Tony Joe has been selling real estate in B.C.’s capital for 25 years, but the third-generation Victorian is shocked over the uproar his latest flyer has garnered.
“Investors and foreign buyers want your property!” it reads.
“With direction connections to the Lower Mainland, across Canada and in China, our buyers see excellent value…and are able to pay top dollar for your home.”
It’s a pitch most homeowners in Metro Vancouver have seen dozens of times. In Victoria however, the forward tactic is less common – and subsequently ruffling more feathers.
“It is really interesting how it’s brought out the ugliness in some people. We had a whole bunch of emails messages from people that I’m having to disregard because they are so mean,” says Joe.
“It is offensive to me in many ways…it is sad to see, especially knowing virtually everyone who lives in Victoria right now came from another place, whether it’s the mainland or the rest of Canada or Europe or other parts of Asia. I do find it very hypocritical.”
The Greater Victoria region has always been a destination for immigrants, but in 2011, just 2.8 per cent of people said their mother tongue was of Chinese origin, compared to 14.8 per cent in Metro Vancouver.
In recent months, the real estate market has taken off. Greater Victoria was named one of the hottest luxury real estate markets in the world by Christie’s International Real Estate, and there were 1,286 property sales in April – more than any month since 1991.
It’s created a discourse people in Vancouver are all too familiar with.
“We’ve had some people tell us they feel that we’re selling out Victoria that they’re afraid their neighbourhoods be eroded by investors who will leave houses empty and vacant and destroy the neighbourhood,” says Joe.
WATCH: Victoria has become yet another destination for Metro Vancouver “real estate refugees” trying to escape high prices.
Still, there are a variety of reasons why the Victoria real estate market is attractive says Tsur Somerville, a professor with UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
“It still has relatively easy access to Asia, it has the benefits of other places in BC in that it’s clean and safe,” he says.
“I think baby boomers are likely to be the bigger long-term demand in a market like Victoria. It’s traditionally been a destination for people when they retire, and we have a whole bunch of retirees starting to come through the pipeline.”
Joe says the criticism hurt the first time he sent the flyer out, but he’s done it two more times for a very simple reason: it works.
“Almost every single seller that we bump into right now is asking not only ourselves, but realtors in general, ‘do they have access to the Chinese market?'” he says.
“I have not had a single homeowner that has said they’re willing to take less money for a house just because it was a non-Asian or non foreigner.”