The weak Canadian dollar and a shaky Chinese stock market make Vancouver an affordable bet for offshore investors
Ludovic Siouffi is an investment advisor at Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management (Canada).
My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, one of the hottest real estate markets across the country. We just received our property assessment value for 2016, and it has gone up by over 12 per cent in just one year, which is probably average for where we live. In places like Lion’s Bay, just thirty minutes outside the city, property assessment values are up 15 to 20 per cent, and in some cases as high as 30 per cent.
While there are plenty of other factors I’m sure—our incredible beaches, scenic views, a lack of land and land-use constraints—I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that investment from Mainland Chinese buyers over the past few years, and even decades, has been a major contributor to our real estate boom.
So what kind of impact will the recent market downturn in China have on our precious real estate? For those of you who might have been in a coma over the past few months, here’s a quick update – China’s stock market isn’t doing so well. It all started in June of 2015. At the time, China’s stock market was on an incredible hot streak. With the state-owned media urging them on, many people started pouring their money into stocks. The resulting growth was explosive but unstainable. As the demand for stocks increased, so too did stock prices. Meanwhile, the overall Chinese economy had actually been slowing down, and debt was skyrocketing. This led to a sudden mass loss in confidence, and a shocking drop in the Chinese stock market.
Over the past few months, the Chinese government has done everything in its power to stop losses. At first their efforts seemed to be working, with volatility in the region decreasing towards the end of 2015. However, over the past first few days of trading in 2016, it’s clear that there is still a lot of anxiety and fear amongst investors in China. Just yesterday, China’s stock market was again halted after only 30 minutes of trading, the shortest day in its 25 year history. Since the majority of investors in China’s markets are individuals, rather than institutional investors, panic and sell-offs have spread at a much faster rate. Most economists agree that the recent wave of downturns stems from the lowering of the local currency.
This leads me to the Renminbi (also known as the yuan), China’s currency, which is fixed to the U.S. dollar. Just recently, and with little warning, the People’s Bank of China lowered the exchange rate of the yuan against the U.S. dollar by 0.51 per cent. This recent currency move has led to a massive sell-off in the region, with investors looking to move their assets out of China. Although it’s not as easy to convert and move funds out of China, as it is for us to move down South, the government has yet to impose any major restrictions or limitations on doing so.
So now that you have some lay-of-the-land, let’s bring it back full-circle. Below is a simple flow-chart that I think will help in explaining why I think the recent market turmoil in China will lead to higher demand for real estate in Vancouver. Working our way through, it seems pretty clear that a major fall in the Chinese stock Market, could ultimately lead to further increases in Canadian real estate prices.