The following is a guest contribution by Ben Myers, President of Bullpen Research & Consulting, a boutique development advisory firm that produces housing demand, land valuation, and pricing recommendations studies for real estate owners, developers, and lenders. Ben keeps clients up to date on current macroeconomic and site-specific housing market conditions that can impact their active or proposed new home projects.

A few years back, a report from the Canadian division of Transparency International concluded that 29 per cent of the 100 most valuable properties in Vancouver were owned by shell companies. Is the same thing happening in Toronto’s luxury condo market?

Taking a sample of the 80 highest priced condominium apartment resale transactions from the start of 2017 to the end of March 2018 — a couple months are needed to ensure the sale closes and the ownership can be pulled — we see how many of these units are owned by corporations.

The results show that nine of the 80 sales, or 11 per cent, are owned by corporations and not individuals. That is nowhere close to the Vancouver figure.

A little Google research doesn’t turn up much on these corporations, with the exception of one property that is owned by the holding company of a major developer.

Is there something nefarious going on? Are these shell companies looking for a quick flip in a rising market? We’ll have to check back in a year to see if they’ve resold, as four of the nine traded in the second half of the year when the luxury housing market in the GTA was on the decline.

The chart below shows the average value in the ultra-luxury resale condo market in the first quarter of 2018 of $3.8 million was close to the early-2017 highs of $3.9 million and $4.0 million, respectively.

Ownership of Canadian real estate will continue to be a hot-button issue, even with additional non-resident and empty homes taxes being collected. Bullpen will continue to monitor the ultra-luxury condo market in Toronto to see if corporate ownership of high-rise apartments is increasing or decreasing.

Follow Bullpen on Twitter at @BullpenConsult or find Ben at www.BullpenConsulting.ca.

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