TORONTO -- Sales of homes worth over $1 million increased in
four major Canadian real estate markets last year, according to a report
released by Sotheby's International Realty on Wednesday.
The Toronto area saw year-over-year sales growth of 38 per
cent, while sales of Vancouver's high-end homes rose by 25 per cent from the
Growing demand and limited supply cut down the number of
days that homes stayed on the market and increased the percentage of homes in
both markets that sold over the asking price, the report said.
Sales grew by a "more modest" 16 per cent in
Calgary and 21 per cent in Montreal, according to the study.
That trend is expected to continue into 2015, with demand to
outstrip supply in the Greater Toronto Area and in Vancouver. Meanwhile, the
high-end real estate markets in Montreal and Calgary are expected to be
balanced, according to the Sotheby's analysis.
The report notes that oil prices, which have fallen by 55
per cent since the summer due to a supply glut, could have an impact on sales
of high-end homes in Calgary.
"We're really watching Calgary very closely,"
Sotheby's president and chief executive Ross McCredie said in an interview.
"There's fear out there in terms of what 2015 is going to look like if oil
stays where it is today."
So far, the number of homes being sold has continued to grow
in Calgary's high-end real estate market. McCredie said while buyers may begin
holding off to get a sense of where oil prices are headed, it's unlikely that
Calgary's real estate market will go flat.
"Definitely in the later part of last year you saw a
lot of people waiting," he said. "A lot of transactions didn't end up
closing or deals fell apart. I think they're all just taking a cautious look at
If oil remains below $50 a barrel, that could spell trouble
for Alberta's real estate sector in general, including in the high-end segment,
"Six months later, if oil's still at $50 or less, I
think you're going to start to see some really concerned people there," he
McCredie also said that foreign investors are snatching up
roughly half of the homes worth $5 million or more in Vancouver and Toronto,
despite a recent report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. that puts the
foreign ownership numbers much lower.
The CHMC report last month found that foreigners own only
2.4 per cent of the condos for rent in Toronto and 2.3 per cent in Vancouver.
While the CHMC report noted that some areas of Vancouver and
Toronto had a higher proportion of foreign condo owners -- as high as 5.8 per
cent in parts of Vancouver and 4.3 per cent in Toronto's centre core -- it's
still much lower than the estimated 50 per cent foreign ownership that McCredie
says exists in the luxury real estate market in those two cities.
"It's not an exact science," McCredie said.
"It's not like you can literally say, 'Well there's X number,' because
what we see a lot is the transaction for foreigners buying Canadian real estate
happens through Canadian subcompanies."
Since many of the sales take place through Canadian
companies owned by foreign individuals or corporations, those transactions
wouldn't be captured in the CMHC data, McCredie said. Sotheby's, which markets
and brokers the sales of luxury homes, is in a better position to gauge the
level of foreign ownership, at least in the over $1 million market.
Some critics have raised concerns that a mass selloff of
foreign-owned properties could crash Canada's real estate market in an economic
But McCredie says strong underlying factors, such as historically
low mortgage rates and high levels of immigration, continue to make Canadian
real estate attractive to foreign buyers.
"They've got a lot of money right now. They see Canada
as a very stable marketplace. They like the story around Canada. They like
coming here. They have friends and family here."