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Canada's New Hot Housing
Market Is ... Montreal

Thursday, June 8, 2017

By Daniel Tencer, HuffPost Canada

With Toronto’s housing market showing signs of cooling, and Vancouver’s days of heady price increases now well behind it, a new top dog is emerging in Canada’s real estate market: Montreal.

The city posted record-high sales in May, jumping 15% from the same month a year ago, according to data released Tuesday by the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board. That's the highest volume the city has seen since before the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

“This was an exceptional month of May on Montreal’s residential real estate market,” Mathieu Cousineau, president of the GMREB Board of Directors, said in a statement.

Single-family home prices have risen six% in the past year. While that sounds like peanuts compared to the double-digit price growth seen recently in Toronto, it’s quite a change for Montreal, whose housing market had been treading water for several years.

As recently as January, the city’s real estate board was predicting 1% price growth for the coming year. It now expects a 6% pace.

After the Ontario government introduced a 15% foreign buyers’ tax for the Greater Toronto Area, many observers started wondering if Montreal, long left out of Canada’s real estate frenzy, would be the next target for foreign buyers.

The city had already been attracting wealthy migrants from Europe, particularly France, which has been experiencing an exodus of millionaires.

But so far, there’s little evidence of a rush of Asian investors seeking to avoid the foreign buyer taxes in Toronto and Vancouver.

Montreal saw “a bit more” Asian investors following Vancouver’s introduction of the tax last year, CMHC Montreal analyst David L’Heureux told Bloomberg last week.

But “at the moment I don’t think it has a significant impact on demand,” he said.

Whether or not that changes with Toronto’s foreign buyer tax, introduced in April, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, strong job growth and increasing migrant numbers are behind Montreal's accelerating market, Paul Cardinal of the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards said in a report last month.

All the same, Montreal remains considerably more affordable than Toronto or Vancouver. The median price of a single-family home rose to $319,000 in May, a fraction of the $1.1-million average price recorded last month in Toronto, and the $1.56-million benchmark price in Vancouver.

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