Article from Canadian Business magazine
One day last February, a small group of real estate agents and reporters boarded a helicopter in Vancouver and flew south to the burgeoning community of White Rock. The purpose of the trip, organized by real estate brokerage Key Marketing Inc., was to promote a new condo development in which a 690-square-foot unit started at $325,900. "The best way to see real estate is from the air," Cam Good, Key's founder, told the media.
The agents, it so happened, represented clients in mainland China looking to park a portion of their wealth in Canadian housing. They snapped pictures and shot video from the air as they circled White Rock. Local television stations breathlessly reported on the helicopter tour, the first of its kind in the region. The coverage was exactly what Good was hoping for. "The fact that it's on the six o'clock news shows just how fixated people are on real estate," he says. "I've often joked that real estate is a sport in Vancouver."
Like sports, real estate stirs intense emotions — and they can be nasty. After the publicity stunt, Key received a barrage of angry e-mails. Some residents were appalled that rich foreigners would be snapping up local property, inflating prices and shutting their kids out of the market. One poster to Key's website wished for someone to blow up the company's head office.
As this reaction suggests, Canadians have come to view home ownership as a right, a belief that has intensified over the past decade as we've piled into the market. Real estate today is a central force in our culture and economy. Nearly 70% of us are owners, the highest level on record. Those who do not own long to in the future. A survey by private mortgage insurer Genworth Financial Canada released in 2009 found 68% of renters would delay major purchases and more than half would give up vacations if it enabled them to own a home.