Foreigners don’t buy Calgary & Montreal real estate just because it’s cheaper there

Is Calgary the next property hot spot for foreign buyers?

Apparently the answer is out… Confirmed : Nope.

Foreign Investors are Still not Rushing to Montreal and Calgary

Actually,

Foreign investors ignoring Calgary, Montreal real estate markets

Calgary has a glut of unsold condos, so earlier this year, with a tax on foreign buyers in Vancouver and another looming in Toronto, real estate developer Brad Lamb decided to take a chance on China.

Sales representatives with the Juwai.com Chinese real estate portal had been pestering Mr. Lamb to advertise with them. He posted listings for developments in Calgary and Edmonton to see if he could drum up foreign interest.

“I gotta tell you, it’s been a gigantic waste of time,” said Mr. Lamb, founder of Lamb Development Corp. Mr. Lamb had a long-standing suspicion confirmed that Chinese buyers prefer dealing with Chinese brokers. But on top of that, it reinforced fundamental differences between Canada’s second tier of real estate markets, and Vancouver and Toronto – foreign investors just aren’t that into Calgary. “They’ll have their kick at Montreal and maybe Calgary, but they’ll never be as big as Vancouver or Toronto.”

Real estate watchers have spent months on the lookout for a ripple effect in other parts of Canada from recent attempts to cool overheated real estate price growth in Vancouver and Toronto. Their gaze has often turned to Canada’s other top markets by size, Montreal and Calgary.

Those cities have their attractions: less expensive, direct flights to China and post-secondary schools hospitable to foreign students.

But they have relatively small Asian communities and they are not the lucrative speculative investments Vancouver and Toronto have been. Montreal has the added hurdle of requiring two languages for full engagement in economic and civic life… The Globe & Mail

Calgary real estate firm advertises in China but foreign investors not biting

A real estate agent hoped Vancouver’s foreign buyers tax would help her sell some languishing Calgary homes.

Emma May told the Calgary Eyeopener that despite her best efforts to attract Chinese buyers over the past year, she hasn’t seen much interest in Calgary properties.

To attract foreign buyers, it advertised on Juwai.com (a Chinese website visible both inside and outside of that country) and hired a company to build a Chinese micro-site and create mobile advertising. It also hired a real estate agent in Hong Kong.

“There are two types of Chinese investors. There’s the Chinese investor who buys a really big house here and moves his family here and the kids go to school and they commute. Right? And then there are the people investing in larger projects, really just the speculative type stuff,” said May.

But May wasn’t able to sell any Calgary properties to Chinese buyers… CBC.ca

Now, just how cheap is cheap in Calgary and Montreal?

Can you get a luxurious French Chateau like the one depicted below for $20 millions? If not, how do properties in Calgary and Montreal can be considered as “deals”?

Check this out …

California Luxurious French Chateau For Sale

French Chateau located in Montecito, California, United States is set on 2.26 acres and is surrounded by a gorgeous mountainous area and a golf course.

It’s a nine bedroom estate that boasts fine, custom European craftsmanship defined by the utmost quality. The beautiful gates and gardens invite you to the majestic entry doors that lead you into an unparalleled property.

This extraordinary estate is priced at $19,500,000

Montreal is the hotspot for African dirty money

They say the rich Chinese swamped to Vancouver to park their wealth and to certain extend, Toronto.

Apparently the deep pockets African ruling elites are doing the same thing except not in Vancouver or Toronto, but our francophone regions in Quebec.

I wonder if Robert Mugabe is part of the action?

Montreal: the latest hotspot for Africa’s rulers to keep their wealth?

African Arguments

A new African Arguments investigation has found that politically-exposed African nationals hold Canadian real estate worth several millions of dollars.

The study, conducted in partnership with the Journal de Montréal and Le Monde Afrique, reveals over a dozen individuals who have invested nearly $26 million in Canadian real estate, often without a mortgage.

The source of the funds used to buy these properties could be legitimate. But the sales should have raised red flags because of the public positions of the individuals involved or because of their association with deals that have raised suspicion.

