Web traffic on sites about Canadian real estate jumped after the unexpected election of Donald Trump. Meanwhile in Canada, the cost of owning an unoccupied home just jumped. Also, tech CEOs had mixed reactions to the election news, and Zune may be dead but it’s not forgotten.
Are Americans worried about a President Donald Trump really going to move to Canada? It’s a theme that pops up after many political reversals in the U.S., but this time there’s some evidence to suggest people are at least thinking about it.
The Canadian Real Estate Association says it’s seen nearly three times more web traffic than normal from Americans over the last few days.
Last November, it saw about 10,400 Americans per day searching for homes in Canada. Over the last few days, the average surged to 27,700, with a further spike on Wednesday morning.
RE/MAX Canada, the country’s top real estate brokerage, said it saw its web traffic from Americans quadruple since the election results began pouring in.
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Zillow said it saw a 1,200 percent spike in interest among people Googling “Zillow Canada” after the election results came in Tuesday night (even though Zillow doesn’t operate in Canada). Washington state and Seattle were among the leading sources of queries.
Similarly, interest in the Google search term “Canada homes for sale” surged 1,011 percent after Trump opened his lead over challenger Hillary Clinton. The Canadian immigration site crashed on Tuesday night due to a surge in traffic.
In Pierce County, one Gig Harbor realtor, Joe Sanchez & Associates, even posted an ad in the local paper that read: “Moving to Canada? We’ll sell your house!” above pictures of the candidates. Dennis Quinn, who’s in marketing for the firm, said they haven’t had any takers yet. How come?
“Very few are actually going to make that move, or everyone is out this morning shopping for hockey skates so they will ‘blend’ with the locals once they get to Canada,” he joked.
But don’t expect any mass migration, said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia.
“Seattleites searching for homes in Canada equates at most to window shopping,” McLaughlin said. “We think the burgeoning interest in Canadian real estate from American buyers is more of a gut reaction to shocked left-leaning voters, and not any real indication that Americans are likely to expatriate themselves to the Great White North.”
Comparing house prices across the border is tricky because the United States uses median home price figures while Canada uses the average, which tends to produce a higher number because super-pricey luxury listings push up the average.
Looking closer to Seattle, British Columbia home prices now average $436,000 in U.S. dollars — and $644,000 USD in Vancouver, though some parts of the city have topped a million dollars. The average King County home is $597,000 (the median is $496,000).
“I have heard and know of people who are disillusioned and talking about coming to Canada,” said Leigh Freeman, a cross-border broker based in Vancouver, B.C. for Macdonald Realty, and in Bellingham for Windermere Real Estate. He said the exchange rate, currently favorable to Americans, might help with those considering making the move.
Of course, it will be a while before there is any proof of Americans moving to Canada: The process can take months.
Trulia’s McLaughlin said while Seattleites may be more likely than other Americans to actually follow through with such a move, the number of people doing so would be too small to have a real impact on local housing prices.
What’s more, there is already evidence that interest in the real estate market is moving in the opposite direction — from Canada to Seattle. After British Columbia enacted a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers in the Vancouver metro area in July, the Seattle area has seen a spike in interest from overseas home seekers.
Of course, this isn’t the first time people have talked about moving to Canada, and sometimes they do follow through. Freeman points to some towns just over the Washington border, including Nelson, which still has a lot of Americans who came over during the Vietnam War.
“A lot of draft dodgers moved to western B.C.,” Freeman said.
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Vacant in Vancouver? That’ll cost you
Speaking of Vancouver, Bloomberg reports that if you want to keep your million-dollar luxury pad there empty, you’ll need to pay C$10,000 ($7,450) annually in extra taxes. Lie about it? That’ll be C$10,000 a day in fines.
Canada’s most-expensive property market, suffering from a near-zero supply of rental homes, announced the details of a new tax aimed at prodding absentee landlords into making their properties available for lease. The empty-home tax will take effect by Jan. 1 and will be calculated at 1 percent of the property’s assessed value, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters at City Hall.
“Vancouver is in a rental-housing crisis,” Robertson said. “The city won’t sit on the sidelines while over 20,000 empty and under-occupied properties hold back homes from renters.”
