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Ownership Patterns of Single Family Home Sales on Selected West Side Neighborhoods in the City of Vancouver: A Case Study

Andrew Yan November 2, 2015
Urban Research

Microsoft PowerPoint - TitleAnalysis_EbyBriefing2

Please click the above image for the study’s slidedeck via Slideshare

This analysis looks at the all the sales to occur within three west side neighborhoods in the City of Vancouver over a 6 month period and the ownership and mortgage patterns within these titles. Specifically, it looks at the title records of 172 Westside Single Family Homes Sale Transactions as listed by the Multiple Listing Service in the West Point Grey, Dunbar, and University Endowment Land neighborhoods (West of Alma Street) from September 2014 to February 2015. Collectively, worth over $520 million, these properties were some of the most expensive single family home properties in the City of Vancouver and the metropolitan region. It looks at mortgage status, title holder patterns, and self declared occupation of title holders to see what kind of patterns emerge against historic held ideas of patterns of ownership in the area — these neighborhoods have historically been occupied by Vancouver’s managerial and professional classes.

The purpose of this study is not to necessarily solely focus on a single ethnic group, but in understanding how residential real estate might be consumed in the City of Vancouver with a focus on the enabling financial practices and structures in Canada. With 82 percent of residential properties in the study holding a mortgage, the image of pure “cash sales” seems highly problematic. Instead of falling for a hysteria of a mindless horde consuming residential real estate in Vancouver, this study starts to map the logic, apparatus, and actors of demand and globalization for housing in the City. It’s only from a point of considered metrics and political resolve that the creation and implementation of effective public policy can be done in an era of global housing markets, capital flows, and unaffordable housing.

Through the analysis of the mortgages, there are very distinct channels of capital and credit within the data set. While early scholars like Katharyn Mitchell and David Ley have surmised ideas of a “circuits of transpacific capital” within the Vancouver housing market, the findings of this study suggest that there is considerable empirical credence to their ideas. It is critical to note that more study in terms of expanding the geographic and time scale as well as increasing the numbers of properties to be examined needs to be done before one can generalize this study’s results to a larger population.  This document is a case study and not a total population or sample study of all  ownership patterns in Vancouver residential real estate.

A further point of curiosity was to look at the possible indicators of ethnic patterns within the sales data set and the possibility of identifying the role of global capital particular from migrants from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and global Chinese diaspora via a full name analysis in recent purchases. This study is a case study of this population and may not necessarily reflect patterns of demand and consumption that may be found in nor extended to other housing types and parts of the City or region.

Our full name analysis methodology follows accepted practices in the fields of epidemiology, demography, and political science. This study wanted to see if any distinct patterns occurring when non-Anglicized Chinese names are isolated from the rest of the data set. It is a primary assumption of this study that a non-Anglicized Chinese names may be an indication that an owner may be an recent immigrant to Canada and that an Anglicized Chinese name is an indication of a long time immigrant or non-immigrant and/or multigenerational Canadian of sole or mixed ethnic Chinese ancestry. As a course of experimentation, there may be names missed for new immigrants who have Anglicized Chinese names and long time immigrants or multi-generational Canadian with non-Anglicized Chinese name to may be in the wrong catagory, but, with external reviews, this risk is minimal.

Within this data set, the name patterns were exceptionally and surprisingly distinct as they lacked ambiguous names like “Scott Low” which could be a Chinese or Scottish name or “John Li” which could be Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean name. These names did not exist within this data set. Non-Anglicized Chinese names in the study were either in a three or two name sequences that our literature survey suggested were Chinese with no ambiguous names. Without direct measures of immigration or citizenship status and property ownership that are publicly available in Canada, this is an indirect measure of how globalization, non-localized wealth, and immigration, particularly from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan or Chinese global diaspora are entering one portion of the real estate market in Vancouver.

At this point, it is important to note the sizable literature around income and economic challenges for new and old immigrant Chinese Canadians as well as locally born and other visible minorities in Canada. With works from Shibao Guo and Don DeVoretz and Krishna Pendekur and Ravi Pendakur, household incomes from local labour markets seem highly unlikely to produce the patterns on a scale that can be explained in the data set. Instead, the results suggest how the combination of global wealth and low-interest rate credit may entering the residential real estate market in a regional environment of near stagnant local incomes.

David Eby, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Point Grey deserves a special thanks for acquiring the data used in this study. Without his help as an MLA to acquire the data, this study would not be possible and highlight the difficulty of attaining accurate, transparent, and accessible data to understand the social and economic dynamics within our communities. Furthermore, with the loss of the mandatory long-form census as well as the difficulty and cost in attaining ownership data from the Province, it is difficult to conduct data oriented research that is insightful and impactful with how our communities are changing and effective public policies needed to change with them. There are some exceptions such as the release of BC Assessment data to accredited academic researchers, in a fast moving world of data analysis culture and evidence based decision making, Canada and British Columbia is moving agonizingly slow.

Finally, the contributions of various external academic and professional reviewers must be recognized. This study would not have been possible without their extremely helpful reviews and critiques on methodology and results. Any errors and omissions are strictly my own, but the insight, experience, and wisdom of the study’s external reviewers were greatly appreciated.

Any opinions expressed in this study are strictly those of the writer and not necessarily those of Bing Thom Architects.


Further Reading

Badarinza, C., & Ramadorai, T. (2015, April 24). Home Away From Home? Foreign Demand and London House Prices. Retrieved 23 2015, August, from

Cityspaces Consulting. (2009). Vancouver Condominium Rental Study. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from

Ley, D. (2011). Millionaire Migrants Trans-Pacific Life Lines. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Ley, D., & Titchener, J. (2001). Immigration, Globalisation, and House Prices in Canada’s Gateway Cities. Housing Studies , 199-223.

Li, W. & Dymski, G. “Financial Globalization and Cross-Border Co-Movements of Money and Population: Foreign Bank Offices in Los Angeles.” Environment & Planning A 36(2): 213-240

Li, W., Lo, L., & Oberle, A. (2014). The embeddedness of bank branch networks in immigrant gateways. The Canadian Geographer, 48-62.

Li, W., Oberle, A., & Dymski, G. (2007, April). Metropolis British Columbia: Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Diversity. Retrieved from Global Banking and Finance Services to Immigrants in Canada and the United States:

Mitchell, K. (2004). Crossing the Neoliberal Line: Pacific Rim Migration and the Metropolis. Philadelphia : Temple University.

Moos, M., & Skaburskis, A. (2010). The Globalization of Urban Housing Markets: Immigration and Changing Housing Demand in Vancouver. Urban Geography , 724-749.

Surowiecki, J. (2014, May 26). Real Estate Goes Global. New Yorker .

Walks, A., & Clifford, B. (2015). The political economy of mortgage securitization and the neoliberalization of housing policy in Canada. Environment and Planning A , 1-19.

12.Yan, A. (2013, March 21). Foreign Investment in Vancouver’s Real Estate Market. Retrieved August 2015, 23, from BTAworks Foreign Investment in Vancouver Real Estate Slide Presentation at SFU Woodwards:

13.Yan, A. (2009). Ownership, Occupancy, and Rentals: An Indicative Sample Study of Condominiums in Downtown Vancouver. Vancouver: BTAworks.

14.Yu, H. (2009). Global migrants and the New Pacific Canada. International Journal , 1011-1026.