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Contract Assignments: A Whole New Level of Home Buyer Competition

Aug. 18, 2015
2 mins
A young woman works on her laptop in a mixed workspace

With the high demand for luxury homes – priced in excess of $1 million – in Vancouver and Toronto, there are now stories emerging of people buying houses, then flipping them to subsequent buyers before they even take possession. Here’s how it works.

A Quicker Flipper Upper

Usually, when we think of someone “flipping” a house to make a profit, we imagine someone buying a property, doing some renovations, then putting it back on the market and trying to sell it for more than they paid for and invested in the property. But in the luxury home markets, some of the “winners” of bidding wars for high-end homes have then transferred the sale on to other interested parties without ever taking possession.

The practice, known as a “contract assignment” (where the contract of sale is assigned to a third party) is more common in the condo market where buyers make minimal deposits on low-priced pre-construction developments, then hold on to them until closer to the completion date in the hopes that the value of the condo will rise so they can sell the unit(s) for a profit without ever setting foot in them. It doesn’t always work: in some cases, condo projects get cancelled before completion due to financial or zoning issues, but investors still get their deposit back.

Feeding a High-Priced Buying Frenzy

But with bidding wars driving some sale prices hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking – like this three-bedroom bungalow in Toronto that sold for more than $420,000 over asking - some buyers figure they can make a quick profit by putting their winning bid back on the market.

According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, there were 219 homes that sold for $4 million or more in Vancouver in the first half of 2015, a 71% increase over the previous year.

At those prices, it’s conceivable that someone who really wants a house would be willing to pay an additional 10 or 20 grand or more to a less-invested buyer to take it off their hands.

Given that the title hasn’t actually changed hands yet, there will be no additional land transfer taxes or real estate fees on such a deal. The only cost would be legal fees to draw up the contract. Royal Pacific Realty Group, based in Vancouver, has posted a sample of what such a contract would like on its website.

Would you buy or sell a home via contract assignment?  

Allan Britnell

Toronto-based freelancer Allan Britnell is an award-winning writer with nearly 20 years’ experience. He covers a diverse range of topics, including DIY and professional home renovation projects, nature and the environment, small business, personal finance, and family and health issues. He is also the managing editor of Renovation Contractor, the publication written for small- and medium-sized contracting and custom home building companies. He lives in Toronto with his wife, two daughters, and their dog, Oscar.

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