Here’s how to find the right house to flip — and know what sort of renovations will help you command top dollar.
One effective way to make money through real estate investing is to know how to buy and flip houses. Often, this involves buying homes that are priced under-market, such as foreclosures or short sales, renovating them, and then selling them shortly after the fact at a higher price.
But flipping houses isn’t for the faint of heart, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could wind up losing money. With that in mind, here are a few tips for flipping houses that will increase your chances of coming out ahead financially.
1. Find a house to flip in the right location
The purpose of flipping a house is to find a buyer who’s willing to pay a handsome price for your hard work. As such, there’s no sense in buying a home in a stagnant market, because that property is likely to sit for a while once your renovations are done. A better bet? Do your research to find areas where housing is in high demand. Some generally good bets include suburbs of major cities with highly-rated school districts, areas in close proximity to major attractions, or metro areas where housing inventory is generally limited.
2. Make sure you’re buying well below market value
Flipping a home often means sinking thousands upon thousands of dollars into renovations. Even if you’re handy enough to do that work yourself, and have the time for it, supplies and materials cost money. Therefore, make certain the price you’re paying for a home to flip is reasonable, given the amount you’ll need to put into it. This means you may not want to buy a foreclosure at auction, when you’ll often be unable to perform an inspection. A better bet could be a short sale or REO property, where you have a chance to see what you’re getting into.
3. Focus on improvements with the best return on investment
If the home you buy to flip has damaged plumbing and out-of-code electrical work, you’ll clearly need to address those issues if you want to be able to sell it. But once you tackle your “must do” repairs, set priorities on cosmetic enhancements. Typically, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you sink money into kitchens and bathrooms — these are high-profile areas that tend to be important to buyers. At the same time, focus on low-cost improvements that offer a lot of value. For example, paint and carpet are fairly inexpensive but make a huge impact. Refreshing a home’s walls and floors could be a better bet to drive up its purchase price and attract potential buyers than putting in high-end lighting features.
4. Don’t over-improve that property
When you buy a home in disarray, it’s easy to go overboard on renovations to the point where it becomes the nicest property in town. That’s not necessarily what you want. If most homes in the area don’t have marble flooring or ultra-high-end kitchen appliances, follow that trend. You don’t want to improve a home to the point where you have to price it at the very top of its market. Often, buyers will balk at buying the most expensive home on the block because it’s a sign that they may not recoup their investment once the time comes to sell the house .
Flipping a home is a great way to be successful as a real estate investor. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into so you don’t lose money. If you’re not confident, talk to people who have been through the process before. Enlisting the help of a local real estate agent could also help you not only identify the right home to flip, but also invest just the right amount of money into making it marketable.
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Sandy Silva, a 39-year-old sales director at Tulip Retail, a software platform for retail companies, with her seven-year-old son, Xavier.
In 1999, Sandy started dating her soon-to-be husband, Ryan, in Waterloo. She studied economics at Wilfrid Laurier University while he took political science at the University of Waterloo. In 2002, they got engaged, and Sandy’s father gave them an early wedding gift of $75,000. Sandy and Ryan used that money for a down payment on a $289,000 pre-construction two-bedroom condo in CityPlace. In 2005, they got married and moved into the unit.
Within a few years, they were thinking about having children, and being near family became a priority. At the time, they both worked in Toronto: she was a buyer for Sporting Life and he was a supervisor at an automotive manufacturing company. They used their combined savings, along with equity from refinancing their condo, to buy a $470,000 detached house in Brampton, where Sandy’s parents lived. Meanwhile, to make some extra cash, they rented out their CityPlace condo for $2,150 a month.
The value of their properties increased enough, after four years, that they decided to leverage their equity to scoop up more real estate. They knew, from having lived in the Waterloo Region during their college years, that demand exceeded supply in the area. Ryan also had family in Waterloo, which meant someone could take care of their investment properties. So they bought two detached houses in Waterloo for a combined $462,000 and rented them to university students for a total of $4,675 a month. The rental income was enough to pay their mortgage and turn a profit. In 2013, Xavier was born.
Three years later, Sandy and Ryan separated. Ryan sold the two Waterloo homes for a total of $540,000 and split the $78,000 profit with Sandy. He also kept the place in Brampton. Sandy held on to the CityPlace condo and took $250,000 in equity from the Brampton property, which she used to invest in Rent Frock Repeat, a designer dress rental company.
