Why Vancouver brokers struggle to grow immigrant client numbers

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Vancouver mortgage brokers who focus on immigrant buyers may disagree, but a recent survey by Angus Reid suggests two things are limiting their revenue horizons: prices and perceived West Coast aloofness.

“The findings reinforce Vancouver’s reputation as a relatively cold and unfriendly city, which was highlighted in a survey released by the Vancouver Foundation in June,” said the Vancouver Sun of the poll commissioned by HSBC. “It found that a third of Metro residents find it difficult to make friends, most of us don’t know our neighbours or participate in community activities and over a third of us have no close friends outside our ethnic group.”

While not directly related to the housing market, the survey could prove useful for mortgage professionals trying to understand the challenges of growing their immigrant client base in the same way many Toronto brokers have.

The Angus Reid online survey relies on the experiences and perceptions of 607 adult immigrants who moved to Canada in the last 10 year. Pollsters found that 73 per cent of respondents considered Vancouver a welcoming city, placing it behind Montreal (89 per cent), Calgary and Edmonton (84 per cent) and Toronto (79 per cent).

"Moving to a new country is an exciting eperience on many levels," said Betty Miao, executive vice preisdent for retail and wealth management at HSBC. "But it can be a chellenge if you haven't pepared for your arrival in advance."

When asked what shocked them about moving to Canada, 56 per cent of respondents cited “expensive real estate.” Half of immigrants said they were surprise by the extent to which their education and training was undervalued, while 42 per cent cited high prices in general. Still, 22 per cent were surprised at the affordability of healthcare.

“The cost and scarcity of rental housing is often a surprise to the new immigrant and they find their savings draining more quickly than anticipated,”  Laurie Sing, manager of the Immigration Services of B.C.’s mentoring connections program, said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. “This increases the pressure they feel to find a job quickly, in a market where a job search of six months or more is commonplace even for locals with years of experience in Canada.”

Immigrants often say they come to Canada “so their children can have a better life and more opportunities,” said Sing.

The survey also found:

  • South Asians mostly to move to Canada for their child’s education
  • Chinese were more likely to find language and making friends a challenge and are put off by the cost of living
  • Filipinos are most likely to move to Canada for family and financial reasons and most likely to recommend to friends to move to Canada as well
  • Immigrants from African and the Caribbean were most likely to immigrate for professional reasons and to find weather a challenge. They cited education and the ability to retain cultural heritage as features they like about Canada

At the top of the like list are:

  • Quality of life (78 per cent)
  • Natural Beauty and environment (73 per cent)
  • People (42 per cent)
  • Education (39 per cent)
  • Ability to keep cultural heritage (39 per cent)

Top pet peeves were:

  • Cost of living (51 per cent)
  • Employment opportunities (33 per cent)
  • Housing cost (23 per cent)
  • Economic opportunities (20 per cent)

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