'This is Vancouver deja-vu': How Seattle's housing market is making way for foreign buyers

It's been six months since the provincial government introduced a foreign buyers tax to cool the hot housing market — and scores of Seattle Realtors have been taking advantage ever since.

In the months following the introduction of the landmark policy, business down south has been booming at a near exponential rate, according to Seattle real estate broker Dean Jones.

"We have networks with brokers in Vancouver that are referring buyers to us in Seattle," said Jones, the CEO of Realogics Sotheby's International. "We have numerous clients that have said that they're selling in Vancouver and going to do it all over again in Seattle.

"In many ways, its's just Vancouver deja-vu."

Jones says the introduction of a foreign buyers tax last summer almost immediately sent a ripple through Seattle's housing market. By the end of the year, roughly half of the luxury homes sold in the area were to foreign buyers, up from a third in 2015, and 25 per cent in 2014.

"We're seeing an almost exponential interest in investing in the Seattle-Bellevue metro area."

Deja-vu

​Jones says the trends are eerily similar to Vancouver in the late 90s, when housing prices began their steep ascent.

He says Seattle housing prices are far more affordable than Vancouver's — meaning there's a significant opportunity on a high return in the near-term.

"It's not uncommon to see a newer non-view single family home in Shaughnessy or the west side of Vancouver be well over $2,000 per square foot," he said.

In contrast, waterfront properties in the Bellevue area are selling for around $1,000 per square foot, sending a clear message to potential buyers: get in now.

"Some of the savvy Chinese buyers understand the impact of becoming a preferred market place. They simply know the weight of that investment and what it can mean over time — even in as little as five years."

An appealing option

Jones says Seattle is well on its way to becoming a major draw for China's upper and middle classes. He says the city's prized public school system, robust economy, job opportunities, and growing Asian population make it particularly appealing for Chinese families.

In turn, the city's Realtors are making a concerted effort to network with prospective buyers.

"Many of our local brokers are pairing up with Chinese real estate agents and helping them translate and understand the cultures, and the concierge like services that are necessary when you're dealing with overseas buyers," he said.

"We've actually created our own all-Mandarin magazine called Seattle Luxury Living, and its full of advertisements from luxury automobiles, fashion, travel, of course real estate, lifestyle products, as the market here is preparing itself for what is an increasing consumer base that is Chinese," he added.

Jones says real estate agents will continue to monitor how the buyers' tax influences real estate in B.C. He admits, brokers down south have learned some lessons from Vancouver's hot housing market.

"The real estate community is taking plenty of lessons — including Mandarin."

With files from CBC's On the Coast

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: 'This is Vancouver deja-vu': How Seattle's housing market is making way for foreign buyers