The bottom line
Sandy recently joined Tulip Retail as a sales director. She lives part time at her CityPlace condo, which is now worth $850,000, otherwise she stays at her parents’ place in Brampton with Xavier. And Sandy’s not done investing. She recently bought a one-bedroom condo in Vaughan—which she plans to use as a rental property—for $525,000. Her portfolio is now worth $1.375 million. Before the end of 2020, Sandy would like to buy a place in Brampton.
Source: Toronto Life – BY ALI AMAD | PHOTOGRAPHY BY GIORDANO CIAMPINI |
When a series of tax and mortgage rules was introduced in Canada in 2016 to prevent a housing market bubble, activity slowed down significantly in the years that followed. Given the current circumstances, is it still viable to invest in property?
In a think piece in Macleans, market watcher Romana King said even with fears of a global recession, real estate is still a smart way to invest.
“For investors, the key to making strategically smart decisions is to consider the underlying economic factors that impact your investment,” she said.
King said the housing market could climb out of negative growth forecasts this year. Citing figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association, she said the national sales activity was on target to increase by 5% in 2019 and could expand further by 7.5% in 2020.
“Canada boasts strong population growth, and government budgetary decisions are acting as stimulants for the national housing market, all of which point to a healthy future for Canada’s real estate market,” she said.
Investing in real estate, however, is not without risks. For investors, it is crucial to know some strategies to lessen the potential risks, King said. The first is to be aware of additional debt. Investors must keep an eye on their credit scores and pay bills on time.
“Most investors will require a mortgage to purchase rental real estate. This can alter your debt ratios, which can impact whether or not you get the best mortgage or loan rates. Talk to an advisor before applying for new credit or renewing a current loan,” King said.
Another must-have strategy is budgeting. King said investors need to control how much they spend on maintenance and repairs to ensure that their rental properties are cash-flow positive.
“An investor needs to budget for a contingency fund. If the anticipated monthly rent covers all monthly expenses, including a repair fund, then the property is cash-flow positive, which is fundamental for a good investment,” she said.
Getting insurance could also mitigate the risks of catastrophic events.
“Virtually all insurance policies will cover a catastrophic loss of a building, but as a real estate investor, you must also consider the loss of income due to damage or destruction. A comprehensive rental policy will provide a landlord with income to replace lost rent at fair market value,” she said.
Overall, investors need to treat real estate investing as a business. Citing Edmonton-based investor Jim Yih, King said the key to successful real estate investing is positive cash flow, and not just the purchase price and the potential sale price.
Source; Canadian Real Estate Magazine – by Gerv Tacadena 12 Nov 2019
Making money through cash flow versus capital gains
How do you currently make money? By going to your job every day and collecting a biweekly paycheck in exchange for your work? Most people make money this way, because it’s what they are taught to do by their parents or teachers. Also, it feels like a safe and secure path because it’s the traditional route.
Well, what if I told you that there’s another way? Another path in life that doesn’t require you to trade time for money? A path that allows you to follow your passion, achieve financial freedom, and reach your life goals? Now I’ve piqued your interest, right?
This path is precisely how the rich make their money — and it’s not from an hourly wage or salary. Instead, they make their money from their investments. In fact, the best way to make money is as an investor — but the question I’m often asked is: How do you make that money? If your monthly income as an investor does not come from a job, then where does it come from?
Making Your Money Work for You
If there’s one thing the rich do differently than the poor, it’s that they put their money to work instead of working for their money. What does that mean? Their money isn’t just sitting around in a savings account, accruing little-to-no interest, waiting for a rainy day. Their money is being invested — and delivering a return!
Different investments produce different results. The question is, what results do you want?
There are two primary outcomes an investor invests for:
Investor Income #1: Capital Gains
If you enjoy watching those “fix it up and flip it” TV shows, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of capital games — essentially, it’s the game of buying and selling for a profit.
In real estate, let’s say you buy a single-family house for $100,000. You make some repairs and improvements to the property, and you sell it for $140,000. Your profit is termed “capital gains.” Any time you sell an asset or investment and make money, your profit is capital gains. Of course, there are also capital losses (which occur when you lose money on a sale).
The same concept holds true outside of real estate. If you buy a share of stock for $20, and sell it once the stock price increases to $30, that’s also a capital gains profit.
The Problem with Capital Gains
While there is money to be made through capital gains, it’s also important to note the risks.
First, it’s a formula you have to keep repeating over and over again — you have to keep buying and selling, buying and selling, and buying and selling, or the game and the income stop.
Second, if the real estate market takes a nosedive, “flippers”— people who buy a real estate property and quickly turn around and sell it for a profit, or capital gains — can get caught with inventory they can’t sell.
Before the housing bubble burst in 2008, the mindset for many was that the market would continue to go up. So, when the market reversed and crashed, the properties were no longer worth what the flippers bought them for, and there were no buyers to flip the properties to. This led to a record-breaking number of foreclosures, and people simply walking away from homes.
Most investors today are chasing capital gains in the stock market through stock purchases, mutual funds, and 401(k)s. These investors are hoping and praying the money will be there when they get out. To me, that’s risky.
As long as market prices go up, capital-gains investors win. But when the markets turn down and prices fall — something nobody can predict — capital-gains investors lose. Do you really want that gamble?
Investor Income #2: Cash Flow
Cash flow is realized when you purchase an investment and hold on to it, and every month, quarter, or year that investment returns money to you. Cash-flow investors, unlike capital-gains investors, typically do not want to sell their investments because they want to keep collecting the regular income of cash flow. If you aren’t already familiar with my motto, cash flow is queen!
If you purchase a stock that pays a dividend, then, as long as you own that stock, it will generate money to you in the form of a dividend. That is called cash flow. To cash flow in real estate, you could purchase a single-family house and, instead of fixing it up and selling it, you rent it out. Every month you collect the rent and pay the expenses, including the mortgage. If you bought it at a good price and manage the property well, you will receive a profit, or positive cash flow.
The cash-flow investor is not as concerned as the capital-gains investor whether the markets are up one day or down the next. The cash-flow investor is looking at long-term trends and is not affected by short-term market ups and downs — what a great position to be in!
The Advantage of Cash Flow versus Capital Gains Investing
The best thing about cash flow is that it’s money flowing into your pocket on a continual basis — whether you’re working or not. You could be on the golf course, jet-setting around the world, watching Neflix in your jammies, or building a business, and your money is busy working for you. And generally, cash-flow investing is based on fundamentals that aren’t as susceptible to market swings like capital-gains investments, which means that even in bad times, money still flows into your pockets.
Additionally, cash flow is what is known as passive income, which is the lowest taxed type of income. This is not always the case with capital gains taxes, which vary depending on the type of asset you’ve invested in and how long you’ve owned that asset. In some cases, the taxes can be very high.
New York City’s reputation as one of Earth’s most expensive—and daunting—real estate markets is well-earned, thank you very much: $1.8 million studio apartments? Check. Full-cash offers everywhere you look? Check. Freakishly competitive open houses? You bet. Welcome to the big time—with the prices and killer views to match. It’s little wonder that housing is top of mind for just about all of the nearly 8.4 million folks who call the Center of the Universe home.
Everyone, it seems, is angling to hit the NYC trifecta: a decent space in a good neighborhood at an affordable price. That’s why it’s so important to get a handle of what’s going to be the next big neighborhood, before it explodes in popularity and prices get out of reach.
To find out which neighborhoods in this bellwether, nationally scrutinized market are seeing the biggest price climbs—and the biggest falls—we teamed up with real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Miller Samuel. He compared the median home sale prices in all of New York City’s neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs in 2017 and 2018. We included only the neighborhoods with at least 25 sales in both years.
What we found is a city going through churn, much of it due to the flurry of luxury development in some areas that traditionally have had older—and more affordable—homes. Prices go up, an area gets saturated, the luxury stock sells out, then prices go back down. Rinse and repeat. Meanwhile, the megadevelopment causes people to search out nearby areas that might be cheaper.
It’s the NYC circle of life, and it’s accelerating.
“Developers have left no stone unturned and developed wherever they could,” says Miller. “They went everywhere there was an opportunity. And that caused a lot of price fluctuations, especially in more modestly priced neighborhoods that saw a lot of new, high-end development introduced.”
But New York City hasn’t been immune to national trends. The overall market is slowing throughout all of its five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and “can’t-get-no-respect” Staten Island. The city has been particularly affected by the national tax changes that make it more expensive to own a home in pricier parts of the country, says Miller.
More fun still: This month, New York state’s new mansion tax went into effect, upping the amount of taxes on properties $2 million and up. Sales had been down earlier in the year, but the prospect of giving more to Uncle Sam resulted in a rush of higher-priced home sales. Going forward, the number of sales is expected to fall back down again. Phew … Dramamine, please.
High price tags are pushing many New Yorkers farther out into cheaper communities such as the Bronx, which doesn’t have the hipster cred or water views of Brooklyn. But dollars can stretch way further there.
“A large shift or decline [in a New York neighborhood] is generally not a reflection of weakness,” says Miller. “It’s more of a reflection of … now it’s back to business.”
So which neighborhoods are seeing the largest real estate price spikes? And which expensive communities are getting (a bit) more affordable?
Annual median price increase: 122.7% Median 2018 home price: $612,500
When folks think of the Bronx, the mix of grand Tudors, Georgian Revival estates, and midcentury modern homes and lovely winding streets in suburban Fieldston are rarely what come to mind. Homeowners in this privately owned enclave of tony Riverdale pay property taxes and fees to their property owners association, which maintains the streets and sewers and pays for its own security patrol.
Prices are surging because word has gotten out: Buyers are increasingly drawn to its seductive combo of urban and suburban living. The historically designated community is near top private schools, which include the Horace Mann School and Riverdale Country School. It’s also only steps away from the Hudson River and the 28-acre green oasis of Wave Hill Public Gardens in the northwest swath of the Bronx.
“In Fieldston, you are part of the city but you have the real suburban feeling,” says Chintan Trivedi, a licensed real estate broker with Re/Max In the City. “Here you’re getting a real home, a backyard and a private community.
“For a good house with a larger backyard, a complete renovation, and maybe a pool, you can expect to pay $1.5 million to $2.5 million,” he says. But there are six-bedroom homes listed in the $1 million range. Just tryto get that in Manhattan. (Spoiler: You can’t!)
Annual median price increase: 41.2% Median 2018 home price: $275,000
Just south of Fieldston are the middle-class communities of Kingsbridge and University Heights, where buyers can score deals for a fraction of the price. But the lack of homes for sale and little turnover are causing prices to heat up. And investors are buying up whatever lots and houses they can for new development or rehabbing.
“The Bronx is the new Queens in the sense that there’s been an expansion of demand moving out from Manhattan as consumers search for affordability,” says Miller.
The neighborhood’s become popular with 20- and 30-somethings looking for a reasonably priced community with an urban vibe. Hilly Kingsbridge is filled with century-old, single-family houses and midrise co-op and apartment buildings as well as plenty of shopping, parks, and public transit.
These buyers “are[part of] the new generation that’s learning that real estate should be part of their planning,” says Trivedi. “They want to feel like they’re in Manhattan—a place where they can still go right downstairs and get a smoothie.”
Annual median price increase: 38.7% Median 2018 home price: $1,535,000
Over the past couple of decades, lower Manhattan’s East Village has shed its image as a sketchy, open-air drug market to become a sought-after place known for lively bars, great restaurants, and a defiantly boho vibe—as well as a slew of new, high-priced developments, causing prices to jump. They’re going up everywhere you look.
Annual median price increase: 36.1% Median 2018 home price: $1,226,750
Like the East Village, Prospect Heights has been rapidly gentrifying. Professionals, families, and a few stray hipsters are drawn to its charming rows of stunningly restored early 19th-century, multistory brownstones on tree-lined streets. The neighborhood is near several main subway lines and in close proximity to the 526-acre Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It also borders Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets (and soon the team’s new dynamic duo, superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving).
In recent years, Prospect Heights has become popular with folks priced out of neighboring Park Slope, a community long popular with upper-middle-class families. They gravitate to the brownstones as well as the new high-rises and the used bookstore, artisanal bakeries, and constant stream of new restaurants.
Not surprisingly, the Prospect Heights neighborhood has attracted a slew of developers putting up luxury condo and apartment buildings wherever they can. Those high-end housing developments are skewing the neighborhood’s median prices up to new heights.
This isn’t the kind of place where you’ll find buzzed-about restaurants—you’re more likely to stumble upon a dollar store than a bougie boutique. It’s a more down-to-earth community, populated by old-school Brooklynites, hipsters, as well as Pakistani, Orthodox and Hasidic Jew, Mexican, Chinese, and Latin American immigrant groups.
Annual median price increase: -40.7% Median 2018 home price: $915,500
Once grim downtown Brooklyn has been booming in recent years. It’s become home to a slew of glassy, luxury high-rises. So why are prices in such a vibrant area plummeting?
Well, now there’s a glut of new construction, giving buyers more negotiating power as buildings compete against one another to lure residents. Plus, builders are putting up towers with some smaller, less expensive units. But in NYC, less expensive is relative. Buyers might save themselves a couple hundred thousand on a million-plus-dollar condo.
But many of the condos here, some designed by famous architects, come with just about every amenity imaginable, including sun decks, hot tubs, dog runs, saltwater pools, and even music studios. This two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom abode in a 57-floor building is going for $2,040,000.
Some believe developers overshot their market.
“Developers there created a mountain of homogenous product,” says agent Blumstein with the Corcoran Group. Buildings in the area “were built on the thought that people are demanding amenities. But the old-school, prewar neighborhood vibe is what’s in.”
Annual median price increase: -39.3% Median 2018 home price: $3,200,000
Even many lifelong New Yorkers have never heard of the Civic Center neighborhood in lower Manhattan. The tiny community encompasses City Hall and courthouses as well as some high-rise co-op, condo, and apartment buildings. It’s just west of ultradesirable Tribeca, where prices are sky-high, and just below Chinatown, guaranteeing plenty of good Asian eats.
Prices are down because the wave of development has pretty much played itself out, says Miller. Many of the older brick and limestone, midrise office buildings had been gut-rehabbed and turned into pricey condos. That led to a spike in prices. Now that those units have been bought, the real estate for sale is a mix of lower- and higher-end properties.
It’s “run its course,” says Miller of the wave of development in Civic Center.
Annual median price increase: -30.2% Median 2018 home price: $450,000
Like Civic Center, Javits Center as a neighborhood isn’t very well-known—but that’s likely to change. Named for the sprawling convention center on the west side of Manhattan where the community is located, it’s wedged between trendy Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea and abuts Hudson Yards.
Even nonlocals have probably heard of Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s newest neighborhood, built on a formerly desolate stretch of disused train tracks. It’s a glam (and critics say overly generic) development of ultrahigh-priced condo and rental towers overlooking the Hudson River, complete with its own weird tourist attraction, the beehive-like Vessel. The Javits Center’s proximity to this buzzy development will likely have an impact on sales with prices shooting up.
But in the meantime, prices fell because there simply isn’t much of the first wave of luxury real estate left on the market. Now what’s selling is less expensive, older condos.
That’s likely to change as sales heat up in Hudson Yards.
“Sales [in Hudson Yards] will help to increase values in the surrounding area,” says New York real estate agent Matt Crouteau. The place “was designed so people don’t have to leave.” Ever.
Annual median price increase: -30% Median 2018 home price: $997,500
Just south of the Civic Center is the Financial District, home to Wall Street and the World Trade Center on the tip of Manhattan. Like all of the other neighborhoods on this list, FiDi (as it’s called) experienced a spike in development, then a market saturation.
“It’s not that prices are collapsing,” says Miller. “The early wave of high-end new development drove prices higher. … After that activity cooled, the prices for the neighborhood are less than what they were.”
But there are still plenty of new units to choose from, including this three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo going for $5,300,000. The unit features granite countertops, a waterfall island, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. On the lower side of the spectrum, buyers can snag this studio with plenty of closet space for $480,000.
The neighborhood is home to a few cobblestone streets, giving it an old-world charm, as well as the South Street Seaport, a tourist fave.
Annual median price increase: -29.6% Median 2018 home price: $1,550,000
Thank the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway line for prices falling in the upper portion of the Upper East Side, from about 96th to 110th streets. Developers flooded the neighborhood putting up buildings near the new train extension, which opened in 2017 after being discussed, planned, and replanned for nearly a century. They believed—rightly so—that this least fashionable part of the Upper East Side would become far more desirable thanks to its close proximity to the new train line.
“That’s essentially East Harlem, which has benefited from a significant amount of new development,” says Miller. Now development is mostly over and there’s fewer sales.
“You’re not seeing the same amount of high-end [sales], because there’s not as much new housing being introduced,” he explains.
The Upper East Side/East Harlem now has a mix of sleek towers, brownstones, low-rise brick buildings and townhomes, and apartment and public housing developments. This new one-bedroom, one-bath condo clocking in at just 609 square feet, which is near the new subway line, is on the market for $786,161.
