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BC real estate: 40% of Cullen Commission focuses on sector – Pique Newsmagazine

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Despite being unable to determine the exact impact money laundering has on home prices, the real estate sector is of top concern to the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C.

Of the 101 recommendations Commissioner Austin Cullen made in his June 15 final report, 40 are directly related to real estate, and several others are ancillary, such as proposals to strengthen anti-money laundering (AML) policies within financial institutions and the asset forfeiture legal regime, as well as greater controls on notaries and lawyers, who process transactions.

Despite the apparent problems in the industry, Cullen poured cold water on prior attempts to peg a precise price increase on homes due to money laundering.

While his executive summary states, “money laundering is not the cause of housing unaffordability,” he clarifies within the report that he examined whether it is “the” cause or “a main” cause — as it may be perceived publicly. Cullen found no such proof but nevertheless concluded the real estate sector is vulnerable.

Cullen said the reasons for increases in housing costs “are many, and they are complicated.” He cites housing supply and demand and interest rates as more proven factors.

Cullen examined the 2019 expert panel report of professors Maureen Maloney, Tsur Somerville, and Brigitte Unger titled Combatting Money Laundering in BC Real Estate, which did prescribe a figure for money laundering in real estate — about a 3.7% to 7.5% increase in prices. But Cullen noted that the estimate came with caveats and uncertainties. The model the panel used was “an exercise in speculation and, ultimately, guesswork,” said Cullen.

Cullen took time to separate what he perceives as a common mistake in the public discourse — that foreign investment and money laundering go hand in hand.

Cullen relied on the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation’s conclusion foreign investment was not a significant driver of real estate prices in Vancouver, based on home ownership data from 2010-2016.

He noted, however, that defining foreign investment can be difficult and “witnesses disagreed about whether foreign investment plays a significant role in Vancouver’s housing prices.”

Simon Fraser University professor Joshua Gordon and University of B.C. professor emeritus David Ley testified how foreign capital can explain the decoupling of local incomes to home prices in B.C. However, such capital may not show up as direct foreign investment in home ownership data; instead, it is foreign money transferred into homes owned by newly established residents or via beneficial ownership structures that can obscure the real picture.

“It became clear as the evidence developed before me that there is disagreement in the academic community about what should be considered ‘foreign ownership.’ Is it limited to beneficial ownership by persons or entities based or resident outside Canada? Or does it extend to purchases made largely with funds earned outside of Canada?” asked Cullen, to which he replied to his questions that “resolving these complex issues is somewhat outside the ambit of my mandate.”

Cullen noted Gordon’s position that it is difficult to determine the origins of foreign capital and, with respect to China, the money being transferred is often escaping capital export controls set by the Chinese government.

He dispelled the notion that foreign investment, particularly from China, is money laundering. And Cullen expressed concern that, in his view, public discourse had reached such a conclusion.

Cullen noted racist stereotyping of investments in real estate originating from China, as University of B.C. professor Henry Yu testified to, must be weeded out from “legitimate policy questions relating to foreign ownership of real estate in the province.”

Cullen concluded that he could make no conclusive finding on money laundering or foreign investment, however defined, is a “primary cause” of home price increases in B.C. and steps to address money laundering should not be viewed as a “panacea for housing unaffordability.”

Ultimately, more study is required on the matter, concluded Cullen.

Ron Usher, general counsel for the Society of Notaries Public, said the conclusions may frustrate some members of the public, however they are not surprising given it is difficult to track money laundering.

“I think people were understandably very interested in that. But I think it’s appropriate for him to say, ‘We just don’t have information.’ Well, of course, we don’t because, you know, people don’t tick a box on a form saying, ‘I got this money from money laundering or a predicate crime,'” said Usher, who followed the daily testimony over two years as an intervenor.

Recommendations run deep into real estate sector

Despite not finding answers to such a significant question in the public discourse over the past 10 years, Cullen lays bare 40 recommendations for the real estate industry, now regulated by the 2021-established B.C. Financial Services Authority (BCFSA).

His recommendations suggest that real estate licensees are largely uneducated on AML measures and that both managing brokers and sub-brokers require education “focusing on the detection and reporting of fraud and money laundering in the industry.”

Cullen also recommends the BCFSA, a government regulator, put in place measures for better data collection and that it implores real estate licensees and notaries to record source of funds information should the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) not do so on a federal level. He also wants BCFSA to mandate AML programs at each brokerage as a licensing condition.

Seventeen recommendations directly relate to mortgage brokers, who are overseen by the Registrar of Mortgage Brokers within the BCFSA.

Cullen wants brokers to have extended criminal record checks and more clearly defined responsibilities, including new reporting mandates under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.

Cullen also recommends all legal owners of mortgage charges are reported and that this information be available through the public land titles registry of the Land Title and Survey Authority. Presently, one is unable to conclusively determine, from flings, all of the owners of a registered mortgage charge.

Cullen is also calling for greater penalties and repayment of profits from proven unscrupulous brokers.