Buying bricks and mortar abroad has long been a strategy of the rich to diversify their assets.

Typically, the likes of France, US and UK have been the go-to places to buy up expensive property. Not all of it uses clean money. In 2016, a UK parliamentary committee estimated that a shocking $150 billion is laundered in London’s real estate market every year. But in recent years, luxurious flats owned by families of African leaders have been seized in each of these countries.

This seems to have led some to look further afield.

“They will diversify their investments according to only one criteria, which is the legal security offered by specific territories,” says William Bourdon, lawyer for Sherpa.

Sherpa is the NGO behind the “ill-gotten gains” case in France in which the rulers of Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea stand accused of laundering money in luxurious French properties.

According to Marc Guéniat, a researcher at the Swiss NGO Public Eye, France has historically been the favoured location for investment amongst the rulers of francophone Africa, but incidences such as the “ill-gotten gains” case have changed this.

“Logically, these rulers look for other destinations,” he says.  “As a francophone region, Québec is an interesting alternative.”

In Québec, the origins of funds invested in real estate don’t seem to raise too many questions. A recent Transparency International report highlighted the country’s weak anti-money laundering regulations in the real estate sector.

In theory, both real estate brokers and financial entities such as banks are responsible for detecting money laundering in Canada. They are meant to notify suspicious transactions to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) that can, in turn, inform the police.

But between 2003 and 2013, in which there were over 5 million real estate sales, FINTRAC received just 279 suspicious transactions warnings. This rate increased slightly following educational efforts by FINTRAC, although it remains relatively low.

Moreover, in the dozen administrative penalties that FINTRAC has levied against brokers who failed to properly identify clients since 2008, the fines have averaged under $6,900. This pales in comparison to sales sometimes worth millions of dollars.

Brokers that fail to meet their legal responsibilities also face criminal sanctions, but it is not clear how many such cases have been investigated and brought to justice. The Canadian royal police did not reply to our questions.

Below is an interactive map showing the value and approximate area of the properties owned by politically-exposed African nationals that our investigation uncovered. The dots are within a kilometer of the properties to give a sense of the broader neighbourhood, but they do not represent their exact locations.

Below the map is information about the individuals in question.

Congo-Brazzaville

Wilfrid Nguesso is the nephew of Denis Sassou-Nguesso, the president of Congo-Brazzaville who has held an often violent grip on power for a total of 32 years. Over the past decade, Wilfrid has been trying to migrate to Montreal, but the Canadian authorities have forbidden him entry on the grounds that he allegedly belongs to a “criminal organisation” that has embezzled Congo’s public funds.

Wilfrid and his wife bought a house in Montreal worth over $730,000 without a mortgage in 2007. He did not reply to our calls for comments.

Voltaire Brice Etou Obami is an accountant and businessman close to the Nguesso family. He is named in a note by the French anti-laundering agency, Tracfin, due to his business deals with Catherine Ignanga. Ignanga used to be President Sassou-Nguesso’s sister-in-law and is being investigated by Tracfin. Obami is not under investigation and told us that he does not know about Ignanga’s dealings that are being scrutinised.

In 2014, Obami invested over $410,000 in two Montreal hotel rooms. His children study in Canada and he says he has applied for an immigration visa. According to him, the funds for the rooms came from his wife, who he says made profits from the real estate industry in Africa.

Jean Jacques Bouya is a member of Congo’s presidential family. He is being investigated by Tracfin. In Congo, he oversees millions of dollars in public funds as the Minister of Spatial Planning and Major Projects. He was previously chief of the agency in charge of large public works, the DGGT (Délégation générale des grands travaux).

According to a document from the French financial fraud police that we procured, the DGGT under Bouya made several transfers to bank accounts in San Marino between 2007 and 2013. All these accounts were held by Philippe Chironi, a close associate of Congo’s ruling family. The transfers came to a total of close to $75 million “whose origin could be illicit”, according to the document. These funds were transferred to accounts held by several people, including Bouya and Catherine Ignanga.

