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Canadian Real Estate Market Update 2017 Q4

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It has been a very busy 2017 for Canadian real estate: Vancouver recovered from the Foreign Buyer’s tax implemented in early August 2016; Toronto experienced an extremely hot market, resulting in the implementation of new real estate policies including a Foreign Buyer’s Tax; while Montreal, Victoria, and Whistler experienced price increases across all sectors.

 

In Q4 of 2017, Vancouver’s condo and townhome prices continue to increase, while single detached home prices declined slightly by 1.6%. By analyzing the Q4 year-on-year (YoY) price growth we believe that the impact of the Foreign Buyer’s tax was a dramatic price increase in condominiums (+24%) and townhomes (+15%), and much smaller price increases for single detached units (+3%).   As the tax made single detached homes a more expensive investment, investors looked to condominiums as a cheaper alternative.

 

Toronto Q4 2017 average prices did not change much from Q3, decreasing or increasing by 1%.  However, similar to what occurred in Vancouver during the year and a half after their Foreign Buyer’s tax was announced, where condo and townhome prices continued to increase while single detached home prices declined. The YoY price changes reflect the effect of Toronto’s foreign buyer’s speculation tax, as prices declined by 1% for single detached homes but increased by 17% for condominiums and 4% for townhomes.

Montreal experienced a very active 2017 and is now the largest real estate market in Canada without a foreign buyer’s tax.  A main driver of this increased activity was Toronto’s implementation of the Foreign Buyer’s Speculative tax activated in April of 2017, which imposes a 15% tax on the purchase price on foreign/non-Canadian resident buyers. In Q4, prices and sales increased in all sectors, especially in the condo market as average prices increased 8.1% and average sales increased 22% from Q3.   YoY prices increased in all sectors to culminate a very active year as prices for singled detached homes increased 4%, condominiums 10%, and townhomes 12%.

Victoria’s residential real estate market saw a very energetic 2017.  Despite minor price growth for Victoria in Q4, YoY price growth increased in all sectors, increasing 11% for single detached homes, 19% for condominiums, and 13% for townhomes.

Whistler Q4 average prices were roughly flat, despite townhome average prices increasing 24%.  However, YoY prices increased drastically as prices for single detached homes increased 46%, condominiums increased 34%, and townhomes increased 43%.  The largest YoY price increases amongst the 5 markets.

The EU Succession Regulations May Impact Your Estate Planning

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Introduction

We previously recommended that families create a written list identifying, and noting key details of, their financial and personal assets. The importance of this in support of drafting a Will or for broad estate planning purposes was emphasized.

Ensuring that testamentary objectives are met can be especially challenging for families with multi-jurisdictional estates.

Jurisdictions apply different connecting factors such as domicile, residence, or nationality to determine which jurisdiction’s laws will apply for succession matters, sometimes leading to complex conflicts of law. Issues such as mental capacity and the validity of substantive aspects of Wills are treated differently across countries (particularly as between common law and civil law countries).

In 2015, most EU countries adopted a set of regulations, known as the EU Succession Regulations, that reduce complications for cross-border succession planning and administration.

Note that the intention was not to harmonize succession and inheritance laws across the EU. The Regulations are intended to reduce conflicts between the laws potentially applying to cross-border estates, including applicable law, jurisdiction of courts, enforcement of decisions and presentation of instruments in succession matters.

Where a client has a multi-jurisdictional estate, including ties to an EU country (e.g., being a citizen or resident or owning assets located there), then the Regulations will impact succession planning.

The Regulations apply to the estates of people dying after August 17, 2015.

Where an estate falls entirely within a person’s country of residence and nationality, then little changes. In addition, the Regulations do not apply to revenue, customs or administrative matters, including questions relating to matrimonial property regimes, legal capacity, maintenance obligations or property rights other than those arising by reason of death, trusts or company matters.

The Succession Regulations and Impact

The default position set out in the Regulations is that the law of the Member State where the deceased had her last habitual residence has jurisdiction with regard to her entire estate.  The inheritance laws of that country would be applicable to the estate.  This includes both succession and administration issues.

Habitual residence is not necessarily the same as the last domicile or even residence prior to death.  It involves an assessment of the “life circumstances” of the deceased up to and including the time of death.  Where her life was centered, including her most important social contacts, are be considered.

This default position can also be overridden in a number of circumstances – most importantly, if the testator elects the laws of her nationality to apply to the whole estate, by evidencing in writing, the election to exercise a “choice of law”.

Note: some advisors question whether an estate containing multiple wills can make this election with respect to less than the entire estate.

This choice of law would be helpful where a testator has a strong preference for a particular set of national laws or where there is any uncertainty with respect to habitual residence.

The Regulations determine the set of laws that apply to succession issues, but does not determine which courts can be involved. The courts of the Member State where the deceased was habitually resident at the time of death or in which property is located would retain the jurisdiction to rule on succession matters, but they would apply the national laws set out under the choice of law election.

Where a Member State is elected as the choice of law, then the parties can agree that the courts of that country will have exclusive jurisdiction to rule on all succession matters.

While not a requirement, the parties can apply for a Certificate of Succession that will be recognized in each Member State (and probably Switzerland and perhaps other countries).

Impact on Clients that are Not Resident in the EU

It is only EU Member States that are bound by the Regulations, but there are two ways in which nationals or residents of non-Member States could be impacted.

If the connecting factors of a country’s Private International laws would link a person’s assets back to laws of the EU country, then these Regulations will apply.

If you have property in an EU country, or have dual citizenship including of an EU country, then the Regulations are relevant, especially if you have concerns about particular local laws – e.g., those dealing with forced heirship.

Example

Historically, a Canadian national habitually resident in France, and owning real property in both France and Canada, would have had French law apply to the personal property and real property located in France, and Canadian law to the real property located in Canada.

Now, that person could elect to have Canadian law apply to the entire estate, which would require French courts to apply Canadian succession laws to the French real property.

Under the Regulations, if that person died without having made an election, then French law, including forced heirship rules, would apply to the entire estate, including the Canadian real property.   [However, it is questionable whether Canadian courts would give up jurisdiction with respect to the Canadian real property.]

It is not yet clear that all EU countries will accept an election to a national law that does not provide for forced heirship rights. However, court references to date suggest that they would only apply local laws in exceptional circumstances, after looking at the practical consequences of the proposed succession.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The above is intended as commentary only, and should not be interpreted as advice for any particular circumstances. The Regulations are complicated, and the way that they interact with domestic laws impacting, inter alia, estate, succession, marital property and tax issues remain uncertain and certainly not without risk and complexity.  The commentary above is brief and has not dealt with many relevant issues or nuances addressed in our internal memorandum.

Developments in the Vintage Wine Market Dec, 2017

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2017 is already well-known to be a complicated year for both winemakers and vineyard owners. As mentioned in our July update, there were severe frosts in many wine regions earlier in the year.  The implications are uneven ripening and in many cases a total loss of this year’s crop.

Heterogeneous is a good adjective to describe this vintage. Despite the severe conditions, many top estates located along the Gironde estuary escaped the frost and were able to bring their crops to full maturity. Whereas on the right bank, the situation looks bleaker for most properties except those located on the hill tops.  Poor weather in September further complicated the vintage for many producers.  Undoubtedly, the small harvest will have an impact on prices and may help to clear existing inventory.  This will become clearer during the spring en primeur campaign.

The weakness of the pound, due to Brexit and related uncertainties, is a dominant theme when assessing the fine wine market. The fine wine merchants in the secondary market are predominately London-based and the market is traded in sterling. Whether we look at the Liv-ex 1000 or the Liv-ex 100, the recent returns in sterling are attractive, but have been less so in USD or Euros.

Vintage wine market indices should be viewed as mere guidelines and comparing them with major equity indices such as the FTSE 100 or S&P 500 or gold is tenuous at best. While there has been a very long trading history over the past centuries between Bordeaux and London and more recently between other wine producing regions of France and London, the French may turn to Americans, Russians or Chinese in the future, so a weak sterling will become less of an issue.

In any case, no one should be collecting vintage wine if they may have to depend on it as a near-term financial asset. It should provide pleasure either through future consumption or the passion of collecting a living, dynamic natural product – which leads us to the auction market.

So far this year, all the top auction houses have seen their sales increase, led by the UK and US auction markets. As usual, top wines such as Lafite, Petrus and Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC) have attracted strong interest.   Of note is that offers from single-owner collections with impeccable provenance have become a major focus.  Speaking after their recent wine auction in Hong Kong, Jamie Ritchie, Sotheby’s worldwide head of wine, commented, “The outstanding result of today’s FUX 1 sale (HKD29.5M / USD3.8M) shows that buyers truly value the provenance of single-owner wine collections that have impeccable condition, especially when they have an interesting story behind them.”

In our last update we noted that COFCO, China’s largest foodstuffs conglomerate, entered into a joint venture with wine writer and critic, James Suckling.  COFCO Wine & Wine, the importing arm of COFCO, has built a broad distribution network of 400 outlets across 27 Chinese provinces.

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualifications, released figures that showed mainland China had more participants than the U.S.  WSET opened its first international office in Hong Kong this year.

These trends suggest that in the coming years there will be more people interested in consuming wine and as they become older and more affluent, they will undoubtedly wish to consume better and more expensive wines.

Fine wine is of limited supply while poor harvests such as with the 2017 vintage further abate the supply, which, coupled with the increase in demand, will ultimately lead to higher prices.

 

1 FUX is an award-winning contemporary restaurant in Lech, Austria, founded in 1998, boasting a wine list of 4,000 different wines with over 55,000 bottles, and which was awarded the best wine list in Austria (2015) by Falstaff magazine.

ChapmanCraig’s Diversified Global Portfolios Are Core Investments For Wealthy Asian Clients

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ChapmanCraig’s Diversified Global Portfolios Are Core Investments For Wealthy Asian Clients 

Asia-Pacific is home to the largest population of high-net worth individuals (HNWI) in the world. With HNWI wealth in the region expected to surpass US$42 trillion by 2025, Hong Kong-based ChapmanCraig is prepared to meet Asia-Pacific’s growing demand for wealth management services – bringing expertise developed over its 25 years of helping wealthy clients meet their financial objectives.

Combining the investment resources typical of a global private bank with the personal attention of a local boutique, the independent, employee-owned wealth management firm has been managing client investment portfolios since 1995.

Affluent families seeking to pass on their wealth to future generations, busy high-level professionals and entrepreneurs without the time to look after their finances, and retired corporate executives in their golden years choose ChapmanCraig’s advice. This includes building portfolios that are broadly diversified across industries and geographies – to secure their wealth and deliver long-term capital appreciation.

“It’s important to have global exposure in today’s markets. Part of our dynamic and holistic approach is through industry-centric global diversification,” says managing director Craig Chapman. “We’ve had a very solid investment performance over the years, and we provide total transparency in the way we operate and report.”

Licensed and regulated by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, ChapmanCraig works with prominent financial institutions, each with a strong capital base – including its Montreal-based portfolio manager Letko, Brosseau and Associates, and custody banks Royal Bank of Canada and Scotiabank.

The portfolios of the world’s wealthiest are comprised primarily of equities, bonds, and real estate. ChapmanCraig’s expertise covers all these asset classes.

“Asians are becoming wealthier and more globally aware. Their risk levels are changing – from making very speculative investments to more secure investments,” Chapman says. “So much of this industry is transaction-related, but what we do isn’t. We provide attractive long-term returns not just through well-diversified portfolios at appropriate valuations, but also by forming valuable, long-term partnerships that work in our clients’ best interests.”

-S7 Canada Business Report, SCMP. Friday, November 10, 2017

Canadian Real Estate Market Update 2017 Q3

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The major Canadian real estate markets have continued the similar trajectory experienced in Q2 2017. Vancouver prices continue to increase in all sectors as the impact of the foreign buyer tax reaches its end. The Toronto market’s slump continues, but signs of resurgence are visible. Montreal’s market continues its hot streak due to reduced activity in the Toronto market. However, the leader in Canadian property markets in Q3 2017 was Whistler, with strong quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year growth.

Vancouver has rebounded to its pre-tax highs. Quarter-on-quarter growth has increased since Q2, however, year-on-year price increases are partly explained by the 14 months that have elapsed since the tax was introduced.  Single detached home prices in Vancouver West, Vancouver East, and North Vancouver have all experienced year-on-year price growth of 1.3% to 2.0%.   The same cannot be said for West Vancouver, which has experienced a year-on-year price drop of 0.8%.  These figures demonstrate that prices have increased beyond the levels experienced before the tax’s activation in Q3 2016.  The Vancouver single detached market, which was the most affected by the tax, has fully recovered.   While the singled detached market has returned to pre-tax levels, the condominium market has soared.   Condominium prices, which increased after the tax, have risen year-on-year by an average of 21% across Vancouver, and up to 27% in West Vancouver.