Jamie Golombek: The CRA’s ability to hunt you down over your real estate transactions is better than ever; this tax case looks at what constitutes a flip
If you plan on selling a home or condo that you bought fairly recently, especially if you never actually moved into it, be wary as the tax man will be carefully watching how you report any gain on your tax return, lest it be seen as a “flip” and be fully taxable as income, rather than a half-taxable capital gain.
The Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to hunt you down over your real estate transactions has improved thanks to the recent $50-million boost in funding over five years announced in the 2019 federal budget to help “address tax non-compliance in real estate transactions.” The CRA uses advanced risk assessment tools, analytics and third-party data to detect and “take action” whenever it finds real estate transactions where the parties have failed to pay the required taxes. Specifically, the CRA is focusing on ensuring that taxpayers report all sales of their principal residence on their tax returns, properly report any capital gain derived from a real estate sale where the principal residence tax exemption does not apply, and report money made on real estate “flipping” as 100 per cent taxable income.
But what, exactly, constitutes a real estate flip? That was the subject of a recent Tax Court of Canada decision, released this week.
The case involved a transit operator for the Toronto Transit Commission who, along with his brother, bought and moved into a two-story, three-bedroom townhouse in Vaughan, Ontario, in 1999. His brother contributed toward the initial down payment, lived with him and together they equally shared all household expenses, including the mortgage payments. In 2003, the taxpayer’s brother met the woman who would become his future wife, whom he married in April 2007. She moved into the townhouse and they had a child together in February 2008.
Sometime prior to this, the taxpayer and his brother began discussing going their separate ways. The taxpayer testified that he wanted to sell the townhouse and move to a place that was smaller and closer to work. Indeed, in 2006 he found a smaller place, a two-bedroom condo, which was in the pre-construction phase. The tentative occupancy date of the condo was April 2008, but that date was pushed back several times, ultimately to 2010.
Prior to taking possession of the condo, however, circumstances changed. In December 2008, the brothers’ father passed away while in Jamaica, where he lived together with their mother for about six months each year. Following their father’s death, their mother did not feel safe living alone in Jamaica and in March 2009 she moved into her sons’ townhouse. The taxpayer testified that his brother and his family shared the master bedroom, while the taxpayer and their mother each occupied one of the remaining two bedrooms. This living situation didn’t last long and the taxpayer refinanced the mortgage on the townhouse in order to buy out his brother’s share of the property, enabling him and his family to move out.
In August 2010, the taxpayer took possession of the condo and immediately arranged to list it for sale, realizing that it would be too small for both he and his mother. No one lived in the condo in the interim. He sold it in October 2010 resulting in a net gain of $13,412, which the taxpayer reported as a capital gain, taxable at 50 per cent, on his 2010 tax return. The CRA reassessed him, finding that the $13,412 should have been reported as fully taxable income and slapped him with gross negligence penalties.
The common question of whether a gain from the sale of real estate is on account of income or on account of capital always comes down to the underlying facts. The courts will look to the surrounding circumstances and, perhaps most importantly, the taxpayer’s intention.
The judge reviewed the facts in light of the four factors previously enumerated by the Supreme Court of Canada by which these types of cases are decided: the taxpayer’s intention, whether the taxpayer was engaged in any way in the real estate industry, the nature and use of the property sold and the extent to which the property was financed.
The taxpayer testified that he purchased the condo with the full intention of living in it after his brother moved out of their shared townhouse; however, when his father died and his mother wished to return to Canada to live full-time, the taxpayer “changed his plans to move so that his mother could live with him at (the townhouse), which was a larger space.” He testified that since he could not afford to own both homes, he listed and sold the condo shortly after assuming title. As he testified, if not for his father’s death and his mother’s return to Canada, he would have carried out his plan to sell the townhouse and live in the condo as his primary residence.
The judge concluded that the taxpayer’s intention with respect to the condo was indeed to live in it as his primary residence. He had no secondary intention of putting the condo up for resale at the time of purchase.
The judge therefore concluded that the sale of the condo was properly reported as a capital gain and ordered the CRA to reassess on that basis and cancel the gross negligence penalties.
