daughter of the investor, we wouldn’t be contacting them; we would be contacting the property managers (and asking) who owns it and is their principle residence in Canada.”

It’s hard to tell how accurate those numbers truly are, but tracking this information may be a step in the right direction.

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