We took this story on because no one else had – and the public was crying for answers.
The Globe editors decided to let me dig deep into what was driving the crazy real estate prices in the Vancouver area – because a serious crisis was obviously brewing but few in power even wanted to talk about it.
The real estate industry – with its vested interests – was determined to preserve the status quo and downplay people’s concerns.
Politicians insisted they needed more data. The influence of foreign money was an aspect of it that almost none of them – officially – would acknowledge or address.
Caught in the middle – were Canadians who could no longer even consider buying a modest home in their city.
They could only stand by and watch as an unimpeded stampede of speculators and foreign buyers snapped up properties and flipped homes as though they were commodities, while driving prices to ridiculously high levels.
The government was right about one thing – there was a dearth of data. And so, we began digging.
We started with a sample of 250 homes that sold for over $2.5 million. We found some distinct patterns.
We kept going, and uncovered a tangle of hidden ownerships and transactions – including a practice we called shadow flipping – as well as tax evasion, possible money laundering, homes left empty and farmland misused. All aided and abetted by a subset of industry professionals.
Multiple sources came forward to help. Insiders – realtors, accountants, lawyers and bankers – who took a big risk because they were that upset over what was going on. The public reaction was overwhelming. So much so that the BC and federal governments acted with uncharacteristic speed.
Shadow flipping was made illegal. Realtor self-regulation was put to an end.
Tax loopholes were closed – and BC brought in the country’s first ever tax on foreign home buyers.
And the market, at least for a while, cooled.
This investigation would not have been possible without those insider sources – who risked their livelihoods by coming forward. And it is a huge credit to the Globe editors who provided support, and the time and the resources – rare commodities in journalism these days – to see it through and keep pushing for accountability and results.