The measure is among efforts to make housing more accessible and affordable in Vancouver, ranked the world’s third-most-livable city, and has drawn attention for its sky-high prices fomented by global money flows. Public scrutiny has focused on absentee landlords, particularly from overseas, who are accused of sitting on investment properties where windows remain dark throughout the year.
In August, the provincial government imposed a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers, and last month the federal government tightened mortgage insurance eligibility requirements. The city of Vancouver has focused its efforts on the rental market, where vacancies can get scooped up within hours while bidding wars drive up leasing costs.
Robertson estimated that more than 10,800 homes are empty and 10,000 more are not fully used. The city expects that instituting the tax will boost the supply of homes available for lease to the point that the vacancy rate increases to about 3.5 percent from 0.6 percent currently.
The city will allow certain exemptions to ensure that most homeowners who are Vancouver residents, including those who spend their winters at nearby ski resorts, won’t be affected. Principal homes, as well as properties that are rented for at least six months of the year on 30-day minimum leases, won’t be taxed.
Homeowners will self-declare whether their property is a principal residence or a secondary investment. People who pay the new tax late will face a 5 percent penalty, while those who don’t declare will automatically be taxed. Falsely declaring that a home is occupied or that it’s a principal residence could lead to a maximum fine of C$10,000 a day for as long as the offense continues, according to the mayor’s office.
— Bloomberg News
Tech CEOs react to election of Trump
Reaction among technology CEOs to Donald Trump’s election was mostly muted, although one or two departed from the standard congratulations to voice concerns:
Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos: “Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump. I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.”
Expedia Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi: “As tech leaders we have to admit that we are hugely disconnected with our nation. I don’t like it but have to recognize the issue.”
LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner: “I’m not certain what a Trump administration will mean for the country. If Brexit and this process have taught me anything, it’s how unpredictable seemingly predictable outcomes have become. What I am certain about is my value system…that no matter what our political leanings, our race, religion, gender, creed, or country of origin, we treat each other with respect, with compassion, and above all else, we take care of one another.”
Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella: “We witnessed the democratic process in action here in the US. The results are of importance around the world, and I know that interest is shared among Microsoft employees. We congratulate the president-elect, and look forward to working with all those elected.”
RealNetworks Chief Executive Rob Glaser: “The most disastrous night in American political history in my adult lifetime.”
T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere: “Congrats to the new POTUS, @realDonaldTrump. Let’s see what an out of the box, non-typical, non-politician can do for America!”
Zillow Executive Chairman Rich Barton: “Don’t panic.”
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Song’s over, but Zune lingers on
In some corners of the Internet, the Zune still lives.
Microsoft’s now-defunct line of music players was launched 10 years ago this week with promotional concerts around the country, a marketing blitz, and promises that this was only the first step in a growing line of entertainment-focused Microsoft devices and software.
“It’s just the beginning of this vision,” co-founder Bill Gates told revelers at Seattle’s Westlake Park.
The vision didn’t pan out. The Zune was no iPod killer, despite hardware that impressed reviewers. The timing was unfortunate — just seven months before the iPhone kicked off the modern smartphone era and rendered standalone MP3 players obsolete.
Microsoft pulled the plug on Zune hardware in 2011, and support for the software was turned off last year. The foray into MP3 players is widely viewed as one of Microsoft’s most prominent blunders during a decade spent chasing Apple’s success in consumer hardware.
But five years after the last Zune rolled off the assembly line, some fans still carry a torch for the device.
Evidence of that lives on Reddit, the online message board community for groups uniting around virtually any niche interest. Look there and you’ll find the home of a small but enthusiastic crew of Zune aficionados.
Gadget fans are a tribal set, prone to clustering around communities that use a certain app, or products built by Apple or Google or Microsoft. The louder among them take to social media to defend their selection as if choice of gadget or software is part of a grand competition.
Much of the activity on the Zune appreciation site is related to troubleshooting technical issues. Others swap success stories of hunting for deals on secondhand Zunes (“Got a 30GB for $20!”). One superfan touted his collection of more than 60 Zunes.
There are more personal tales, too, including one user’s lament posted last month.
“A piece of me is gone,” the user wrote of his Zune, which, at the age of seven, will no longer power on. “He lived as he played, loud and with clarity. Rest in peace.”
Another user, working on some unspecified research, asked the community if the Zune was still an active brand.
“The Zune brand is no more,” someone replied.
Some might beg to differ, Zune fan.
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