Canada has it all: Natural beauty, a pristine environment, sizzling culture, political stability, strong employment, educational excellence, an active outdoor lifestyle, and a currency exchange that welcomes the international real estate investor.
As we look ahead to next year’s Luxury Defined, the definitive global report on prime real estate worldwide, Christie’s International Real Estate checked in for an interim report from our top performing market of 2014.
Toronto not only retains its lofty standing, incredibly, the luxury property market is even hotter than it was a year ago. Last year, Toronto’s 31 Days on Market, the time it takes to sell a luxury home, was half of second place San Francisco’s 71 days. The Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate in Toronto, Chestnut Park, recently noted that in 2015 the number has dropped lower – to 26.
Fueling these sales is the keen interest from Chinese buyers and an appreciation of hard assets, such as art and real estate, as a reliable investment option over the long term, especially when markets are volatile, as they have been in China. These buyers, however, are not strictly investors but rather are moving their families and living here, drawn by the top-notch schools, the clean air, and sense of safety. Vancouver and Toronto are top destinations for the Chinese buyer.
In fact, Toronto leads the other major Canadian markets with a 55% leap in million dollar sales for the first half of the year and a 52% jump in sales over $2 million. More recently, in September, Toronto posted 32 sales in excess of $3 million, which is up from 25 the year prior. Chestnut Park reports that most of the transactions at this price point sold over asking price. The city is on track to pass the mark of 100,000 total sales for the year, which would shatter the previous record of 93,000 set in 2007.
Toronto did not have Canada’s top sale. That honor went to Vancouver when Mailin Chen, a businessman from Mainland, China, who already resided in Canada and operates a company there, purchased an estate for $51 million. That said, the average price of a freehold detached home in Toronto was $1 million in September, which is an historic breakthrough at that price point.
“I would say, however, that $3 million and up defines the luxury market in this category,” says Chris Kapches, President of Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “For condos, I would put the luxury price point at $2 million. This is an attractive alternative to freehold in that the entry point is more accessible and while the demand is high, with multiple offers on most transactions, the city's inventory is growing to satisfy that demand.”
As the city itself becomes less affordable, the outlying areas are seeing renewed interest from buyers. Not only are prices more attractive, Toronto’s Land Transfer Tax, which would translate to $100,000 on a $2 million home, simply goes away on transactions outside the city limit. Chestnut Park reports an explosion in Collingwood and Hamilton where people are purchasing homes for a third of the price and starting businesses and professional practices in retail space that is less expensive as well. One result: in October a home in Hamilton listed at $599,000 sold for $810,000 after 17 offers.
Notable markets also experiencing this ripple effect are Montreal. Our Affiliate, Profusion Realty, has noticed that foreign investors, including a growing number of Chinese buyers, are coming to see the value proposition of to purchasing in a city as vibrant as Toronto or Vancouver but at a fraction of the cost.
In Victoria, sales are also up due to a phenomenon we call “Lifestyle Arbitrage”. This is when sellers opt to cash out of their current residence and relocate to a lower-priced home while maintaining their present lifestyle with considerably more money in the bank. Our Affiliate in Victoria, Newport Realty, is experiencing this a citizens of Vancouver choose to take advantage of the city’s real estate boom, international demand and rising prices then relocate to Victoria. As a result, prices is this bucolic corner of Canada are going up, including the record sale of $7.3 million achieved by our Affiliate over the summer. This is the highest price posted in the past eight years.
The drop in oil prices has hit Calgary hardest in Canada with sales down 28% in the $1 million-plus range and down 38% in the $2 million-plus range. Our Affiliate, Semrau & Associates, reports, however, that some affluent buyers are purchasing teardown properties near the city center and building custom homes. As with any white-hot real estate market, speculations of an impeding bubble burst in Canadian real estate have proven irresistible to journalists around the world. That said, in the foreseeable future, there appears to be no change in the forces driving the market to these heights. The low value of the Canadian dollar creates a value proposition for international investors. The country is projecting (and preparing for) an increased number of foreigners in 2015 – 285,000, to be precise, compared with approximately 260,000 in 2014. And as political unrest continues around the globe, more people are likely to agree with a United Nations report naming Canada one of the world’s top places to live.
Top Listings from our Canadian Affiliates: