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11 Mar

Luxury home prices fall in Vancouver and Calgary, rise in other big cities

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Jonathan Forani

Jonathan Writerd

Published Tuesday, February 25, 2020 2:32PM EST

TORONTO — Luxury homes in Vancouver and Calgary keep getting cheaper — relatively speaking.

Still out of reach for most Canadians, high-end houses and apartments in both Western Canadian cities saw drops in their median prices over a recent 12-month period, according to a new report from Royal LePage. Meanwhile, markets in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal saw modest increases.

“The last couple years have been trending in a pretty dramatic reduction of value across the board,” said Jason Soprovich, a Royal LePage Sussex realtor in Vancouver

Luxury houses dipped 6.7 per cent to under $5.4 million in the B.C. city, while condo prices decreased 4.4 per cent to just over $2.4 million. Prices in the Vancouver market in general have decreased over the last year as well, according to reports. But still, the city is one of the most expensive in the world. In January, it was ranked the second least affordable housing market on the planet in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

Luxury properties are generally considered to be three times the cost of an average home, but the figure can be four times higher in the major cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. While the latter two cities have seen declines in luxury prices, most other markets have been on the rise. Nationally, there has been a widening gap between supply and demand — too many buyers and too few homes have pushed prices higher and higher in many regions.

For luxury homeowners in declining markets, the price drops represent large sums of wealth. Soprovich has been seeing more luxury homes sell at what he called “anomaly drops,” sale prices as much as 40 per cent under the listing price. For owners whose homes are their “largest asset base,” these drops represent a decline in wealth.

The news isn’t bad for everyone. People looking to “upsize” or move into the luxury market have a unique opportunity. “It’s an excellent time for buyers to reinvest,” said Soprovich.

In Calgary, the drops in luxury home costs were less dramatic, with houses falling just $15,000 from the previous 12-month period to $1.95 million and condos dropping 2 per cent to $887,000.

Royal LePage Benchmark realtor John Hripko considers the dip to be “negligible” in the Alberta city. He would characterize the luxury housing market to be relatively “flat” in Calgary, but economic concerns could be playing into the lack of growth. The city hasn’t seen a “seller’s market,” in which scarce supply means prices can stay high, since 2013.

“This marketplace will turn around,” he said, noting that it likely won’t see substantial improvement for a couple more years and until the city diversifies away from the energy sector. “The overall economic scenario in Alberta and Calgary has to improve dramatically.”

Until then, sellers who can’t afford to wait could be taking major losses. “When they have to suck it up, they suck it up big,” he said. Recently, he knows of a seller who bought their home for $3.7 million and sold it for $2.9 million.

In other major cities, median luxury home prices are steadily rising. Montreal saw the highest price increase year-over-year, with a jump of more than $145,000 from 2018 to 2019 (8.5 per cent). The median price in Toronto rose 1.2 per cent to just over $3.6 million, while Ottawa surged 2.7 per cent to nearly $1.85 million.

Affordable housing remains an issue for generations of Canadians. In 2019, a report from non-profit Generation Squeeze found that home prices are nearly double what millennials in Canada can afford. It now takes much longer to save for a new home, the report said. It takes the average millennial 13 years to save a 20 per cent down payment on an average priced home, while it took their parents just five years around 1976.

5 Feb

What can a homebuyer get for $500,000 across Canada right now?

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Although property here may seem like a screaming deal when seen through Vancouver eyes, half a million doesn’t go as far as it used to in Montreal.

I should have known better than to ask a Vancouver realtor how much half a million could get you in Lotusland these days.

“It’s pretty easy,” laughed MacDonald Realty broker Dan Scarrow. “It’s a one-bedroom condo. That’s what you can get for $500,000.”

To find a detached home at that price point, he said, a buyer would likely be driving an hour or more outside the city.

Scarrow, who ran a MacDonald Realty office in Shanghai for a while, said that although prices seem expensive to locals — especially since salaries have not gone up in pace with real estate prices — the reality is that Vancouver is no longer a “local” market; it is international.

“Real estate in global, more international cities, until about 10 to 15 years ago, was locally driven. Since then it has become a more global market, with people around the world comparing cities to other cities,” Scarrow said. “Locals always look at it in terms of the previous year’s pricing and they can’t make heads or tails of where these prices are coming from.”

The influx of cash from outside Canada has buoyed prices in Vancouver and Toronto beyond what many locals can afford, he said, yet international buyers keep coming because they have been to places that are much more expensive, he said.

To Scarrow, it looks like it may be Montreal’s turn now.

Scarrow’s office is now repping Montreal condo projects like Victoria-sur-le-Parc, YUL and One Square Phillips to buyers in Vancouver and Toronto as well as Shanghai. Real estate agents who work closely with condo investors have been flocking to Vancouver launch parties for Montreal condo projects like these, he said. The buyers they’re working with include both foreigners with property in Vancouver as well as bargain-hunting locals.

“We have a pretty mature investor clientele in Vancouver that are used to investing in presale condos, and I guess that market is just sort of starting in Montreal right now,” he said.

Although property here may seem like a screaming deal when seen through Vancouver eyes, half a million doesn’t go as far as it used to in Montreal. A Centris search reveals the options: lots of two-bedroom condos near downtown, a handyman special in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, plexes in the Sud-Ouest, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve or Ahuntsic.

Side note: did you know, for $65,000 you could be the proud owner of a parking spot in Golden Square Mile’s YUL condo building?


Homeowners have the option to take advantage of real estate gains by cashing out and moving to a less-expensive neighbourhood — and there are still many affordable suburban areas around here. But for first-time buyers, seeing prices rise so quickly can be scary. I asked Scarrow how first-time buyers in Vancouver have coped. The answer? They simply learn to live with less.

“People are willing to live in a condo or townhouse for longer than they would in other markets. It’s a lifestyle choice,” Scarrow said. “In Vancouver you’re close to a lot of amenities, so you don’t go on vacation as much. You see more lifestyle spending in more expensive markets.”

And if all else fails, you can do what I did: move. I hear Nova Scotia real estate is cheap…

24 Jan

Montreal home sales jump 26 per cent in December, median price up nine per cent

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian Press Staff
Published Wednesday, January 8, 2020 10:50AM EST

MONTREAL — The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers says Montreal area home sales hit a record volume for December after jumping 26 per cent from a year earlier.

The association says there were 3,533 residential sales for the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area with gains in all six main areas.

Julie Saucier, CEO of the association, says the strong momentum at the end of 2019 suggests a dynamic start to the new year.

Sales jumped even as the number of active listings was down 24 per cent in December from a year earlier to 14,440, for the 51st consecutive month of declines.

Higher sales with less availability helped push up the median price of a single-family home by nine per cent to $355,000, a similar price rise to past three months. The median price of a condo rose five per cent from a year earlier to $285,000.

For the year, single-family home sales were up seven per cent and the median price up six per cent, while condo sales were up 14 per cent and prices up five per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2020.

7 Jan

Urban sprawl continuing across Greater Montreal: CMM

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Published Tuesday, January 7, 2020 7:41AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 7, 2020 7:44AM EST

MONTREAL — Urban sprawl has intensified on the outskirts of Montreal in recent years, according to data compiled by the Observatoire Grand Montréal.

The Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM) notes that the number of people commuting from outside the city centre is increasing.

About 100,000 commuters from municipalities bordering the Greater Montreal region head downtown to work every day – 94 per cent of which use their cars almost exclusively as their preferred mode of transportation.

Nearly 30 of these outlying municipalities now have a commuting rate to Montreal of over 40 per cent, while 10 municipalities are over 50 per cent.

The Observatoire Grand Montréal report adds that, in addition to increased commuting times, municipalities bordering the city prefer to build single-family homes, which take up a lot of room.

Not only does this make the urban territory larger, but it diminishes agricultural land and natural spaces, the report states.

On average, since 2015, Greater Montreal has lost about 7,000 people a year to its outlying municipalities – about 4,000 with cities located in the north and 3,000 to the south.

The Montreal Metropolitan Community brings together 82 municipalities with four million inhabitants.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2020.

9 Dec

Housing prices in Montreal continue to soar, number of properties for sale drops sharply

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian PressStaff
Published Friday, December 6, 2019 10:03AM EST

MONTREAL — Housing prices in the Greater Montreal area continue to soar, while the number of residential properties for sale is sinking fast.

The Association professionnelle des courtiers immobiliers du Québec (APCIQ) on Friday reported that 4,084 residential sales were completed in November, up 13 per cent compared to November 2018.

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Co-property sales were up 21 per cent year over year, single-family home sales were up 11 per cent, and sales of residences with two to five units were up four per cent.

Single family homes accounted for 2,115 of the residential real-estate transactions in November.

Four out of the six major geographical sectors of the Montreal area saw significant residential sales increases in November:


  •  Vaudreuil-Soulanges (up 48 per cent)
  •  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (up 41 per cent)
  •  Laval (up 21 per cent)
  •  South Shore (up 16 per cent).
  •  North Shore (up nine per cent)
  •  Montreal Island (up seven per cent)


The median price for single-family homes sold in the Greater Montreal Area in November was $350,000, six per cent higher than a year ago, a slightly lower increase than those registered in September and October of this year.


The median price for co-properties hit $290,000 in November, up nine per cent year over year, while the median price for plexes was up 11 per cent to $579,500.

APCIQ, which represents some 12,700 real-estate agents and brokers, also noted Friday that the supply of residential properties in November dropped for the 50th month in a row. The number of homes listed on the centralized Centris real-estate listings system last month was 16,310, down 22 per cent year over year, the biggest monthly year-over-year drop since 2002.

The amount of time homes remain on the market is also shrinking considerably in all sectors, APCIQ reports, making the market favourable for sellers of all residential types.


This report by the Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2019.


18 Nov

CHMC reports annual pace of housing starts slowed to 201,973 in October

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian Press
Published Friday, November 8, 2019 11:31AM EST

OTTAWA — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the annual pace of housing starts fell in October as the pace of new construction of apartment, townhouse, condo and other types of multiple-unit housing projects slowed.

The national housing agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts last month slowed to 201,973 units in October compared with 221,135 in September.

Economists had expected an annual pace of 221,200 for October, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The decline came as the pace of urban starts fell 9.0 per cent. Urban starts of multiple-unit housing projects fell 12.5 per cent to 139,518 units in October, while starts of single-detached urban homes rose 2.4 per cent to 49,786 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12,669 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 218,598 in October, down from 223,276 in September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2019

6 Nov

Condos are luring the ultra-rich to downtown Montreal

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

These luxury condos are convincing wealthy buyers to trade in their multimillion-dollar mansions for a new kind of lifestyle.

Cranes and orange cones dominate downtown Montreal. The city is in the midst of remaking itself — tearing up pothole-filled roads and replacing crumbling concrete overpasses, adding segments to the REM lines that will snake through the suburbs, building bridges, and adding to the growing forest of condo towers.

Condos used to be considered a runner-up option for buyers who couldn’t afford a house, but times have changed. A new breed of buildings is luring ultra-wealthy buyers to trade in their multimillion-dollar mansions for a new kind of lifestyle — which, in some cases, costs even more than owning a comparable detached home.

According to Don Kottick, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, luxury condos are growing in appeal for many buyers shopping for top-tier real estate.

“Montreal is very vibrant. A couple of years ago, condos weren’t that attractive, and now they’ve become a critical piece of the buying equation,” Kottick said. “There’s been a lot of learning that has happened. The whole lifestyle of a condo has changed.”

Pretty much every condo mega-project now boasts one or more roomy penthouses with a swanky rooftop patio and the option for a private pool. Yet when it comes to true luxury, realtor Liza Kaufman said, many of the most discerning buyers prefer smaller, more exclusive projects.

Unlike most condo towers, which are topped by one or more spacious penthouses but have smaller, less expensive units stacked on the bottom, ultra-luxe condos like those found in the Four Seasons, the Ritz and other tony buildings have no entry-level option. That’s a major part of the appeal, Kaufman said.

“People like exclusivity and they don’t want too much action and activity. They want peace and quiet where they live,” she said. “The carrying cost for properties like that are much higher, but these are people who can afford it. If you can afford it, you want to buy it. You want something rare and exclusive.”

The new breed of luxury condos offers a sleek, clutter-free look that Kaufman said appeals to many sellers ready to downsize from their more traditional wood-and-stone mansions.

Paired with the promise of a lower-maintenance, worry-free property that will be secure when homeowners are away travelling, high-end condos are looking more appealing than they used to for her multimillion-dollar clients, she said.