While the market in Toronto appears gloomy, the situation has not become stressful.  Quarter-on-quarter prices have decreased in Toronto and the greater Toronto area due to the implementation of the “non-resident speculation” tax.  However, despite falling prices on a quarterly basis, year-on-year price increase are comparatively high.  Q3 prices have declined in most areas, especially in the townhomes (-12%) and single detached (-10%) markets.  However, year-on-year prices have increased in all markets.  Year-on-year prices have increased by an average of 4.8% for the single detached market, 20% for the condo market, and 6.1% for the townhouse market.  This can be easily explained.  Toronto was a very hot market for a short period of time before the tax was put into place, which led to a significant rise in prices within a very short timeframe. Yet, despite the tax and the market’s subsequent slowdown, current prices are higher than a year ago (before the tax was implemented) because of the rapid price increase experienced before the tax was activated.

Montreal’s market prices continue to increase. Median prices in Q3 have increased 2% from Q2 for single detached homes, 3% for condos, and a slight decrease of 0.8% for duplexes. The main headline is Montreal becoming a desired market for luxury developments, as described by the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/realestate/commercial/a-luxury-building-boom-hits-montreal.html.

The Whistler real estate market, despite being relatively small, has proven to be a strong investment option due to strong quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year growth. The single detached home market increased by 10.2% from Q2 and 24.8% year-on-year; the condominium market increased by 16% from Q2 and 36% year-on-year; while the townhouse market saw an increase of 0.4% from Q2 and 9% year-on-year.

Start Thinking About An Estate Plan

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Start Thinking About An Estate Plan

It is not uncommon for an entrepreneur or business executive, despite a laser-like focus on business affairs and investment strategies, to continuously procrastinate when it comes to freshening (or creating) his or her Will.

I am not sure if this tendency is any worse in Hong Kong than elsewhere. But if it is, then it may be because Hong Kong has a relatively benign tax environment.  Significant potential inheritance or estate taxes tend to focus the mind (e.g., in the U.K. and the United States).

Nearly everyone “knows” that they should prepare a Will. Many do.  And that is a good start, so long as the Will is well-drafted and somewhat current.

For families with considerable wealth, particularly with assets spread across many jurisdictions, limiting considerations to a Will may be misguided. However, a commitment to seek professional advice with respect to a Will may be the catalyst for a broader review of estate planning issues and options. [i]

For example, we believe that a key process for every family, whether they have or are preparing an estate plan, is to maintain a detailed ledger of their financial assets and personal property and secure that list with a trusted family member and/or advisor.   This list should detail the custody entity, account number(s), relationship manager or other contact person(s), authorized signatories and ownership structure.

Not every professional advisor with whom the family deals will need access to this list; but it will certainly be essential when designing an effective estate plan and the role that a Will would play.

It will also be very important in the case of an unexpected death. Many executors have endured something akin to “well of course, there is also the Swiss bank account, but I have forgotten which bank and in what town. My husband handled that…”. Off-shore banks tend not to spend resources chasing the heirs of inactive accounts.

Professional advice leading towards a comprehensive estate plan has an importance beyond ensuring your assets are correctly and efficiently devolved. Potential issues cover broad terrain and are specific to each family’s composition, the state of inter-family relationships, assets, succession objectives, risk aversion and desire for privacy.

Beyond the considerations that normally jump to mind, issues may also include:

  • managing gift, estate or inheritance taxes in those jurisdictions in which assets (especially real property) are located, including ensuring that potential exemptions are exploited[ii];
  • highlighting non-compliant legacy accounts or structures, at a time when a fix may be dramatically easier and less costly – rather than dropping a tax bomb into your heirs’ laps;
  • managing the potential impact of specific local laws where certain assets are located[iii], including forced heirship regimes and potential enforcement against local heirs (particularly, if the property going to that heir is neither income producing nor easily divisible);
  • considering trust arrangements, where appropriate, for dealing with potentially difficult or expensive probate processes in multiple jurisdictions, as well as tax planning, asset protection, continuity of management, and other succession issues;
  • considering a situs Will for real property located in jurisdictions that might present thorny issues;
  • considering structures to hold off-shore real property, particularly within jurisdictions imposing significant capital gains taxes on dispositions (ideally considered at the time of purchase, but perhaps amendments can be made without material additional costs);
  • dealing with certain responsibilities that you consider moral obligations, but that might not be reflected in your current Will; and,
  • considering how best to protect your assets, your legacy and your heirs against eventualities for which they might be unaware or unprepared.

