Foreign investors set their sights in rural B.C.

by Jordan Maxwell08 Jan 2015
An agent in British Columbia is cashing in on interest from Asian buyers increasingly looking to invest not in Vancouver, but in the province’s more rural regions.
John Lovelace, who’s a Realtor for Sutton Group Seafair Realty and is based in Richmond, B.C., struck deals with more than a dozen Chinese investors and has sold several properties over the last few years.
“In terms of Asian buyers, they probably make up about 75 per cent of my business. I haven’t sold a condo in almost 20 years,” he tells REP. “I’ve sold a blueberry farm, marinas, hotels, airports, campgrounds, raw acreage, cattle ranches, cereal crop farms, alfalfa farms, gold mines – and now a whole town.”
Indeed, Lovelace made headlines this week after closing a deal with Chinese real estate developer, China Zhong Ya Group Hebei Canada-China Co., for the purchase of a rural B.C. ghost town called Bradian.
The town, which has been abandoned and desolate for more than 75 years, was sold to the Chinese development company for $995,000 and is just one of the many deals that Lovelace says is signalling a change in investment strategy for foreign buyers.
"The first wave of investors who came to Vancouver were mainly interested in buying single-family homes and condos. There is no question that the Chinese drove up home prices in the residential market when they first started coming to Canada through the Provincial Nominee Program [PNP],” Lovelace says.
“This new wave of buyers are getting more sophisticated, and they are looking at investing outside of places like Richmond and West Vancouver. I used to sell real estate in Toronto and we used to say that there’s the Toronto market and then there’s everything else. It’s similar here in B.C. and we’re seeing more and more people wanting to invest in rural areas, which I think is great for the economy.”
He added that recent changes to the PNP is bringing more Chinese investors to Canada, everywhere from West Vancouver to P.E.I. With pollution rampant in China, Lovelace added that many are coming for the lifestyle, opportunity and stability.
To be able to capitalize on the growing Asian investor market, Lovelace has tailored his business to cater to that demographic. He knows his market, he knows the people and employs those of Asian descent to help bridge any communications gaps.
“You have to be able to speak intelligently and know your market,” he says. “There are a lot of people from China and other parts of Asia in Richmond so I’ve been able to take advantage of the demographics.”

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