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Real Estate Juwai to sell Canadian properties to Chinese online shoppers

Houses under construction in Brampton, Ont., on April 20, 2017.

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

A Chinese online realtor has partnered with one of the largest online shopping portals in China with the goal of introducing more buyers to international real estate, including in Canada.

Juwai.com, founded in 2011, already has dozens of listings in the hot Vancouver and Toronto markets. But while it has a little more than twp million monthly users, analysts believe its new partner JD.com – the number two online retailer (behind Alibaba) in China – has more than 250 million customers.

Juwai’s news release says the new team-up begins in April with properties from the United States, Australia, Canada and Britain and will “sell Canadian property on its platform – alongside milk, shoes, and other household goods.”

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Buying property is a little more complex than buying shoes online. According to Juwai CEO Carrie Law “Buyers who find a property they like to make an interest fee of about 10,000 RMB, which is around $2,000 [Canadian]. Then, Juwai’s team will follow up to answer their further questions and help them along to the transaction. Of course, if the buyer decides not to proceed, the interest fee is fully refundable.”

Juwai’s listings in B.C. run the gamut from resale and preconstruction condos to newly built mini-mansions such as 925 Beaumont Dr. in North Vancouver, selling for $4.58-million.

In February, British Columbia’s NDP government released a budget with new measures to tackle property speculation in the province’s Vancouver metro area: it upped its tax on property transactions involving foreign buyers to 20 per cent from 15 per cent and it introduced a new annual tax on property owners who don’t pay taxes in the province, starting at 0.5 per cent in 2018 rising to 2 per cent in 2019. There are also measures in the budget to raise taxes on luxury properties worth $3-million or more.

“While there’s still a lot of offshore interest in Vancouver that interested has declined significantly. Vancouver detached sales, a segment heavily dependent on foreign capital registered the lowest number of sales for Q1 2018 in over 25 years,” says Vancouver realtor Steve Saretsky, a prominent critic of speculation in the local housing market. He’s also skeptical that this will interest millions of new Chinese buyers to Canadian properties. “I don’t see how Juwai adding JD will have any material impact on a local level here in Vancouver. To me this feels like more of a scare tactic to drum up a fear of missing out or rather, being priced out by offshore buyers. Foreign buying activity has been drastically reduced since peaking in 2016.”

Chinese buyers remain undeterred, according to Ms. Law.

“We believe Vancouver’s restrictive policy environment is driving a share of buyers to other cities,” she wrote in an email answering media questions. “We get more inquiries now from what we call ‘either-or’ buyers. They say they want to look at properties in Vancouver ‘and’ Seattle or Vancouver ‘and’ Toronto. The most common destinations that buyers search in combination with Vancouver are Toronto, Seattle, Montreal and Los Angeles.”

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