As for real estate licensees, Cullen has recommended employees of developers be brought within the licensing scheme. Today, many developer representatives effectively sell homes (“pre-sale” units) without any regulatory oversight.

Cullen also identified some legal matters to resolve, such as how courts cannot refuse to enforce debts made with funds of suspicious origin. As such, he recommends a source of funds declaration in foreclosure proceedings, at the judge’s discretion. This recommendation stems from Cullen’s examination of numerous foreclosure filings by alleged money launderer and casino cash provider Paul Jin.

Meanwhile, sunshine policies are a prominent set of recommendation for Cullen, namely by populating the B.C.’s Land Owner Transparency Registry with historic data within three years. He also recommends the Land Title and Survey Authority have a clear and enduring AML mandate, including the ability to “more readily” share data with other agencies.

Finally, with all such measures, Cullen recommends the Ministry of Finance analyze how such changes may impact housing prices.

Cullen thirsty for more data

Cullen emphasizes in his report the need for a beneficial ownership registry for both real estate and corporations, with the latter requiring a pan-Canadian approach. Contrary to some witnesses he heard from, such as journalists and Transparency International Canada, Cullen says a small search fee ($5) for beneficial ownership land titles is acceptable if government deems it so for operational purposes. However, Cullen suggests no such fees exist for a beneficial ownership registry of corporations. No fees should apply to law enforcement and regulators, noted Cullen.

With respect to data, Usher said tools such as land title registries, which are “secure and reliable,” are increasingly being used by government agencies. He said Canada Revenue Agency could more easily track land purchases these days to weed out tax evasion and money laundering.

“It’s easy to come up with lots of rules,” said Usher.

“What we really need is a formal process of a notice of acquisition of real estate for CRA and a notice of disposition of real estate for CRA for every transaction.

“We need to get the right information from the right people at the right time,” said Usher.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca

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Real estate: Canada home prices and sales fall again – CTV News

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TORONTO –

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales fell for the fifth consecutive month between June and July, but the latest drop was the smallest of the five.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the association says sales in July fell 5.3 per cent compared with June. The actual number of sales last month was 37,975, down 29 per cent compared with July last year.

“That leaves activity back in the pre-COVID range, or roughly 40 per cent below the peak of the demand-side blowout seen last year,” said Robert Kavcic, BMO Capital Markets senior economist, in a note to analysts.

“Unadjusted, it was the quietest July for sales since the financial crisis in 2020.”

July’s drop in month-over-month sales was the smallest of the past five months. Market watchers said it’s too soon to say whether that trend will continue.

Still, economists and CREA chair Jill Oudil said it is a continuation of the market cooling from the torrid pace seen last year and early this year, when bidding wars were the norm.

Much of the cooldown has been attributed to the Bank of Canada increasing its key interest rate by one percentage point to 2.5 per cent in July in the largest hike the country has seen in 24 years.

Mortgage rate changes tend to mirror such hikes, impacting buying power.

As the rates have risen and sales plummeted, many buyers have sat on sidelines, predicting better deals will come in the fall and frustrating sellers, who have had to come to terms with the fact that they likely won’t fetch as much as neighbours who sold in the winter.

“There’s definitely a lot more people who are waiting until September before they list properties and they’re trying not to list in August, if they don’t have to,” said Davelle Morrison, a Toronto broker with Bosley Real Estate Ltd.

As a result, new listings in July totalled 73,436, down six per cent from last July and on a seasonally adjusted basis, down five per cent from June.

When homes were flying off the market earlier this year, people could buy before they sold their own place and have little risk of their property not selling.

Now, Morrison is telling people to sell their place first because of how long properties are sitting.

She’s also telling her clients to “buckle up” if prices fall more and interest rates continue to rise.

The average sales price was $629,971, down five per cent from $662,924 last July and on a seasonally adjusted basis amounted to $650,760, a three per cent drop from June, CREA said.

Excluding the typically heated Greater Vancouver and Toronto Areas from the calculation cuts $104,000 from the national average price.

Kavcic feels the drops constitute a market correction that is playing out “almost everywhere, but to varying degrees.”

“Southwestern Ontario is feeling it hardest, with markets like Kitchener-Waterloo and London down roughly 15 per cent from their high already,” he said.

He’s noticed Vancouver prices have now fallen over four consecutive months and Montreal has been more immune to but is not escaping the downturn with drops in the last two months.

“We view Alberta as the market most able to weather this storm because it had already stagnated for a number of years before the pandemic, never saw the same froth as Ontario, and is now supported by near-$100 oil and population inflows from other regions,” Kavcic wrote.

“But, in a demonstration of the power of higher interest rates, even Edmonton and Calgary have been subject to a flattening (Calgary) or decline (Edmonton) in prices despite still-solid sales activity.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

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BC's Home Buyer Rescission Period: Your Questions Answered – British Columbia Real Estate Association – BCREA

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The Home Buyer Rescission Period (HBPP), previously known as “Homebuyer Protection Period” and “cooling-off period,” is expected to be implemented province-wide in January 2023. With many details yet to be determined by the BC Government, we have been hearing from REALTORS® with questions. In this post we answer some of those questions.  

