International briefs

With Olympics, more buyers head to Vancouver
Spurred by foreign buyers, Vancouver has started the year as one of the most active residential real estate markets in the northern hemisphere, according to the International Property Journal.

While the 2010 Winter Olympics garnered worldwide attention for the city, many real estate professionals there say international shoppers have long played a major role. The city brings in approximately 40,000 new residents every year, with a large proportion hailing from Asia.

Tsur Somerville, an economist with the University of British Columbia, told the Vancouver Sun that in a study he conducted of the real estate markets of six past Olympic host cities, the winter and summer Games rarely helped housing industries in the long run. “We are not seeing any evidence whatsoever of any consistent Olympic effect in house prices in the aggregate,” Somerville said.

Still, Vancouver’s strong presence of foreign buyers could help in the long run, Olympics or not. Foreign buyers are required to put down 25 percent on a home, meaning they have fewer equity problems, according to Ursula Morel, a broker based in nearby Whistler, home to several Olympic facilities. She said the uptick in sales activity obviously owes some of its momentum to the winter Games, but noted there are other factors.

“It’s not Olympics-driven, but there is definitely more hype in the air,” Morel told the International Property Journal.

Goldman unloads $328M Shanghai complex amid volatile Chinese market

Hong Kong-based development group Shanghai Forte is set to purchase the Goldman Sachs Group-owned Garden Plaza, a Shanghai residential complex, for $328 million. The plaza, which includes 53 villa-style units and 511 apartments, along with two tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool and a clubhouse, was purchased by Goldman two years ago for $190 million.

This increase in property values is further evidence of the volatile real estate market in China. Prices in China escalated wildly during 2009, leading to government efforts to keep housing affordable to average buyers. The government has imposed a sales tax on homes that are resold by owners within five years of a previous purchase. China saw residential and commercial property values climb 7.8 percent year-over-year in 70 of its cities in December, according to Bloomberg News.

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Shanghai, in particular, saw rapidly escalating residential property values, with the Pudong district of Shanghai seeing its new construction apartment prices climb 57 percent over the course of 2009, up to $377 per square foot.

The new measures from the Chinese government, however, have had an effect. The number of home resales dropped nearly 70 percent from January to December in Beijing, while new home sales in Shanghai plummeted 51 percent in the same time period.

Sotheby’s International Realty expands in Caribbean

Just in time for the high season, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates announced last month that a British Virgin Islands affiliate has joined its “network” of luxury real estate listings.

The Caribbean-based Sotheby’s office, located on Tortola, plans to expand in the coming year, according to a news release from Sotheby’s corporate office.

Michael Good, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, said that having the British Virgin Islands office join the listings network on Sothe helps the company broaden its grasp.

“The addition of [the new office] reinforces the strength of our presence in the Caribbean region,” Good said.

Compiled by Amy Tennery