What New Buyers in BC Need to Know About Property Transfer Tax
A brief overview of PTT, available exemptions, and a closer look at the First Time Home Buyer’s Program which aims to support new buyers, but misses the mark due to outdated price limits.
BC is sarcastically said to stand for: Bring Cash and the Property Transfer Tax slapped onto the sale price of homes in BC is yet another financial barrier for new home buyers to enter the housing market and reinforce this moniker. In this blog, we will introduce you to BC’s Property Transfer Tax and a list of exemptions you may qualify for. We will go into more detail on the New Home Buyer’s Program and explain who and what properties qualify for this outdated exemption. To learn more about the other exemptions you may qualify for, we encourage you to contact us or explore the BC government website. Forewarned is forearmed when buying a home in BC as these seemingly small details can become looming obstacles if overlooked.
An Overview of BC’s Property Transfer Tax (PTT)
Property Transfer Tax is applied to all homes purchased in BC and is calculated based on the fair market value of your property on the day of registration. Unless you qualify for an exemption, you or your lawyer must file a property tax return at the time of completion. Don’t confuse Property Transfer Tax for your annual property taxes which are paid yearly to your municipality.
How much is Property Transfer Tax?
- 1% of fair market value up to and including $200,000
- 2% of the fair market value greater than $200,000 and up to and including $2,000,0000
- 3% of fair market value greater than $2,000,0000
- An additional 2% tax will be added to the residential property value over 3,000,0000
If you are wondering about atypical properties such as mixed-use or farmland, you can refer to this detailed reference page provided by the BC Government.
How do I Calculate my Property Transfer Tax?
Use our Property Transfer Tax Calculator to determine your property transfer tax now.
Are there any Property Transfer Tax exemptions?
Yes! There is no need to panic just yet, take a big breath and read through just a few of the Property Transfer Tax exemptions you may qualify for below and find even more on the BC government site.
- First time home buyer’s program
- Newly built home exemption
- Family exemptions
- Transfer to a registered charity exemption
- Transfer following bankruptcy exemption
- Transfer to Status Indians and Indian Bands exemption
- Transfer to or from trust companies exemption
In this blog, we will only elaborate on the First Time Home Buyer’s Program, for more information on other available Property Transfer Tax exemptions head to the BC government website.
First Time Home Buyer’s Program has Good Intentions but Falls Short
In 2012, at 28 years of age, Erin Chambers purchased her first condo in Vancouver for $290,000 and was able to use the First Time Home Buyer’s Program to be exempt from paying the Property Transfer Tax. In February of 2022 Chambers then sold the same condo for $610,000 to upgrade to a two-bedroom condo. While the First Time Home Buyer’s Program helped Chambers get into the market, the sad reality is the next buyers of her one-bedroom condo were unable to benefit from the same program. Prices have risen dramatically and the price threshold has not, the First Time Home Buyer’s Program has all but expired in the current BC real estate market.
What is the First Time Home Buyer’s Program (FTHB)?
The First Time Home Buyer’s Program (FTHB) is the BC Government’s lack-lustre attempt to pave an easier path for new buyers to get into the housing market. Many of the new buyers we work with already need to pay CMHC mortgage loan insurance if their down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. Usually, they are also paying high rent while trying to save for a down payment. Add on a Property Transfer Tax and it can be enough to not only take a new buyer’s breath away but their ability to afford a home entirely. The First Time Home Buyer’s program is a much-needed exemption from the Property Transfer Tax, but the outdated low price threshold eliminates most buyers.
To qualify for the FTHB’s program, you must:
- Be a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident
- Have lived in BC for more than 1 year before purchasing
- Have filed at least 2 income tax returns as a BC resident in the last 6 taxation years prior to purchase
- Have never owned a property anywhere in the world, ever
- Have never received the First Time Home Buyer’s Program exemption or refund
To qualify for the FTHB’s program, your property must:
- Have a fair market value of $500,000 or less
- Be used as a principal residence
- Be 1.24 acres or smaller
To qualify for a partial exemption, your property must:
- Have a fair market value under $525,000
- Be larger than 0.5 hectares
- Have another building on the property aside from the principal residence
While the government’s intentions are well-meaning, the reality is that the First Time Home Buyer’s Program is utterly useless to most BC homebuyers. The most limiting factor of this exemption is that the property you are purchasing must have a fair market value of $500,000 or less. In most of BC, that amount will get you a condo at best.
In December of 2021, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported that the benchmark price of
- a detached home was $1,870,000
- an apartment home was $752,800
- an attached home was $990,300
If you think moving away from the city will help, think again. The benchmark prices in the Comox Valley (North Vancouver island) in November 2021 also render the FTHB program equally useless;
- a detached home was $785, 300
- a townhome was $579, 500!
The BC First Time Home Buyer’s Program is long overdue an increase. In 2008 the qualification price limit was $425,000 and in 2017 we saw the last increase to a mere $500,000. Considering that since 2017 benchmark home prices in Greater Vancouver have increased by $304,400 for detached homes or $201,200 for townhomes, a $500,000 price threshold is simply cruel.
The First Time Home Buyer’s Program Demands Unrealistic Flexibility
The First Time Home Buyer’s Program is intended to support new buyers like Kristine Krynitzki, who at 39 years of age set out to find her forever home. Krynitzki and her fiance were heart-set on a detached home after decades of renting noisy suites that lacked privacy. In September 2021, based on their finances we gave them a $500,000 budget to work with hoping they would find something just under and be able to qualify for the First Time Home Buyer’s Program. Krynitzki’s office was located in downtown Vancouver so she fully expected to endure a lengthy commute to find the space she craved. So she started her search in Chilliwack, a 1.5-hour commute to work. What she didn’t expect was that she would be pushed even further from Vancouver to the town of Hope, BC and that she still would not be able to find a home under the $500,000 threshold. While Krynitzki says she has been pleasantly surprised with how much she loves her new town, we can’t help but wonder how far a new buyer must be willing to travel to qualify for the First Time Home Buyer’s Program?
Whether you’re shopping for your very first home, your retirement condo, or your third investment property, if you’re buying in BC remember to set some cash aside for your Property Transfer Tax. While the First Time Home Buyer Program isn’t likely to be much help, there is a long list of other exemptions that may help you sidestep this fee.