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. But despite her best efforts, Emma May hasn’t seen much interest from Chinese home buyers.

'We have an obligation to do the best thing for our sellers. If local people aren’t buying, what do we do?'

Close up of a home for sale sign.
A Calgary real estate firm reached out to China after Vancouver implemented a foreign home buyer tax, but despite some interest, hasn't sold a home to a Chinese buyer. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

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.

"We got lots of attention," said May. "But it just hasn't happened yet."

Not a lot of shoppers

Vancouver placed a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers last July, while Ontario is contemplating a similar measure.

Last fall, Charles Real Estate, which May co-founded, saw an opportunity to help Calgary clients looking to sell.

To attract foreign buyers, it advertised on (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.

Struggling Calgary condo market

May said she is cognizant of the impact foreign investment has had on markets in Vancouver and Toronto.

"It definitely hurt those markets in a way that has a social impact above and beyond just getting the house sold," she said. "That said, we were in a middle of a recession last year and in 2015. We were sitting on quite a bit of product. We have an obligation to do the best thing for our sellers. If local people aren't buying, what do we do?"

May noted the single family home market in Calgary has picked up, but the condo market is still struggling.

 "We'll keep monitoring it and if we see something shift we will do something about it, but I don't see that happening in the near future," she said.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener