November 13, 2017 12:33 am

Seattle is drawing Chinese homebuyers because it has something Vancouver doesn’t

Realtors put off by high prices in B.C. are now heading to places like Seattle in search of better deals. Paul Johnson explains.

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Natural beauty, clean air and proximity to Asia.

These are three factors that Seattle has in common with Vancouver.

But there’s one trait that the “Emerald City” can boast that Lotusland can’t, and it might be one that’s pulling the attention of Chinese homebuyers further south.

Coverage of foreign buying in Vancouver real estate: 

Seattle is “still much more affordable than Vancouver,” realtor Steve Saretsky told Global News on Sunday.

When you combine that fact with the foreign buyers tax enacted in Metro Vancouver last year, along with the perception that there aren’t many great deals left to be had in the city, Seattle’s attraction becomes more and more clear.

“It’s an attractive space,” Saretsky said.

“The prices have been rising a lot there, and I think it’s encouraging more and more investment.”

READ MORE: The Vancouver foreign buyer tax is one year old. Here’s what Canada can learn from it

A luxury home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue was recently the site of an open house for some of China’s top real estate brokers.

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And reports from the scene suggested that they liked what they saw.

“A lot of people are interested [in] the property [in] the U.S.,” said one man at the open house.

B.C.’s foreign buyers tax is “working by driving a share of buyers to other cities, especially Seattle,” said Byron Burley, the B.C.-based vice-president of Juwai.com, a real estate platform aimed at international buyers.

“It has taken the froth off of the top.”

But in terms of demand from Chinese buyers, search volume data released by the site shows that it’s “flat as a pancake,” he said.

“There is the same number of Chinese buyers in Vancouver in the first half of 2017 as in the prior half – and indeed as in the half-year before that.”

But Burley said Vancouver’s “no-growth trend” is “far different [from] what we see overall, in all locations.”

READ MORE: New Vancouver mortgages took a ‘significant’ hit after foreign buyers tax, data show

Inquiries from Chinese buyers in all locations grew by 8.7 per cent year-over-year in the first half of 2017, he said.

Vancouver remains among their most common search destinations. But Seattle, Toronto, Montreal and Los Angeles are also on the list.

“The power of the Vancouver tax lies in the fact that about 50 per cent of our Chinese buyers begin property hunting without having made up their mind about which city they want to purchase in – much less which neighbourhood,” Burley said.

“When these uncommitted buyers compare Vancouver prices plus the tax to what they can get somewhere else, sometimes they decide it’s not worth it.”

But has the tax sapped international appetites for Vancouver altogether? Not exactly, if you ask him.

“It’s very important to remember, however, that Vancouver is more like a pancake than a deflating souffle,” Burley said.

“Buyer demand has not collapsed, it’s merely flat.”

  • Video report by Paul Johnson

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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