For Yves Gougoux, a client of Kaufman, the idea of downsizing from his $6-million Westmount estate into a condo held little appeal at first. But, unexpectedly, he fell in love with one. Up went the for-sale sign.

The project that seduced Gougoux to make the move from Westmount to Golden Square Mile is the Percy Robertson, a converted former monastery with just nine condominium units and five townhomes. He expects to move in next spring.

Gougoux said the Percy Robertson reminded him of the type of elegant old-meets-new flats popular in London or Manhattan.

“When I saw the opportunity, I jumped on it, because it’s a unique project with a flavour and taste we don’t usually see in Montreal. It’s a landmark in Montreal. These buildings are quite rare,” Gougoux said. “In my mind I could not see myself going into a tall tower that is populated very densely. A tower is a tower is a tower. You have a view, but that’s pretty much all you have.”


15 Oct

Home sales in September up 15.5 per cent from year ago: CREA

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, October 15, 2019 9:45AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:50PM EDT

OTTAWA — Home sales in Canada’s big cities continued a rebound in September with a 15.5 per cent increase in sales compared with a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

The association said Tuesday that sales compared with a year ago were up in Canada’s large urban markets, including B.C.’s Lower Mainland, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton-Burlington, Ottawa and Montreal, while data showed markets were still in balanced territory.

“Home sales activity and prices are improving after having weakened significantly in a number of housing markets,” said CREA chief economist Gregory Klump in a statement.

“How long the current rebound continues depends on economic growth, which is being subdued by trade and business investment uncertainties.”

On a month-over-month basis, home sales through the Canadian Multiple Listing Service were up 0.6 per cent in September.

Higher home sales in September was a continuation of a rebound from a six-year low hit in February. Sales started to pick up in March after mortgage rates started to fall, said BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic.

“The winning streak for Canadian existing home sales continued in September…that marks an impressive seventh consecutive monthly gain, leaving the level of activity comfortably above the 10-year average.”

The five-year fixed mortgage rate has declined by about one percentage point to slightly below 2.5 per cent, a drop Kavcic said was significant from an affordability perspective but not likely to drop much further for now.

The increase in sales, combined with a small decline in new supply, pushed the sales-to-new listings ratio to 61.3 per cent, well above the long-term average of 53.6 per cent to favour sellers, but still considered balanced.

The home inventory, which shows how long it would take to liquidate inventories at current sales levels, also shifted to further favour sellers while still remaining in what’s considered a balanced market.

The national average price for homes sold in September 2019 was about $515,500, up 5.3 per cent from the same month last year.

Excluding the Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto regions, the average price was less than $397,000 and amounting to a year-over-year gain of 3.3 per cent

The national benchmark home price index, designed to exclude homes on the high and low end of the market to more represent a typical home, had a year over year price increase of a more modest 1.3 per cent.

Benchmark home prices in Greater Vancouver were down the most from a year ago after a 7.3 per cent decline. The Greater Toronto area saw the benchmark price climb five per cent, while Ottawa saw the biggest gains reported at 9.6 per cent from a year ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2019.


8 Oct

Montreal nixes sixth condo tower at former Children’s Hospital site

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Mayor Valérie Plante puts her foot down after the developer drops plans for 180 social housing units.

Montreal is pulling the plug on a sixth tower on the former site of the Montreal Children’s Hospital because the developer has refused to include social housing.

“At a certain point, you have to put your pants on,” Mayor Valérie Plante told reporters at city hall on Monday, before the start of the monthly council meeting.

The project, approved in 2017, was supposed to include 180 social housing units, but the developer has now dropped those from the plan, which now calls only for luxury condos, she said.

That’s why Plante announced her administration would table a notice of motion for a bylaw to amend the 2017 bylaw authorizing the project. The amendment, rescinding permission to build the sixth tower, will be adopted at October’s council meeting.

Plante said her administration had tried to discuss the need for social housing on the site with developer Philip Kerub of High-Rise Montreal, but was rebuffed.

She said she’s still open to discussion, in case the developer changes his mind.

In council, the mayor said that “a social contract” had been made with the developer to include units for people on low incomes.

Social housing is “cruelly, cruelly lacking” in the western part of downtown, she noted.

