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Just how much is Asian immigration affecting the local housing market? Are Mainland Chinese purchasers to blame for pushing housing values so high that many locals can’t afford to buy?

It’s an ongoing, often hotly debated topic in Metro Vancouver. And a conclusive answer seems even more elusive as Mainland China’s government progresses firmly along the path of change. 

"It gets a lot of press. But I believe its impact is a bit overstated, Richard Bell, a Vancouver lawyer and principal of Bell Alliance, which offers Global Immigration Services branch to help newcomers establish residency.

Like many industry watchers, he believes the idea is more urban myth than verifiable reality: "Yes, this demographic has an effect on the very high end of the housing market, but that segment is a very, very small part of the overall marketplace—one, maybe two per cent.”

However, he adds that within last six months, if a west side Vancouver property sold in the $2 to $2.5 million range, the odds are "strong” that the purchaser was Asian.

Buyers Return

After virtually disappearing between April 2012 and fall of 2013, Asian buyers are once again making their presence known. We’ll see if the annual rush to purchase real estate during Chinese New Year resumes this year.

If it does, there’s a sense that it will happen at a more moderate pace. "I believe the unrealistic pricing created by Asian buyers has run its course,” Bell says. "They seem to have reached a point where they simply don’t believe there will be further significant increases in values within prices ranges they’re buying in.”

Gaining a North American education for their children now seems to be the most important motivation. That’s why Bell believes luxury condominiums might well surpass high-end single-family houses as the residence of choice.

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