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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

26 Aug

Montreal house prices have gone up by 5.8% in last year: report

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Gains in Quebec helped to offset declining prices in Western Canada.

National house prices increased from a year ago by the smallest amount in a decade as Western Canadian declines were offset by gains in Ontario and Quebec, according to the Teranet–National Bank National Composite House Price Index.

The price tracker rose by 0.4 per cent in July compared with the same month in 2018, its lowest uptick since 2009, the study showed.

“That rise was pulled down by the three largest markets of Western Canada,” National Bank senior economist Eric Pinsonneault said in the report, referring to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, which declined by 6.2 per cent, 3.1 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively.

“Advances from a year earlier were larger for Quebec City (1 per cent), Halifax (3.1 per cent), Toronto (3.2 per cent), Hamilton (5.1 per cent), Montreal (5.8 per cent) and Ottawa-Gatineau (6 per cent),” Pinsonneault said.

The gain from June this year to July was 0.7 per cent, less than the 21-year average of 1 per cent and only showing an increase at all because of seasonal pressure, the economist said.

The month-to-month index was held down in July by a 1 per cent decline in Vancouver, its 12th month without a rise and the only metropolitan area surveyed whose run of declines continued last month, Pinsonneault said.

The study showed the other 10 markets of the index were all up on the month: Quebec City 0.1 per cent, Edmonton 0.5 per cent, Victoria 0.6 per cent, Calgary 0.7 per cent, Toronto 1.3 per cent, Hamilton 1.3 per cent, Halifax 1.6 per cent, Montreal 1.7 per cent, Ottawa-Gatineau 2.0 per cent and Winnipeg 2.9 per cent.

The bank’s index is calculated using a repeat sales method of tracking house prices in public land registries of homes that have been sold at least twice.

13 Aug

Montreal real estate: Cloud-based brokerage comes to Quebec

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The company launched in Canada about a year ago and now has over 500 brokers operating in four Canadian provinces (Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan).

A new real estate brokerage launching in Quebec this month is betting that the future of the industry is in the cloud.

Although it’s in the property business, eXp Realty maintains no bricks-and-mortar offices. Brokers under the banner access all the tools of the trade online, including training sessions.

Competitors include, which launched in Toronto and Vancouver earlier this year, and, which is only active in the United States.

According to information on its website, eXp was founded in 2009. In 2013 it had fewer than 280 brokers in the United States, but the company has aggressively expanded since then, growing to 8,000 brokers last year, and surpassing 20,000 in North America in June.

The company launched in Canada about a year ago and now has over 500 brokers operating in four Canadian provinces (Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan).

Leading the charge in this province is Quebec native Donna Dalonzo, a broker with over two decades of experience in real estate. She said eXp Realty recently began operations in Quebec at the end of July.

For Dalonzo, who previously co-owned and operated RE/MAX and Keller Williams franchises in Quebec, not having a bricks-and-mortar office to commute to was a key selling point. She said many brokers prefer to work out of a home office or to rent their own office space, and have come to prefer accessing materials and resources online.

“An agent does not have to go into the office these days,” she said. “We have coaching and training that goes on every single day, and an agent can join the live class from wherever he is in the world.”

The company’s rapid growth in North America and expansion into Canada is part of an ambitious plan to go global. Plans are in the works to launch the brand in three more Canadian provinces, as well as in Australia and the U.K. by the end of the year, Dalonzo said.

“I haven’t seen rapid growth like this ever, and I’ve been in the business 25 years,” she said.

Dalonzo said eXp offers realtors many of the same services and tools they would expect from other agencies, but at a much lower price because the company doesn’t have office expenses.

“In a nutshell, a broker that comes over to eXp pays way lower fees, gets daily live coaching if they want it, they receive stocks, revenue share, and a free website — a complete website, not just a page — and a lead generation system with a CRM (customer relationship management system) attached to it. There’s a lot of value,” Dalonzo said.

Details of the pricing for brokers are outlined on eXp’s broker recruitment website,, which claims that top-producing brokers could save tens of thousands in brokerage fees annually.

Looking at the incentives for brokers, it’s clear that broker-to-broker recruitment is driving much of this growth. When an eXp broker lures someone from another agency to the company, or recruits a new agent, he or she not only receives stock in the company but also earns a percentage of all the revenue earned by the new broker. The company also offers stock to brokers when they make their first transaction each year and hit their annual commission cap.

Like other real estate brokerages, eXp is subject to provincial regulations, which in Quebec are overseen by the OACIQ (the Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec).


6 Aug

A seller’s market: Home prices forecast to keep climbing in Montreal

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

“Houses are selling quickly because there’s not enough of them to supply the demand, so there are a lot of people who are looking to purchase houses but there aren’t that many houses for sale,” says expert.

Expect another year of soaring prices in Montreal’s housing market, which might push buyers to the suburbs of the island, according to the latest real-estate forecast.

