Statistics Canada says 7.2 per cent of all Toronto-area condos are owned by foreign non-residents
Foreign, non-resident real estate buyers have become the bogeymen of the Toronto real estate market: often discussed, near-universally loathed, but so rarely seen by the general public that they’ve taken on a mythical aura. Last spring, the Ontario government introduced a tax intended to target these buyers specifically. The new tax coincided with a sharp correction in the prices of single-family homes in the Toronto area. Even so, there has never been a reliable way of gauging the actual impact of foreign buyers on Toronto’s real estate market. Did the foreign buyers’ tax slow down home price acceleration by discouraging overseas investors, or did it merely scare locals into being a little more conservative with their spending?
It’s difficult to tell, because there have never been credible statistics on the number of Toronto properties that are owned by people who don’t live in Canada. Earlier today, though, we got some. As part of a joint project with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Statistics Canada studied a multitude of different data sources and came up with a number: according to the results of the study, as of May 2017 about 4.9 per cent of all homes in the city of Toronto were owned by people or corporate entities who aren’t based in Canada. The number is a little higher when only condos are taken into account. In the entire Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (which includes some surrounding municipalities), 7.2 per cent of condos were owned by foreign non-residents.
What’s new here is how Statistics Canada arrived at its number. Past foreign-buyer statistics have been derived from information volunteered by real estate agents, condo boards and property managers, who don’t have the best data at their disposal. The Ontario government has been collecting data on foreign buyers for the past few months, but so far has only released statistics covering the entire Golden Horseshoe, which stretches all the way to Niagara. Statistics Canada’s study is the first time a government agency has used land titles, tax data and other government information to estimate the rate of foreign ownership in the Toronto area, across all housing types.
Even so, other groups, including the Toronto Real Estate Board and the property research firm Urbanation, have estimated similar foreign ownership rates in the past, using different data, so this latest release probably won’t take the market by surprise.