Representatives of two real estate companies are travelling with the B.C. Premier on a trade mission to Asia, raising questions about the optics of the perceived partnership at a time when many are calling for an end to foreign real estate investment.
This news comes weeks after realtors in Vancouver came under question for advertising property information in China, before the same opportunity to buy was advertised in Canada.
Information about B.C. properties for sale — translated into Chinese from the Multiple Listing Service used by agents —was published through a Shanghai-based company to give clients a jump on bidding, according to the Victoria Times Colonist report on April 13.
Concern over foreign capital and real estate
“It’s bad optics,” said University of British Columbia business professor Tsur Somerville.
“At a time when people in the Lower Mainland are very concerned about the extent to which foreign capital is driving up prices here and contributing to affordability options, it seems a little bit politically dicey to take [brokerage] firms … along on a trip to Asia.”
The trade mission is not visiting China.
One of the companies, Nu Stream Realty, said it is on the trade mission to promote its commercial real estate division.
“This trip is mainly the commercial purpose. So we don’t do any promotion for the residential side,” said Anna Zhang, the company’s executive vice president for commercial division.
She said one example of the goal of the trip is to find investors for construction projects in B.C.
“We want to promote B.C. and Vancouver particularly as a great place to do business … we want to attract more overseas investors,” said Zhang, who said there are 100 agents in the four-month-old company.
“I am sure it is not the government [of B.C.] paying for it,” Zhang confirmed.
CBC News reached out to Sutton West Coast Realty, but the company has not responded.
In a written statement, the province said companies apply to take part in the trade mission and pay their own way on the trip.
“While real estate is not a specific industry sector of focus on the mission, companies in the industry may have an interest in connecting with foreign companies that intend to establish a presence in Vancouver and will require information on site selection, leasing office space, etc.,” the statement said.
The province did not respond to questions about how companies chosen for the trip are selected.