In December 2018, it was estimated that the median selling price of properties would increase by three per cent in the Montreal area, but Royal LePage’s house price survey released on Wednesday is estimating a 4.5-per-cent increase.

Dominic St-Pierre, vice-president of Royal LePage in Quebec, says the revision is somewhat conservative as the median selling price for homes might increase even more.

“It’s all about the offer and the demand,” St-Pierre said. “Two years ago, a property would sell within 90 and 100 days of being on the market, but in the last year properties have been selling within 70 to 75 days of being on the market.

“Houses are selling quickly because there’s not enough of them to supply the demand. So there are a lot of people who are looking to purchase houses, but there aren’t that many houses for sale,” St-Pierre said.

Since properties are staying on the market for shorter periods, buyers are jumping all at once with their offers on the same listing, which leaves less room for negotiations, St-Pierre said. He added many buyers are putting in offers above the asking price of a listing, which is their way of ensuring their offer is chosen by the seller.

In other words, the market is extremely competitive for buyers.

“Ten years ago, it was totally the opposite,” St-Pierre said. “There were a lot of houses on the market, but there weren’t that many potential buyers and that’s why prices were remaining pretty much flat.

“The market was pretty strong last year, and it’s hotter this year because the fundamentals are there to make the market really good.”

Extremely low interest rates and a great economy with a low unemployment rate are factors contributing to the hot market, St-Pierre said.

But the main difference between the market this year and last year is the smaller inventory.

“There are almost 20 per cent less properties on the market right now than there was at the same time last year,” he said.

The centre of Montreal is where the market is hottest — Ville-Marie, Outremont, Rosemont, Plateau-Mont-Royal and the Town of Mount Royal. However, the median selling price of properties in the west and the east parts of the island are also increasing.

“The REM is coming to town,” said St-Pierre, referring to the Réseau express métropolitain’s estimated impact on real estate in the suburbs of Montreal.

He said buyers will take into consideration the location of the future REM stations when looking for a property in the suburbs.

Time to sell or buy?

“You should not sell right now because the market is hot or buy because the market is hot,” St-Pierre said. “You should sell or buy if it’s the appropriate time for you to do so.”

If you’re in the market to buy, St-Pierre said you should assess your priorities and secure financing before you start looking.

“And the less conditions you put in the offer, the more chances you have for your offer to go through.”

And if you are thinking about selling a property, it is a seller’s market, St-Pierre added.

Foreign buyers

In April 2018, 3.4 per cent of buyers on the island were foreign buyers and St-Pierre estimates that statistic is now closer to four per cent. St-Pierre said the increase affects the market because the more properties foreign buyers purchase in Montreal, the fewer there will be for locals.

“They usually look at Vancouver and Toronto, but Montreal is becoming a real destination for them, too,” St-Pierre said. “Now Chinese buyers are the first (foreign) demographic that are purchasing homes in Montreal.”

Between January and August 2018, foreign buyers purchased almost 700 properties on the island.

11 Jul

Canadian housing starts surge 25% on coast-to-coast increase

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Chris FournierBloomberg News

Canadian housing starts surged to the highest level in more than a year in June, led by construction of multiple-family dwellings such as condos and row houses.

In another sign of recovery for the nation’s real estate market, builders started work on an annualized 245,657 units last month, a jump of 25 per cent from May, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Tuesday — easily topping the median forecast of 208,600 units in a Bloomberg survey. Multiple unit starts rose 31 per cent on the month to 189,200, CMHC said.

Gains were “evenly spread out across the country,” Jocelyn Paquet, an economist at National Bank Financial in Montreal, wrote in a note to clients, adding all 10 provinces registered increases, something that hasn’t happened since 1996.

The report is in line with other recent data that suggests the nation’s housing sector is stabilizing from a recent slump, easing concern that more expensive markets like Toronto and Vancouver were poised for a major correction. On a quarterly basis, starts rose 20 per cent in the April to June period, rebounding from a 14 per cent decline in the first three months of 2019, meaning residential construction should provide a positive contribution to second-quarter growth, Paquet said.


The increase in national housing starts was “primarily due to higher trending row and apartment starts in urban areas,“ Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said in a statement. Home building was 36 per cent higher in Ontario, and up 12 per cent each in British Columbia and Quebec, the agency reported. It surged 43 per cent in Alberta.

“Robust population growth, strong labour markets, and past gains in pre-construction sales” are supporting starts, according to Rishi Sondhi, an economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. He said, however, that starts are moving gradually lower on a “trend basis,” with the 6-month average well down from its late 2017 peak.

“We anticipate some further moderation, as starts move closer to a more fundamentally supported level of around 200k,” Sondhi said in a note.