In 2008 and 2009, Bouya bought two buildings in Québec for a total of close to $1.3 million without a mortgage. He did not return our calls for comment.

Tite Kaba is a Congolese civil servant. He was in charge of land titles until 2016 when he was accused of producing a false deed for the benefit of an individual close to the Nguesso family.

Kaba and his wife, Rachida Kaba, have invested over $4.2 million in Quebec’s real estate since 2008 (in several cases, with a mortgage). They refused to reply to our questions regarding the origin of the funds.

Chad

Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is married to the sister of Hinda Déby. Hinda is the wife of Idriss Déby, Chad’s president since 1990. The main client of Bourma’s profitable import-export company, Oum-Alkheri General Trading, is the Chadian government.

In 2013, Bourma was stopped in Egypt with over $200,000 hidden in a secret compartment of his suitcase. He was later acquitted on a technicality after an intervention from the Chadian embassy. His lawyer told us he was acquitted in 2015 and that the affair was an unfortunate “imbroglio”.

In Canada, Bourma bought properties worth over $4.9 million without a mortgage between 2012 and 2016 through his company Investissement Siham Canada Inc. He told us: “I come from a family of businessmen, so I can only succeed.” On why he likes to invest in Québec, he said: “In Dubai, you can buy flats and the price drops very fast. In Montreal, it has been stable for years…If you see the number of apartments that I bought, it’s clearly for investment.”

Bourma’s brother, Mahamat Zene Isseine Bourma, is married to President Déby’s daughter. He bought a flat in Montreal for about $490,000 in 2013 without a mortgage. The previous year, he was appointed Chad’s paymaster general by Déby and tasked with overseeing all government spending. At this time, his company won large public contracts such as supplying ambulances to the Ministry of Health. In 2016, he was fired from the job after accusations of embezzlement. He told us these allegations were without basis. “The story was proven wrong…they’ve invented quite a few things,” he said.

The sister of the two Bourmas, Amina Hissein Bourma and her husband, Mahamat Kasser Younous, bought a flat worth $340,000 in Québec in 2012. The following year, they purchased a villa worth $840,000, both without a mortgage. At the time of the purchases, Younous was director of Chad’s national oil company. They did not return our calls.

Cameroon

Jacques Ndjamba Mbeleck is a consultant who founded the Cameroonian accounting company, CAC, which is very active in Chad’s oil sector. He also told us he is good friends with Mahamat Bourma.

In 2011, Mbeleck’s firm was advising Chad’s government. In this time, it received a $7.4 million bonus payment directly from the oil company Griffiths Energy International. An independent auditor looking into Chad’s extractive revenues described this transaction as “against best practice”. Griffiths had just won oil rights in Chad. A couple of years later, this deal raised controversy as Griffiths admitted to bribing Chad’s ambassador to Canada and his deputy to obtain the permits. No accusations of corruption have been levied against CAC. Ndjamba Mbeleck told us that the $7.4 million payment was above board.

In 2012, Mbeleck bought a flat in Montreal worth around $420,000, with a mortgage. He bought another property worth $580,000 the following year, without a mortgage.

Gabon

Zéphyrin Rayita is a senator who has held high-ranking positions in Gabon’s telecommunications sector. Lin Mombo is a civil servant who has worked in the same industry. Mombo is also the partner of Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo (aka “3M”), the powerful president of Gabon’s constitutional court, which ruled in favour of President Ali Bongo after the controversial elections last year. In March, RFI and the Canard Enchainé revealed that Mborantsuo is under an investigation by French authorities for allegedly embezzling public funds and money laundering.

In 2003, Rayita and Mombo bought a two-story building in Montreal for $2.2 million with a mortgage covering half the amount. They sold it four years later. Reached over the phone, Mborantsuo said “you think that’s how you’ll be able to ask me questions? Do you think it’s really normal that you call to tell me you’ll ask me questions?” She then hung up and didn’t reply to our subsequent messages.

We did not manage to reach Rayita. Mombo told us that state officials in Gabon are well paid and that he decided to invest his salary in real estate.

