Dispute over mansion's bloody history provides a window into Vancouver's high-stakes housing market
Court decision on sale of Shaughnessy mansion reveals major players and practices in region's real estate
The story begins with an apparent gangland hit in an exclusive Vancouver neighbourhood. But from there, it spins out into a tangled web that includes a disgraced former real estate agent, hints of shadow-flipping and a real estate investor with a massive portfolio.
A B.C. Supreme Court decision issued last week has already revealed how the $6.1-million sale of 3883 Cartier St. was scuttled when a prospective buyer discovered alleged gang member Raymond Huang had been shot and killed at the front gate.
But that same court document offers a glimpse into Vancouver's high-stakes real estate market. It's filled with the names of major players in the Metro Vancouver real estate market and suggestions of practices that have been blamed for helping to drive housing prices into the stratosphere.
A $154-million portfolio
First, there's the nervous buyer who backed out of her real estate contract: Feng Yun Shao.
Shao, who is also known as Amy Barsha Washington in court filings, was not an inexperienced home shopper when she agreed to buy the Cartier Street mansion. She'd been living in Canada for just two years and had already purchased a home on the west side, according to last week's decision.
Today, Shao's personal real estate portfolio is valued at more than $154 million, according to records from B.C. Assessment.
That includes her current address in West Vancouver's ritzy British Properties, an 8,000-square-foot mansion on a lot that overlooks Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver.
Shao was also at the centre of a 2016 lawsuit over accusations of an unpaid $10 million loan. A Chinese businesswoman alleged in her statement of claim that the loan was issued in China to Shao's company, Chongye Developments, with the unusual stipulation that it be repaid in B.C.
Chinese citizens are barred from transferring more than $50,000 US out of the country each year.
Shao denied agreeing to repay the loan in Canada and argued that B.C. courts had no jurisdiction in the matter, according to court documents. The suit was settled out of court in July 2016.
The next major player in the case of the Cartier Street mansion is former real estate agent Julia Lau. In 2009, when the house went on the market, Lau was a highly successful agent earning 100s of thousands of dollars in commissions every year, according to an investigation by Postmedia News.
She acted as the listing agent on the first unsuccessful sale of the Cartier Street mansion to Feng Yun Shao, and then again when a sale was finally completed for $5.5 million, according to court documents.
That deal would have earned her firm an estimated $76,000 in commissions.
But Lau's fortunes have taken a downward turn since then.
She permanently surrendered her real estate licence in 2015, rather than participate in a disciplinary hearing with the Real Estate Council of B.C. She had faced allegations that included paying an unlicensed assistant to obtain property listings and making false or misleading statements to the council about her conduct.
Because no hearing has ever taken place, those allegations remain unproven.
Hints of shadow flipping
And finally, there is the house itself. In the years since the disputed sale, the property has tripled in value.
The most recent assessment puts its value at $17.3 million.
Just a few months after Shao learned of the shooting at the mansion's front gate and backed out of her contract to buy the home in 2009, a new buyer stepped in.
Unlike Shao, Mi Mi (Julia) Yang was fully aware of the house's history when she agreed to pay $5.5 million for it. But before the closing date, she reassigned her interest in the deal to real estate agent Denise She, according to the court decision.
The practice of assigning contracts drew heavy scrutiny from the B.C. government in 2016, after a Globe and Mail investigation revealed that some real estate agents were earning two or even three times their standard commission on a single home by reassigning the sale multiple times.
This process, which was completely legal, was nicknamed "shadow flipping." The province introduced rules aimed at ending the practice in 2016.
Realtor She remains the registered owner of the property. One thing has changed, however — the home's notorious address.
It's now 3899 Cartier St., and a quick Google search of the address no longer shows any association with the shooting death of Raymond Huang.