In a separate release Tuesday, Statistics Canada reported residential building permits fell 17 per cent in May. More housing data is in the offing, with Statistics Canada’s New Housing Price Index for May out Thursday and Canadian Real Estate Association data on existing home sales due Monday.

–With assistance from Chris Middleton.


3 Jul

No more renters’ paradise: low vacancy rate and hot real estate market mean higher rent

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Denise Roberts, CTV Montreal
Published Saturday, June 29, 2019 6:14PM EDT 
Last Updated Saturday, June 29, 2019 6:23PM EDT

Despite being known for years as a renter’s paradise, Montreal’s housing costs are shooting up and tenants’ rights advocates are warning that’s hurting the city’s most vulnerable people.

As some Montrealers got ready to switch digs on the annual July 1 Moving Day, not all were happy about their new housing situations. Justin Thomas said a dispute with his landlord over Airbnb rentals made it impossible to stay, but finding a new place was also hard.

“We were very lucky that we found a place,” he said. “I was scouring Kijiji and the hour it was posted I responded… We’re going to be paying more than we were paying here. The options in our price range are a lot less.”

Montreal’s vacancy rate is just 1.9 per cent, the lowest in 20 years. Tenants’ rights activist Maxime Roy-Allard said without rent control, landlords are at liberty to raise rent.

“If you’re looking for a place this year, if you want a two-bedroom apartment in Montreal, you have to pay $1,200 and $1,300,” he said. “Not $800 like official numbers are saying.”

Roy-Allard said many low-income families are being priced out of the market and called on the government to step in.

“It’s very hard for low-income tenants because there’s not enough social housing,” he said.

But Hans Brouillette, spokesperson for the Real Estate Owners Corporation of Quebec, said rent increases are due to many factors.

“Taxes increase, the cost of maintenance, renovations, insurance premiums and management… It’s very difficult to have rents as we did have several years ago,” he said.

Brouillette said that the cost of becoming a landlord has also gone up, with the recent boom in Montreal’s real estate market. That means that the renters’ paradise days are over.

“It’s going to change,” he said. “Because as we see with the vacancy rate that’s under two per cent and probably at one per cent in the coming years, things will change. It’s going to be very difficult for tenants.”

7 Jun

Home sales increase for 51st consecutive month in Montreal area

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, June 6, 2019 10:27AM EDT 

Sales of residential properties increased by 6 percent last month in the Montreal area compared to those compiled in May 2018.

The Quebec Association of Real Estate Brokers said this means monthly sales in the metropolitan area have increased for 51 months in a row. In total, 5,067 sales were reported in May 2019.

The year-to-year increase is largely because of strong sales in the suburbs, which increased by 15 percent in Laval and nearby municipalities. They fell one percent on the island of Montreal.

The Quebec Association of Real Estate Brokers adds that the median price of a single-family home has continued to increase and is now $340,000 in the Montreal area.

The median price in the condominium sector rose 2 percent to $ 261,000, while the price of multiplexes jumped 6 percent to $550,000.

23 May

CMHC says Canadians’ debt levels hit record highs at end of last year

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Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:00AM EDT 
Last Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:57AM EDT

TORONTO — Canadian household debt reached a record high at the end of last year even as mortgage activity slowed, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said in a report out Wednesday.

The debt to income ratio of Canadians hit a record high of 178.5 per cent in the fourth quarter last year as mortgage holders continued to take on non-mortgage debt.

The ratio increased as average monthly required payments rose 4.5 per cent compared with a year earlier, while disposable income rose only 2.5 per cent, the agency said.

Debt levels rose as average balances for credit cards and lines of credit grew at a faster pace than in 2017, especially in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto, it said.

Delinquency rates, however, remain low and stable, said CMHC senior market analyst Genevieve Lapointe in the report.

“Despite high debt levels, delinquency rates remain low and the number of highly indebted and more vulnerable consumers has decreased.”

The mortgage delinquency rate came in at 0.3 per cent, up 0.01 of a percentage point, while the share of mortgages held by those with credit scores below 600 continued to trend lower.

The total number of new mortgages issued in the quarter came in at 223,000, down 4.8 per cent from a year earlier.

The slower volume came as the market slowed and average prices fell on slightly higher interest rates, slower economic growth and stricter mortgage regulations.

The new mortgage regulations, which set higher stress-tests for would-be borrowers in an effort to slow the market, have come under criticism in some corners for making real estate less accessible.

The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that Canada should maintain the regulations because household debt remains high, and a gradual slowdown in the housing market is desirable.

The average value of new loans in the quarter was 3.8 per cent lower than a year ago at $264,000 as house prices remain historically elevated, while the average value of all mortgages rose 3.1 per cent to $209,570 in the quarter, said the CMHC.

The agency said debt issues are increasing for older consumers as the share of mortgage holders 55 and older continues to grow. It said mortgage delinquency rates in the 65-and-above age group have been rising and have been the highest of all age grounds since late 2015, while still relatively low.