During the last two business days of July, B.C. recorded more than 15,000 property transactions. That sounds like a big number. And while it is, the B.C. Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) is making it difficult to determine exactly how big.
While the LTSA has said there were an estimated 9,200 transactions on July 29, it had declined to share how many land-title transfer applications were filed on July 28.
The number has been widely reported as 5,800, but that figure does not include applications received after “mid afternoon”.
Landsure Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of the LTSA, has said it cannot release data for the entire day.
“The 5800 on July 28, 2016 is the only number I have and, in hopes of mitigating any confusion, is the number used to reference transaction volumes from that day,” reads a note alongside the data that was supplied.
These numbers put the incomplete total for the 48-hour period in question at 15,000 land title applications filed.
July 28 and 29 are significant dates because they were the last two business days before the B.C. government’s new 15 percent tax on residential property sales to foreign nationals took effect on August 2. And the tax is nothing to sneeze at, amounting to $300,000 on a $2-million home.
So such large numbers of applications received by the LTSA on July 28 and 29 might suggest that foreign buyers rushed to close deals on Metro Vancouver homes before the new tax came into play.
According to the latest data collected by the provincial government, during a five-week period covering June 10 to July 14, foreign nationals accounted for 9.7 percent of residential real-estate transactions in Metro Vancouver and 6.6 percent of sales across the province.
But exactly how significant a number is 15,000 transactions in two days?
The LTSA’s subsidiary also declined to provide numbers that could serve as accurate context for the 15,000 figure, stating they are not readily available.
It did supply numbers for applications received on the last business day of April, May, and June 2016. Those are 6,600, 7,000, and “nearly 8,400”, respectively.
But when the Straight requested data for the final two business days of each month (to compare to July 28 and 29 together), Landsure Systems said those numbers could not be produced until the end of this week or early next.
Attempting to provide context via a different measure, the Straight next asked for numbers for land-title transfer applications specific to Metro Vancouver, the area covered by the new 15 percent tax on foreign buyers.
Landsure Systems said it could not provide a regional breakdown.
What we’re left with are numbers that cannot really be compared or serve as context for one another.
The 5,800 transactions for part of July 28 and 9,200 transactions for all of July 29 cover the entire province.
We could try and place those numbers for B.C. up against numbers for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Of course that is obviously problematic. But making a grand assumption about foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver rushing to avoid the new tax, we’ll suggest foreign nationals might have accounted for a lot of the 15,000 transactions recorded on July 28 and 29.
Next, we’ll look at annual numbers for larger Vancouver region.
In 2015, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver recorded 42,326 sales of detached, attached, and apartment properties. The same year, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, recorded 21,095 transactions. That makes for a total of 63,421. (Note 2015 was a significantly above-average year for sales.)
Divide 63,421 sales in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley by 15,000 transactions recorded across B.C. last Thursday and Friday, and you get those B.C. transactions numbering 23.65 percent of the annual total for the larger Vancouver region.
Which again sounds like a lot. But mixing Vancouver numbers with B.C. numbers is obviously a very poor way to do math.
What are we left with?
Transaction numbers for the final two business days before the foreign buyers tax took effect appear high, but not exceptionally higher than transactions recorded on the final business day of the preceding months.
That’s about it.