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Asian Heritage Month: Moving forward by looking back

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Every year, May marks Asian Heritage Month in North America. Here in Canada, it’s an opportunity to learn and reflect on the contributions of Asian Canadians throughout the country.

We’ve come a long way towards diversity, equity and inclusion since the days of Japanese internment during WWII and the Komagata Maru incident, but there are still racist stereotypes, cultural tropes and common misconceptions that exist in some shape or form.

The real estate industry is no exception. 


Anti-Asian sentiment and Metro Vancouver’s housing crisis


In 2018, an Asian realtor in British Columbia received a racist, threatening letter that blamed Asians for Metro Vancouver’s housing crisis.

As was reported by CTV News, the “open letter to all Asian realtors” was sent to Winnie Wu’s realty office in Coquitlam:



This anti-Asian sentiment only seemed to worsen during the pandemic.

Sonia Wang, managing broker of 1NE Collective Realty, has lived in Canada since 1998 when she first moved here after studying in the United States. She shares her experience of what it was actually like during this turbulent time: 

“Something that was surprising to some was that during the pandemic, even with the travel restrictions, the market was going crazier than ever,” says Wang. “We saw it was mostly local Canadians that were buying and not actually foreigners, because no foreigners could even travel.”

Ryan Zhang, managing broker at YouLive Realty, provides some more insight into the current post-pandemic market.

“We use an online tool to summarize and categorize our data,” Zhang explains. “We see that many of our clients are newcomers; they’re either looking for a home for themselves or they’re seeking a career in real estate to help them get knowledge on the industry. About 70 to 80 per cent of our clientele are buying a home for themselves.”


Misconception: ‘Asian doesn’t mean it’s only a certain group or ethnic background’


With Statistics Canada projecting that immigrants from Asia will make up between 55.7 and 57.9 percent of all immigrants by 2036, now is a critical time for the industry to deconstruct the misrepresentations of what being an Asian realtor, home buyer or seller means in our country.

“Super rich influencers you’ve seen, even some of them are realtors, on social media floating about their luxury lifestyle, cocktail parties, supercar shows … these are bad influences,” notes Zhang. “That’s not like most of the people we work with — the majority are hardworking people.”

Another misconception? Being an Asian realtor means being of Chinese descent.

Both Zhang and Wang have diverse teams at their brokerages, with members from the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and India — as well as Canadian-born realtors.

“It actually brings out different kinds of perspectives, which is a good thing for us to learn (from) because of cultural diversity,” shares Wang. “Asian doesn’t mean it’s only a certain group or ethnic background.”


Part of the solution is bridging the gap between cultures


With the theme of Asian Heritage Month in 2024 as “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation”, along with the already highly-competitive nature of Vancouver’s market, there are opportunities for all real estate professionals to elevate the industry for the better.

Zhang believes that part of the solution is bridging the gap between different cultures. 

“What I’ve observed with some Asian cultures is it’s more well-rounded, whereas Western culture seems very straightforward. So we kind of have to bridge them in the middle and find out the best way to help our immigrant clients settle into their homes.”

Wang also looks hopefully to future opportunities for Asian professionals in real estate, especially other women.

“Back in Asia, there were so many limitations that were put on female professionals — the glass ceiling, things like that,” she adds. “But Canadian culture is more open and accepting of diversity, either ethnic background-wise or gender-wise. So you have that capacity to explore and do things that you want.”


As an Asian-Canadian woman myself (my maiden name being Barroso, of Filipino descent), women in positions of power, like Wang, serve to give me both joy for the current state of the real estate industry as well as hope for what the future can hold for Asian-Canadian community members, whether immigrated to or born in Canada. 


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