Monday, December 12, 2016

Vancouver real estate advertised in Shanghai first


Vancouver real estate advertised in Shanghai first


APRIL 13, 2016 08:29 AM
A Chinese-language website run by a Shanghai-based company is listing and arranging tours of Vancouver residential properties, and splitting commission fees with local agents.

Vanfun.com gives its users a jump. It features information about properties, translated into Chinese, from the Multiple Listing Service site used by real estate agents, ahead of when buyers can see the listings in English on the MLS public site.

Vanfun.com is operated by Shanghai Ruiying Internet Technology Ltd. which lists a Shanghai-based address in that city’s Pudong district. It is not known whether anyone connected to Vanfun.com is a licensed Realtor or whether the company’s operations violate any rules. A call to the company’s Shanghai office was answered by a man who said the owner was in Vancouver. He hung up when the Sun asked him to pass on a reporter’s phone number.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said it recently became aware of the website and is reviewing it.

Carolyn Rogers, the superintendent of real estate at FICOM, said she would not comment on specific investigations. There are “a number of investigations into unlicensed activity underway at any particular time,” she said.

“We encourage real estate licensees to ‘say no’ to facilitating unlicensed activity. Before agreeing to secure real estate services, consumers should check whether the service provider is licensed by visiting the Real Estate Council of British Columbia’s website."

She cautioned buyers against doing business with “unlicensed real estate service providers (who) are not required to carry errors and omissions insurance, manage funds through trust accounts, meet educational and professional standards, and may charge opportunistic fees for their services.”

On Tuesday, Vanfun.com users were able to access information about a property at 3798 West 35th Ave., listed by Peter Saito and Vivian Li of Sutton Group West Coast Realty. The information listed the usual details including asking price, dimensions and year built.

There is a phone number that potential buyers in China can call and another one for local buyers. A pop-up window with an online assistant answers questions about the property and books tours and home visits.

Local agents were able to see the same information about the property on a site they log into with a password on Monday, one day earlier. But members of the public searching for English-language listings on Realtor.ca were still not able to see this listing at press time because there is usually a lag of about two or three days before the listing is posted there.

“They purposely do this to give local (agents) a chance to bring buyers,” said Saito.

He hadn’t heard of Vanfun.com and didn’t know his listing was being promoted on the site. “I can’t complain as the listing (agent). It’s free advertising.”

The site connects buyers with local real estate agents to help with the sale, and then takes a share of the final commission fee. The site says it offers buyers listings, pickup service from the airport and help with arranging all legal documents, processes, including home inspections and mortgages.

According to Alexa rankings posted by Canadian Chinese-language aggregator Qidian.ca, Vanfun.com ranks fourth among Metro Vancouver’s Chinese-language websites in terms of web traffic.

In a graphic posted on VanFun.com’s Weibo social media site, the company touts the benefits of investing in Vancouver real estate. The text emphasizes the profitability of buying homes as investment, rather than for immigration purposes.

It compares the average per-square-metre cost of property in downtown Beijing (100,000 renminbi), Shanghai (120,000 RMB) and Vancouver (20,000 RMB). “The reason you are still investing in Beijing and Shanghai is because you don’t know about Vancouver!”

“The central business districts of the three cities — within the city walls in Beijing, Shanghai’s Lujiazui, and downtown Vancouver — they have the same level of wealth, the same vibrant environment, but the price difference is like the difference between heaven and earth,” the advertisement says, which also has rental and interest rate comparisons.

The site has existed for about two or three years, according to agents and buyers in Vancouver.

There is also a WeChat group of a few hundred local Realtors and followers who had been getting information from the site about potential buyers, including details such as what kind of home or area they might be interested in as well as their budget. But these nightly posts stopped a few months ago. One agent, who declined to be named, said the site is obviously convenient for buyers who don’t speak English, but about a year ago, it gained popularity when some buyers based in mainland China found that information about listings on the MLS site or in emails sent from it were being blocked by mainland Chinese censors.