One final note is warranted: while justice was ultimately done and the taxpayer prevailed, it actually took him nine years and three separate visits to court to get relief. The CRA originally reassessed his 2010 capital gain as income back in 2014. The taxpayer filed a Notice of Objection to oppose the reassessment, which was reconfirmed by the CRA in January 2016. The taxpayer then had 90 days to appeal the CRA’s reassessment to the Tax Court. For a variety of reasons, he missed that deadline and ended up in Tax Court seeking an extension of the deadline to file an appeal. The Tax Court denied his request for an extension. He then went to the Federal Court of Appeal which, in June 2017, reversed the lower court’s decision and allowed an extension of time to appeal to Tax Court, which heard the case in March 2019 and released its decision this week.
A Federal Court judge has approved at least one court order that will require a British Columbia developer to turn over information to tax officials about people who bought and flipped condo units before or during construction.
And several similar applications are under way, reflecting the federal government’s efforts to crack down on potential tax cheating in the presale market.
A July 25 Federal Court order requires the developers of the Residences at West, a Vancouver condo project at 1738 Manitoba St., to provide the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with documents related to presale flips, also known as assignments, in the building, including proof of payments and correspondence between the developers and people who buy the assignments.
That order followed a June 29 application from the federal government.
In September, the Minister of National Revenue applied for court orders related to One Pacific, a Concord Pacific project, and Telus Gardens, a downtown project developed by Westbank Corp.
Both developers said they would comply with the request for documents.
“Customer information is protected by privacy laws and is not at the developer’s liberty to disclose unless ordered by the Court,” Matt Meehan, senior vice-president of planning at Concord Pacific Developments Inc., said in an e-mail.
“To protect our customers’ information and ensure any release will be compliant with the law, we have asked CRA to obtain a court order, which we will adhere to.”
In an e-mailed statement, Westbank said it would comply with the minister’s application.
The CRA is investigating potential tax cheating in the presale market.
Developers presell units in projects to obtain bank financing. Those sales agreements can be “assigned,” or flipped, to somebody else before the building is finished.
A unit may be flipped several times before a project is completed. But only the transfer of legal title from the developer to the final purchaser is registered with the B.C. land title office.
That means the CRA does not know the identities of any buyer but the final one, and has no way to check whether the others have paid applicable taxes on those transactions.
The provincial government last May announced new regulations designed to limit assigning: Sellers have to consent to the transfer of the contracts, and any resulting profit must go to the original seller. But those new rules apply to single-family homes, not condo presales.
As the CRA heads to court to obtain data on presale buyers and sellers, some observers say the provincial government could cool speculation in the presale market – and support federal tax-enforcement efforts – by changing reporting requirements.
Presale purchasers may include people who are not Canadian residents and whose profit from flipping a presale contract would be subject to a federal withholding tax, said Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer.
He used the example of a person from Iran who buys a presale contract for $100,000 and sells it for $125,000 a month later. Under the Income Tax Act, that profit – because it went to someone who is not a tax resident of Canada – would likely be subject to a 25 per cent withholding tax, he said.
“If nobody knows that you’re from Iran and not a tax resident, and nobody withholds the money, you just walked off with $6,000 tax-free,” he said.
If information on buyers’ identities were routinely provided, the agency could more readily check to determine if, for example, anyone was claiming the principal-residence exemption on more than one property, Mr. Kurland said.
Asked if the CRA would like the province to make changes such as requiring routine disclosure of the identities of presale buyers, agency spokesman Bradley Alvarez said in an e-mail that, “any additional information, including that obtained from other governments and third parties, enhances the CRA’s ability to detect non-compliance.”
The CRA has found some flips are reported incorrectly or not at all and “the CRA welcomes any endeavours to obtain any information that can assist the Agency in detecting non-compliance.”
Developers support the CRA’s goals, but have to take privacy regulations into account, said Anne McMullin, president of the Urban Development Institute.
“It’s not the developers not wanting to hand over information, it’s, ‘Let’s do this safely,’ because of privacy laws,” Ms. McMullin said.
The NDP, which came to power after the May election, had said while in opposition that the Liberals were not doing enough to curb speculation in B.C. real estate.
In its election campaign platform, the NDP promised to set up a multi-agency task force to fight tax fraud and money laundering in the B.C. real estate marketplace.
Finance Minister Carole James was not available for an interview.
In a statement, her office said the province is monitoring the federal government’s court action, and tax fraud is “something that is taken very seriously.”
The B.C. government is working on a comprehensive housing strategy, and any policy or legislative changes will be made public once that strategy is developed, the statement added.