And of course, ensuring peace of mind the next time you reflect upon mortality or someone’s unexpected demise.

Even where a complicated estate plan is not required, a geographically dispersed family or a family with a dispersed estate, that is relying on Wills to devolve property may endure complicated and uncertain jurisdictional issues at probate. Common law courts will generally honour a testator’s choice of forum so long a connection threshold is met.  Civil law courts often have less administrative freedom.

Your professional advisor will help you consider whether you should have more than one Will.

When a single, multi-jurisdictional Will is probated, ancillary processes in other jurisdictions may need to wait until the initial probate process is complete. This could add considerable time, inconvenience and expense.  A situs Will can be tailored to the laws of a particular jurisdiction, extracting the property located in that jurisdiction from the remaining estate, for purposes that include simplifying probate.

Separate Wills might also be helpful for families that highly value privacy, because probate processes in different jurisdictions can result in very different levels of public disclosure.

Most families and non-specialist advisors are not competent to properly consider these and related issues. Specialist advice should be sought, and may save you many times its initial cost over time.  But in the meantime, you should sit down and prepare your List.

 

[i]  An integrated estate plan will not necessarily be centered around Wills.  But one or more Wills will likely play an important part, because even where trust arrangements dominate the estate plan, there will remain personal assets held outside of these trust arrangements.

[ii]  For example, securities issued by U.S. companies can be subject to U.S. estate tax even when held by non-resident aliens, and non-U.S. banks are seeking clearances more often due to heightened awareness of the heat that the IRS can bring.  There are easy fixes, primarily avoiding individual ownership, but this requires basic planning.

[iii]  For real property held in Europe, the difficulties for non-resident buyers presented by forced heirship rules were reduced considerably in August 2015 with the introduction of EU regulations (known as the EU Succession Regulation). However, certain prior elections must be considered and evidenced.

Canadian Real Estate Market Update 2017 Q2

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The Q2 2017 Canadian real estate market update can be highlighted by three headlines.  The Toronto market starting to go through a significant slowdown as a result of new provincial government real estate policies, Vancouver’s foreign buyer’s tax freeze officially melted as the market returns to similar point before the tax’s implementation, and Montreal experiencing strong activity now being Canada’s largest market without a foreign buyer’s tax.

Similar to the situation in Vancouver a year ago, Toronto is experiencing a noteworthy slump after being a red-hot market for half a year.  Average price in Toronto for single detached homes has increased by 3.2% compared to Q1.   Yet, if we compare prices at the beginning of Q2 (shortly after the tax was announced) to those at the end of Q2, we notice an 11% decrease in prices across Toronto.   In the same time span, the Toronto area condo prices experienced a less significant decline of 4%.   However, it is the townhouse market which underwent the worst drop as average prices in the Toronto area dropped 10%.  This downturn presents itself as an opportune time for investors to purchase real estate in Toronto. If Toronto follows Vancouver’s trajectory, in a few months’ time prices will have returned to the same levels experienced before the implementation of the tax.  It is an auspicious time to purchase property in a major market before prices return to pre-tax heights.

On the other side of the country the reverse is happening.  The Vancouver market has returned to the similar market it was last year before the implementation of the foreign buyer’s tax.  During Q2, single detached prices have increased an average of 4%, condos have increased an incredible average of 11% (especially in West Van increasing 18%), and townhouses increasing an average of 7%.   Sales have increased 73% in the single detached market, a 42% uptick in the condo market, and a 67% surge in the townhouse market.  It is now apparent that the cool-down resulting from the foreign buyer’s tax was just temporary and Vancouver has re-claimed the crown as Canada’s hottest market.

Montreal has profited from Toronto’s and Vancouver’s cooling period as prices and sales increased in Montreal’s real estate market. Compared to Q1 2017, median prices have grown 6% in the single detached market; 2.5% in the condo market; and 4% in the duplex and triplex market. Sales boomed in Q2 as they increased by 22% in the single detached homes, 23% for condos, and 36% for duplexes and triplexes. The increased activity in Montreal may continue as a result of Toronto’s recent downturn.