Why are hundreds of luxury Vancouver mansions being rented for cheap?
Published Saturday, March 9, 2019 9:40PM EST Last Updated Saturday, March 9, 2019 11:16PM EST
In Vancouver, where sky-high real estate prices have made ownership impossible for many, it’s suddenly not too difficult to live like a king.
Last week, author and housing advocate Kishone Roy found approximately 800 Vancouver-area mansions for rent on Craigslist for prices well below what they would normally command.
Many of the mansions have ocean views and offer luxury amenities such as swimming pools, in-home cinemas, built-in saunas and wine cellars. In several cases, the homes are fully furnished.
Rather than the listings being a fluke, Roy kept finding more and more luxury properties.
“I didn't expect this,” Roy told CTV News. “I thought when there were 25 it was noteworthy. I didn't expect to find 800.”
The city of Vancouver is facing a crisis in housing affordability, with one bedroom units averaging about $1,730 per month.
But these rentals offer a single room in a multi-bedroom house for anywhere between $700 and $1,500, with more than 5,000 empty bedrooms available across the city.
“Maybe the cheapest real estate right now is mansion rentals,” Roy said.
While most owners contacted by CTV News said they don’t want groups renting out the homes, the rentals present a cheaper housing alternative for students and young professionals.
Sehrish Qureshi is one of 14 students who applied online and was placed in a Vancouver mansion nicknamed “the castle,” paying around $1,000 a month for a mansion with a pool, home theatre, and games room.
When move-in day arrived, she was shocked by the furnished, $5-million home.
“Me and my family were just like, ‘What? Is this for real?’” she said.
“I’ve compared it to some of my classmates, and they pay, like, $1,300, $1,400 for small studio apartments in downtown … I’m so happy with what I’m paying.”
It’s a situation that might not seem to make sense, but realtor Kevin Wang says the answer is a simple one.
“The speculator tax is really the big one,” Wang said. “It hit the market.”
Last year, B.C. introduced new taxes targeting real estate speculators who purchased property, only to leave it sitting empty.
Under the new rules, if a property has a foreign owner and is left vacant, Vancouver can tax the owner for 1 per cent of the property’s assessed value, while B.C. can claim another 2 per cent.
That means on a multi-million-dollar property, the taxes can easily surpass $100,000. But if an owner opts to rent -- even for a pittance – they’ll save money.
While many owners seem to be asking a monthly rent almost exactly the monthly tax cost, some seem to be open to taking much less.
“I thought I was imagining things until I called a mansion broker today and offered to rent one for $1 for the year,” Roy wrote on Twitter.
“She quickly took my number, and even asked if there was a specific mansion I had in mind.”