Wave of real-estate filings at the end of July no proof of foreign buyers rushing to avoid tax

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      Metro Vancouver residents with a stake in the region’s crazy real-estate industry took a keen interest in the final two business days of July.

      On August 2, a new 15 percent tax on residential sales to foreign nationals took effect. And so people suspected there would be a surge in transactions just before the tax came into effect.

      A preliminary number of 15,000 land-title transfer applications filed over the two-day period attracted a lot of media attention. And the obvious consensus on social media was that the suspected rush of foreign buyers was confirmed to have occurred.

      But the 15,000 figure wasn’t presented with much in the way of context that could have explained whether or not it really was an unusually large number.

      That wasn’t the fault of journalists. At the time, the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) told the Straight that it simply didn’t have comparable statistics available on short notice.

      Now the LTSA has supplied numbers that can serve as context for the 15,000 transactions recorded on July 28 and 29.

      What they show is that that there was a surge in filings—15,065 for all of B.C. was the precise (but still preliminary) number, it turns out—but not one that was unprecedented.

      During the final two business days of April 2016, the LTSA recorded 13,231 land-title transfer applications filed from across British Columbia.

      For the same period in May, it saw 12,374.

      In June, the number of filings during the last two days of the month was actually higher than it was in July. There were 15,477 sales recorded on June 29 and 30.

      July 29 on its own set a new record for transactions in a single day, at 9,270. But even that number was not so much higher than the previous record of 8,400, which the Vancouver Sun reported was recorded in 2007-08. And again, the number of transactions recorded over the two-day period that became the subject of media attention was not even higher than that of the month before.

      The assumption that foreign buyers rushed to close deals to avoid the new tax is a totally logical one. And since we don’t know what number of those 15,065 sales went to foreign nationals or what percentage went to locals, it might eventually be found to have occurred. But the data we have now for July 28 and 29 suggests that what took place on those days was not far out of the ordinary.