Bookmark this page since we’ll be updating this post as we learn more details from the BC Government. In addition, if you are interested in subscribing to BCREA’s regular advocacy newsletter, please email [email protected].  

What is the Home Buyer Rescission Period (HBRP)? 

The HBRP, commonly known as a “rescission period,” gives buyers the right to withdraw from a purchase agreement within a specified period of time after an offer is accepted. Without a rescission period, if a buyer wishes to terminate a contract, they would need to negotiate with the seller and would typically face significant financial penalties or legal ramifications.  

What properties will be subject to the HBRP? 

The policy will apply to the following types of structures: 

  • detached homes, 
  • semi-detached homes, 
  • townhouses, 
  • apartments in a duplex or other multi-unit dwelling, 
  • residential strata lots, 
  • manufactured homes that are affixed to land, and 
  • cooperative interests that include a right of use or occupation of a dwelling. 

What are REALTORS®’ requirements to inform their clients? 

All real estate licensees must provide general information on the HBRP to all consumers through a form approved by the Superintendent. Licensees must also provide an additional mandatory disclosure at the time of preparing an offer on behalf of a buyer and presenting an offer to a client, containing all of the following notices: 

  • the HBRP cannot be waived, 
  • the rescission period time length, 
  • the dollar amount of the rescission fee, 
  • the deposit handling, and  
  • HBRP exemptions.  

Are brokerages required to retain a copy of a rescission notice? 

Yes, brokerages must retain a copy of rescission notices that it prepares and is served to the seller or that the brokerage receives.  

How are sellers supposed to receive rescission notice? 

Buyers must serve rescission notice on the seller through one of the following methods: registered mail, fax, email with read receipt, and personal service. Rescission notices must contain: 

  • address, PID or description of the property, 
  • names and signature of the buyers, 
  • name of the seller(s), and 
  • date of notice. 

What is meant by “three business days?” 

For the HBRP, “business day” means a day other than a Saturday, Sunday or a statutory holiday. The rescission period is three business days, beginning the day after a contract is signed. 

How much is the rescission fee? 

Buyers who use their right to rescind will have to pay a fee of 0.25% of the purchase price. For a $1,000,000 home, this would result in a $2,500 fee paid to the seller.  

How does a HBRP impact other subjects in my contract? 

Other subjects are unaffected by the HBRP.  

What about For Sale by Owner (FSBO) properties? 

The HBRP applies to all residential real estate sales, which includes FSBO. 

Can the HBRP be waived? 

The HBRP cannot be waived. 

Are there any exemptions?  

. There are narrow exemptions, including: 

  • sales of residential real property located on leased land, 
  • sales of leasehold interest in residential real estate, 
  • sales at auction, 
  • sales by way of an Assignment of Contract,  
  • pre-construction sales of multi-unit development properties, which are already subject to a seven-day rescission period, and  
  • sales under a court order or supervision of a court. 

Will the termination fee be taken from the deposit? 

If a deposit is held in trust, brokerages must release the rescission fee to the seller upon rescission. The balance, if any, is returned to the buyer, despite what may be provided in the contract.  

Who will receive the termination fee? 

The rescission fee amount is provided to the seller. 

How can I learn more about the HBRP’s details when they are available? 

This blog post will be updated as we learn more about the HBRP from BCFSA and the Ministry of Finance. In addition, you can follow BCREA’s advocacy news, which will include updates on the HPRP, by subscribing to our Advocacy Update. To do so, please email [email protected].  

What are the next steps for BCREA?  

BCREA staff are updating and creating new Standard Forms and updating professional development courses to ensure REALTORS® are equipped with the tools needed to serve effectively clients. Staff are also meeting regularly with BCFSA to try and answer outstanding questions.  

Will the Ministry of Finance implement additional consumer protection measures? 

In May, BC’s real estate regulator, the BC Financial Services Authority, published an independent report, “Enhancing Consumer Protection in BC’s Real Estate Market,” which offered advice and recommendations to the Ministry of Finance to improve consumer protection. There was significant overlap between BCFSA’s advice and BCREA’s “A Better Way Home” paper. 

The Ministry of Finance has not indicated whether they will implement additional consumer protection measures within the coming months.  

What policies do BCREA recommend to improve consumer protection? 

Earlier this year, BCREA has published a white paper, “A Better Way Home,” which included more than thirty recommendations to improve consumer protection. BCREA does not support a HBRP, because it is not likely to have a meaningful impact on consumer protection and may have unintended consequences on affordability. 

If you have any additional questions, we encourage you reach out and share them at [email protected].  

Below are a list of other resources on the HBRP: 

To subscribe to receive BCREA publications such as this one, or to update your email address or current subscriptions, click here.

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This Week's Top Story: Canada's Real Estate Bubble Eliminated By Data Revision & More Experts See Lower Prices – Better Dwelling – Better Dwelling

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This Week’s Top Story: Canada’s Real Estate Bubble Eliminated By Data Revision & More Experts See Lower Prices – Better Dwelling  Better Dwelling



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