“The developer does not want to honour the social contract, does not want to honour his obligations,” Plante said.

The inclusion of social housing was the reason why the city swept aside a recommendation by Montreal’s public-consultation bureau — the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) — not to allow a sixth tower on the site, Plante said. Since that condition hasn’t been respected, the deal’s off, she said.

Redevelopment project for the former Montreal Children’s Hospital site. The sixth tower, to be built just east of the old nurses’ residence, will have its authorization rescinded by the city of Montreal. FAHEY AND ASSOCIATES

Once the city rescinds approval for the 20-storey tower on René Lévesque Blvd. W., east of the only surviving hospital building on the site, the zoning will revert to what it was before. That means the developer will only have the right to build a four-storey structure there, she said.

Corey Gulkin, a communications officer with the Peter-McGill Community Council, welcomed the news. “We’re not giving up yet on having social housing on the site and it’s heartening to see that the mayor is not giving up either,” she said.

In July, community organizations staged a demonstration at a Ville-Marie borough council meeting to demand affordable housing on the site.

On June 12, 2017, the city modified its zoning plan to allow construction of the controversial commercial-residential complex between René-Lévesque Blvd., Atwater Ave., Tupper St. and Sussex St.

The project was also supposed to include a school, but that was dropped from the plan in 2018 when developer Devimco said talks had not advanced and it needed to break ground on the Square Children’s development.

Residents were also bitterly disappointed by the small amount of space reserved as a park, after years of promises from the city that a sizeable park would be created.

In its 2017 report, the OCPM said the high-rise project was far too dense for the site, should include more green space and should be modified so its architecture would harmonize better with its surroundings.

The Montreal Gazette was unable to reach the developer.

3 Sep

Here’s what you need to know about the First-time Home Buyer Incentive

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Sarah Turnbull , Staff
Published Monday, September 2, 2019 10:04AM EDT 

The government’s First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) comes into effect today.

The program, aimed at making it easier for young people to buy their first home by lowering new buyers’ monthly mortgage payments.

According to the program, which was introduced by the Liberals in their 2019 budget, the federal government will absorb five per cent of monthly mortgage payments on existing homes and 10 per cent on new builds.


But there are a few notable conditions to watch out for, which have come under fire since the plan’s March announcement. Ottawa-based mortgage broker Frank Napolitano spoke with to help lay it all out.

First off, to be considered eligible, applicants must not have owned a house in the last four years – exceptions will be made for those in a “breakdown of marriage or common-law partnership.”

Secondly, a homebuyers’ combined annual household income must be lower than $120,000 before taxes and deductions. As Napolitano says, that qualifier strikes out most residents from Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area.

“The max income is $120,000 that can be used for this program, therefore to qualify for a mortgage – if you have no debt – it’s typically four, maybe four and a quarter times your annual gross income so there’s not a lot of properties in the $500,000 range or less. Maximum property value under this program would be $560,000.”

To that end, the FTHBI is more likely to benefit residents in less crowded markets, like smaller urban centres in Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies, or out east where you can still find a home below the price cap.

Additionally, as Napolitano points out, first-time buyers will still have to cough up default insurance under the plan.

“We’ve had customers call us and say ‘we’ll put the 10 per cent down and then we’ll buy a new build and the government will give us 10 per cent so we don’t have to pay default insurance.’ False. Regardless of the down payment, this program only works if you have default insurance.”

Default insurance protects financial institutions from default – the premium gets tacked on to your mortgage payments.

There are obvious paybacks for the government. While they provide an interest-free loan, they also secure shared equity in your home as it goes through gains and losses. This means the amount paid back to the government will fluctuate based on how much your home increases or decreases in value.

The loan must also be paid back under three circumstances:

  • If you re-finance your home;
  • if you sell your home;
  • or at the end of 25 years.

Minister of Families and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos – who also oversees the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – is responsible for the rollout of the program. In an announcement last Wednesday to informally launch the FTHBI, the minister touted the program for empowering the middle class.

“Thanks to mortgage payments that are more affordable, many families will have hundreds of dollars more each month in their pockets – money to spend on things like healthy food, sports activities for their kids, or even save for the future,” said Duclos in the statement.

The program is expected to serve about 100,000 Canadian homebuyers. Follow the chart below to determine whether you should.

First time home buyers