Joël Bernard Ogouma is the Inspector General of Taxation in Gabon, a country whose ruling family is targeted by the ill-gotten gains case in France. Ogouma himself has not been accused of corruption as far as we know. In Québec, Ogouma bought a flat for over $510,000 in 2014, without a mortgage. He did not respond to our calls for comment.

Senegal

Mamadou Pouye is a close associate of Karim Wade. Karim is the son of Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s president from 2000 to 2012. Under his father’s government, Karim held a number of high-level positions and gained the nickname “Mr 15%” in reference to the personal cut he allegedly took from public tenders. During that period, Pouye set up companies abroad, including in Panama, as was revealed in the Panama Papers leak.

After his father lost power, Karim Wade was arrested together with Pouye. Karim was sentenced to six years in jail for embezzlement, but released by a presidential pardon in 2016 after serving just three.

In the case, the prosecution alleged that Pouye had “helped or assisted” Karim “in the preparation, facilitation or undertaking of illicit enrichment”. Pouye was convicted in 2015 and released on bail the following year. France and the United Nations criticised the trial’s fairness. Pouye’s lawyer claimed to us that his client is innocent.

In Montreal, Pouye bought a flat in 2012 for over $460,000 via a company registered in Canada named 9259-7087 QUÉBEC INC.

Madiké Niang was Karim Wade’s lawyer during his trial. Previously, he occupied key ministerial positions in Adboulaye Wade’s government. He was also reportedly targeted in the investigation into Wade and Pouye but was never formally accused.

In 2006, Niang bought a flat in Montréal for about $225,000 and another one in 2008 for about $270,000 with a mortgage. He did not return our calls.

Algeria

Réda Bedjaoui is the brother of Farid Bedjaoui. Farid has been accused of channelling millions of dollars in bribes for an Algerian oil deal and is on Interpol’s wanted list. Over the years, Farid has given Réda at least several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Réda is not under investigation as far as we know.

Réda Bedjaoui has bought two properties worth a total of $4.7 million in Montreal and several others with his ex-wife. He did not respond to our requests for comment.

A third brother, Ryad Bedjaoui, has bought land worth $3.6 million in Montréal with a company whose majority shareholder was Farid Bedjaoui. He sold the land four years later. His lawyer told us that Ryad has “no financial relation with his brothers”.

Here is an interesting African architecture along the scenic Zambezi River …

THE CHONGWE RIVER HOUSE

The Private Safari

Will the rich African build something like this in Montreal?

Zambia’s Lower Zambezi is renowned throughout Africa for its magnificent herds of wild elephant, exceptional predator viewing and of course the Zambezi River. It’s also home to one of the continent’s most spectacular and unique private homes : the Chongwe River House.

Tailor your private safari

Chongwe River House sleeps eight in four spacious ensuite bedrooms, making an ideal safari base for a family or a group of friends wanting a private safari. It stands on the banks of the magical Chongwe River, close to the Zambezi, and with a sensational view of the dramatic mountainous escarpment beyond.

Many animals come to the Chongwe River to drink and from the deck the game viewing can be as good as any safari activity. The property comes fully staffed with Chongwe’s resident head guide Matt Porter, house managers Scott Simpson and Kim Bailey, private chefs and a full complement of support staff – all of whom will tailor your private safari.

As guests at the house private vehicles, guides, canoes, a boat and an armed scout for walking safaris are all at your disposal. All activities can be tailored to your individual requirements. The location of the house is superb. The Chongwe River, a quiet tributary of the Zambezi, borders the Lower Zambezi National Park offering 4000 square kilometres of pristine wilderness that teems with game. Being on the Zambezi River is a memorable experience… whether canoeing, bird watching along the islands by boat, or taking a fishing trip to do battle with the famous tiger fish.

Many guests are happy to spend the day chilling on the deck. The chances are you will see elephant wandering around the grounds or crossing the river. Impala, kudu and many other species come to the water to drink. If you sit long enough, all Africa will come to you.

Nature into the house

Chongwe River House is a unique private house set on the banks of the peaceful river Chongwe by the Lower Zambezi National Park of Zambia. This beautiful and unusual house set in the heart of the bush is luxuriously secluded.

