Foreign Ownership

Foreign ownership in British Columbia (BC) refers to individuals or entities from outside of Canada who own real estate properties within the province. Over the years, foreign ownership has been a topic of discussion due to its potential impact on housing affordability and market dynamics. Various regulations and policies have been implemented to address concerns related to foreign ownership, including taxes and restrictions on property purchases. Understanding the implications of foreign ownership is crucial for policymakers, stakeholders, and residents alike as they strive to maintain a balanced and sustainable real estate market in BC.

Tom Wolansky
Licensed Realtor®

Home Buying Process For Foreigners

In today’s digital era, purchasing real estate in Canada has become incredibly convenient for Americans and other foreigners. Advancements in technology have eliminated the need for physical presence when searching for and buying properties. The internet offers an abundance of resources, including video tours, aerial photos, and floor plans, making remote shopping comparable to local experiences. Additionally, assistance from friends or family in the area can facilitate property viewings. Access to Nanaimo and Vancouver Island is now more affordable and convenient than ever, thanks to major transportation hubs and nearby international airports.
Transferring funds between Canada and the United States has been streamlined with modernized money transfer processes and the proliferation of financial institutions operating on both sides of the border. Favorable exchange rates from the US dollar to the Canadian dollar can result in significant savings on the purchase price of a home.
Furthermore, the process of making an offer to purchase has been simplified with the acceptance of digital signatures as original ink since 2014 in British Columbia. Working with an experienced REALTOR® who is equipped with the necessary knowledge, tools, and technology allows for the signing of legal documents from anywhere in the world using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Alternatively, scanning and emailing documents is also a viable option for those less familiar with technology.

Financing A Non-Resident Property Purchase

Americans and other non-residents can access financing from Canadian lenders in a manner similar to residents, benefiting from Canada’s low mortgage rates. While each lender may have specific requirements, applicants typically need to verify income, credit ratings, bank statements, and provide letters of employment. The main difference for non-resident buyers is that they must make a minimum down payment of at least 35% of the property’s purchase price.
Opening a bank account with a Canadian bank or lending institution can greatly facilitate the real estate purchase process. Funds wired into a Canadian account, whether foreign or US, are easily traceable for money tracking purposes and to verify their legitimacy. Most Canadian lenders require funds to be traceable for up to 90 days and established in the account for at least 30 days before being used for a down payment or closing on a property purchase.


If you’ve obtained a mortgage to purchase the property, it’s mandatory to have insurance coverage against fire loss. However, even without a mortgage, it’s prudent to protect your property from various damages such as flooding, wind, earthquakes, theft, or vandalism. These coverage options become crucial, especially if the property remains unoccupied for over 24 hours or is rented out while you, as a non-resident, are away in the United States or another home country. Ensure that your insurance provider is informed about your specific situation to tailor the coverage to your needs accurately.


When purchasing and owning property in Canada as a non-resident, it’s essential to understand the tax implications, which differ from those for Canadian citizens and taxpayers in BC. Real estate transactions are subject to Provincial Property Transfer Taxes, which vary across regions in the Province. Additionally, Goods and Service Tax may apply to new construction homes. Annual speculation taxes may be levied on individuals who do not pay income tax in BC. Property taxes are also payable annually and vary depending on the local area. While tax exemption and rebate programs exist for Canadian residents and taxpayers in BC, foreign buyers, including Americans, are ineligible. Consultation with a tax professional is recommended before buying or selling a property.
When selling a property, non-residents must report any income or capital gains earned during ownership. Taxable Canadian property includes single-family residential, vacation or recreational property, bare land, and stratified or condominium-type homes. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) mandates that 25% of the purchase price be withheld from the seller, remitted to the CRA, and held until the seller files a Canadian tax return or obtains a Certificate of Compliance. Withholding taxes cover any owed taxes, with any excess refunded to the seller.
Non-residents can also earn income by renting out their Canadian home. However, this income must be reported to the CRA, and taxes must be paid accordingly. Non-residents should consult a tax accountant in Canada or the United States to fully understand their tax implications before earning income or selling real estate in Canada. For further information, contact REALTOR® Tom Wolansky to realize your Canadian real estate ownership goals.

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