New condos exempt from assignment rules

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Flipping pre-sale agreements without compensation allowed under new B.C. regulations that came into effect May 16 2017

Frank O’Brien
Western Investor

Pre-sale condo assignments at the Vancouver House, which completes in 2019, are being advertised on Craigslist in Vancouver. New condos are exempt from “shadow-flipping” rules brought in May 16 by the B.C. government. – Westbank

A housing sector that appears prime for flipping – pre-sale condominiums – is exempt from recent B.C. legislation meant to restrict the sale of assignments and track foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver’s white-hot housing market.

Assigning one’s right to a contract is a legitimate practice. But, due to media reports that some realtors were flipping assignments secretly, the B.C. government now requires contracts prepared by real estate licensees to include clauses stating that the contract cannot be assigned without the written consent of the seller, and that any profit from an assignment goes to the initial seller. The new rule came into affect May 16.

But the legislationexempts new developments, including pre-sale condos, even if a licensed realtor sells the assignment, according to b the BC Real Estate Council and the Ministry of Finance.

Section 8.2(2) of the new regulations states: “This section does not apply in relation to a contract for the sale of a development unit by a developer, as those terms are defined in section 1 of the Real Estate Development Marketing Act.”
 “The regulations contain an exemption for developers because they generally do not need the same kinds of protections as consumers, especially since developments are often pre-sold and some form of assignment term is standard,” explained Finance Ministry spokesman James Edwardson.

Under the Real Estate Development Marketing Act, a 2008 document that was brought in during the last real estate boom, the onus is on developers to police assignments. Some have done this by charging a fee, usually 1% to 2% of the sale price, and outlawing the advertising and sale of assignments until the building is sold out.

“The processes already in place with respect to assignments in new development seems to have better protected the public than the processes that were in place for resale,” said Scott Brown, president and CEO of Fifth Ave Real Estate Marketing Ltd., one of the largest condo marketing firms in Metro Vancouver.
 But Metro Vancouver developers report vague enforcement and modest concern about assignment sales.

Cressey Developmentvice-president of development Jason Turcotte said Cressey allows pre-sale assignments because, due to the two to three-year delay between pre-sales and completion, some condo buyers could not close on their units and should therefore be allowed to assign the sale.

As for advertising restrictions, about three-dozen condo assignments are listed on Craigslist this week, including units in luxury Concord Pacific projects and Westbank Corp.’s landmark Vancouver House that completes in 2019. The ads are from both realtors and from owners holding pre-sale contracts.

Assignments can be a “win-win” for developers, because the developer gets the original price for the condo, a 1% to 2% commission on any assignments and “if the buyer doesn’t close, they get to keep the deposits and get the condo back,” noted Vancouver real estate agent Mike Stewart.

Condo assignments could also be a lucrative avenue for investors. There are 17,311 new condominiums under construction in Metro Vancouver and there are only 790 units completed and unoccupied, a six-year low, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

As well, the benchmark price of a resale condo in Metro Vancouver increased 20.6% from April 2015 to $475,000. New condos are fetching even higher prices and seeing similar price appreciation.

The 6,227 new condo sales in the first quarter of this year in Metro Vancouver represented a 53% increase from the same quarter last year and a new six-year high, according to Brown. “Feverish sales activity has resulted in inventory levels reaching six-year lows, which will put further upwards pressure on prices as demand seems to continue to outweigh supply,” Brown said.

There is another aspect that some offshore investors may consider, according to real estate consultant Ozzie Jurock. He noted that, under separate legislation that also came into force this month, the B.C. government will require the buyer of a property to list their citizenship.

This requirement, however, is only on transfer of title. Therefore, under the new rules, a foreign buyer could buy a pre-sale condo assignment, flip it to a buyer and never appear either as a buyer of an assignment or as property owner on any government documentation, Jurock explained.

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