Chongwe River House features four bedrooms built around a frame of wild wood with ferro walls following the natural lines of the branches. All the furniture in the sitting room has been carved from a single fallen winterthorn tree and coloured pebbles from the river decorate the ceilings. Nature has been brought into the house.

The bedrooms all have kingsized plus beds under waves of netting. From each bed there is a stunning view of the bush or the escarpment. The bathrooms have waterfall showers and exquisite basins carved from wood and white marble by the Zambian artist Eddie Mumba. From your outside baths you can lie and gaze out across the bush.

Sitting on the deck, under a huge winterthorn tree and next to the large pool, your view across the Zambezi escarpment is magnificent. In the foreground the Chongwe River, a magnet to wildlife, passes by.

The Chongwe River House is unique, and ultimately a breath of fresh air. Located on the banks of the magical Chongwe River, close to the Zambezi, the Chongwe River House is the perfect safari base for a family or a group of friends wanting a private safari.

The Real Estate Gold Rush

Everyone has a crush for real estate these days … Even people traditionally has nothing to do with real estate, in fact, enemies of the brick and mortar business model – The Geeks: –

Google and Facebook employees are flocking to a startup that’s …

Image Source

Tech InsiderJun 23, 2016
But it wasn’t a traditional real estate transaction. … Square, Google and Facebook executives have gathered to shake up the realestate world.

eyyy

Think you can’t afford to invest in real estate? Think again

Continue reading “The Real Estate Gold Rush”

Canadians are rich – Real estate: The pricier, the better

GTA luxury home sales up 34 per cent in 2014

Brutal winter has helped buoy demand for low-maintenance, high-end condos

The biggest jump, surprisingly enough, was in the sale of $1 million-plus condos which skyrocketed by 53 per cent to the end of June over the same period of 2013 — gains beyond those seen in Vancouver, Calgary or Montreal.

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Even the GTA’s highest priced condo apartment and townhouses, those over $4 million, saw sales double, the report notes. Continue reading “Canadians are rich – Real estate: The pricier, the better”

Montreal beats Toronto in unsold condos

This was originally posted to the Real Deal blog.

Despite fears of investors driving Canada’s largest condo market into an overbuilt ghost town, there are actually more units sitting empty in Montreal than in Toronto, a BMO report says.

“I was surprised,” said BMO senior economist Sal Guatieri. “I didn’t know it (the number of vacant units in Montreal) was that high.”

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. data cited by Guatieri, there were 1,876 completed and unabsorbed (haven’t found a buyer) condos in Montreal, compared to 1,013 units in Toronto, as of October. Of Canada’s four largest real estate markets, Vancouver has the highest number of vacant condos, with 1,934 units completed and unabsorbed.

According to the CMHC, there are almost 60,000 condo units under construction in Toronto – with delivery expected over several year -compared to just under 15,000 in Montreal.

Guatieri still considers the “overhang of vacant units” in Montreal to be “moderate,” with the number flattening out since the start of 2013. And sales in all housing categories, while still nine per cent below past decade norms, but have risen two per cent in the past year.

But Montreal’s housing market remains the weakest of the four large Canadian cities, and the only one where buyers have the upper hand, Guatieri said. While Guatieri expects Montreal home prices to remain relatively flat in 2014, rising condo listings and the number of vacant unsold units “could put some downward pressure” on prices in the near-term.

While Montreal has ample supply – and prices remain comparatively affordable – the city’s market needs buyers. Investors have been purchasing condos to use as rentals in Montreal, although some shy away because of the city’s higher condo vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent, versus 1.2 per cent in Toronto and 1.0 per cent in Vancouver.

There’s also the question of weaker population growth in Montreal, than in other cities, Guatieri said.

“Elevated unemployment suggests the city could attract fewer young job seekers and potential home buyers than the Western Provinces in the year ahead.”

alampert@montrealgazette.com

Listings for Sat Dec 14 Continue reading “Montreal beats Toronto in unsold condos”