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How to Invest in Canadian Real Estate From Abroad

by | May 11, 2017

How to invest in Foreign Real Estate from Abroad
Just because you are a Canadian citizen living abroad doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the rules for foreigners buying real estate in Canada.
Foreign ownership applies if:

  •  You don’t reside in Canada for more than 6 months a year (even if you are Canadian)
  •  You don’t report your working income to CRA

So how does one go about purchasing property in Canada when you are a foreign buyer?

  1. Understand Your Employment Status

For your employment status, there are two categories you may fall into: Business for Self or not Business for Self (employed by someone else).
If you are Business for Self, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be in business for a minimum of 2 years
  • Verify 2 years of business for self through something equivalent or similar to yearly financials.
  • Verify current year’s financial history (personal & company if applicable)

On the other hand, if you are employed by someone else, you only need to show a letter of employment and your latest paystub.

  1. Understanding Down Payment Requirements

Down payments for foreign investment in property have a few requirements as well. The down-payment typically will need to be 35% down. The exemption to this and when 25% down would be accepted, would be if you are a Canadian citizen living abroad or if you are a US citizen.
Another requirement, the money for a down payment and closing costs must be on Canadian soil 30 days prior to the completion date (with exception of 15 days depending on the lender and circumstances). Lenders may also require a deposit of 12 months’ principle and interest payments in a Canadian account.
The other and final requirement for a foreign real Estate investment is to have a Canadian bank account registered in your name.

  1. Understanding Your Financial Profile

Your unique financial profile may need to feature a number of different things. This may include:

  • International credit bureau to view your credit history
  • A bank reference letter
  • All current debts you have outstanding

Once we have compiled that information and any other that is required, it is on to the next set of requirements: Property requirements!
Property and Loan Requirements
For foreign real estate, there are a few conditions the property and the loan will have to meet. First is the type of property. The property can be owner occupied, a second home, or an investment property. Next, in terms of the loan, there are two things that need to be considered. These are the rates and the length of the loan. The rates will be the best-discounted rates your mortgage broker can get at the time of purchase. As for the length of the loan, the term of the contract can be up to 10 years long, with an amortization of the loan of 25 years and up to 30 years on exception.
Final Take-Away
Purchasing foreign real estate does not need to be difficult. The best advice is to stay transparent, open and follow the requirements. As an extra piece of advice, here is a checklist to follow to make it go even easier:

  • Proof of “out of Canada” permanent resident address
  • Contact and use a Canadian solicitor/lawyer who is familiar with foreign investors
  • Contact and use a Realtor familiar with foreign investment purchase.
  • Be prepared to have to make a physical appearance in Canada to complete the purchase transaction
  • Ensure you have the ability to transfer monies from your Canadian bank account to the TRUST account set up by your Canadian Solicitor/Lawyer’s firm.
  • Be prepared for the purchasing process to take 30 days or longer

In addition, the Vacancy Tax is a new initiative the government is rolling out over the next several months. This tax applies to homes that are not occupied by a tenant for at least 180 days during the year.  The tax amount is a 1% increase in property taxes. The 1% increase can add up quickly contributing to additional costs to consider if your property is not occupied for the minimum 180 days. This comes into full effect as of July 1 meaning that all empty properties must be occupied before that date to be exempt.
One last consideration.  As of August 2, 2016, the Ministry of Finance of British Columbia has applied an additional 15% property transfer tax to certain BC residential property purchases to anyone who is a foreigner (or foreign entity such as a corporation).

  1. This is applied only to the Greater Vancouver Regional District – please contact GLM Mortgage Group for an exhaustive list of the areas affected.
  2. This affects anyone who are foreign nationals including foreign corporations or taxable trustees.
* Please note that the corporation can be incorporated in Canada. However, if the corporation is controlled in whole or in part by a foreign national or other foreign corporation the tax applies.
  3. The additional tax applies in addition to the general property transfer tax.
  4. The additional tax does not apply to non-resident property (commercial properties).
  5. The additional tax will be paid with at the statement of adjustments when signing at the lawyer’s office.
  6. There are heavy fines associated with avoidance of this tax (ie purchasing a property through a Canadian relative who holds the property in trust) and can even result to up to two years in prison.)

The only way that this foreign buyers tax is exempt for a nonresident when purchasing in the Greater Vancouver Regional District are borrowers that have a current work permit/visa and will maintain the property as their primary residence and reporting and paying taxes in Canada
In closing, if you follow the basic steps laid out in this article and work with a skilled broker you can get into your Canadian property faster, easier, and with minimal stress!

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