2018 Year End Top-Tier Report


According to a report released today by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada (sothebysrealty.ca), Eastern Canada’s major metropolitan areas led the nation in top-tier real estate performance in 2018, as Western Canadian markets buckled under pressure from local stressors ranging from taxation and regulatory interventions in Vancouver, to strained economic conditions in Calgary. Buoyed by population gains and steady economies, sales over $1 million in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) strengthened over the course of 2018, while Montreal’s luxury real estate market posted new records. Vancouver and Calgary’s top-tier real estate markets retreated further into buyers’ market territory, as excess supply overtook consumer demand. Across the country, markets continued to face headwinds of rising interest rates and tightened mortgage guidelines.

Despite transient market disruptions in the months following the April 2017 implementation of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan, and again in the first quarter of 2018 with the introduction of tighter mortgage lending rules, the GTA’s top-tier real estate market posted modest gains by the end of 2018. Market progress is not reflected in year-over-year comparisons of 2018 and 2017 sales figures, which incorporate contrasts between uncharacteristically soft sales in the first quarter of 2018, and record-setting performance in the first quarter of 2017. Instead, recent trends are better reflected in the market trajectory of the last half of 2018.

Annual GTA residential real estate sales over $1 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) reflected a 31% decline from 2017 levels in 2018, while sales over $4 million decreased 40%. 2018 sales over $1 million in the City of Toronto reflected a 19% contraction from 2017, as sales over $4 million fell 39%.

However, GTA top-tier performance gained traction in the latter half of 2018. $1 million-plus sales in the last half of 2018 increased 4% from the same period in 2017, though sales over $4 million were down 20%. In the City of Toronto, $1 million-plus and $4 million-plus sales in the last half of 2018 saw a 5% increase and a 10% decrease respectively. Overall, 21% of GTA real estate sold over $1 million in the last half of 2018 did so at above list price, while a significant 35% did so in the City of Toronto.

The City of Montreal’s top-tier real estate market continued its multi-year upswing and surpassed sales records set in 2017, but reflected plateauing momentum. 2018 residential real estate sales over $1 million increased 20% over year-over-year. $4 million-plus luxury sales pulled back slightly from record 12 properties sold in 2017, to 11 units sold over $4 million in 2018. In a city that boasted population gains as well as Canada’s fastest growing metropolitan economy, top-tier real estate activity continued to be driven by local housing demand.

In the City of Vancouver, a barrage of government and regulatory interventions compounded by gradual mortgage rate hikes took their toll on top-tier real estate sales. While $1 million-plus residential real estate sales had previously contracted a nominal 5% in 2017 from 2016 levels, activity fell sharply across all residential housing types in 2018. Overall, $1 million-plus residential real estate sales decreased 26% in 2018 from 2017, while luxury sales over $4 million fell 49% year-over-year. Slowing momentum was reflected in deeper year-over-year declines in the latter half of 2018, when sales over $1 million and over $4 million dropped 36% and 51% respectively. A climate of uncertainty thwarted the absorption of rising top-tier housing supply as homebuyers withdrew from the market in hopes of a deeper correction, while demotivated sellers hesitated to price listings appropriately for market conditions.

Calgary’s uneven economic recovery stalled in the last quarter of the year as crude oil prices fell to record lows, setting back incremental progress made in the city’s top-tier real estate market. While residential real estate sales over $1 million had recovered 11% in 2017 over 2016, $1 million-plus real estate sales fell 10% in 2018 from 2017 levels.

“Canada’s top-tier real estate market performance was dominated by Eastern Canada’s two largest metropolitan areas in 2017. Toronto’s top-tier real estate market emerged as a bastion of resilience, due in large part to the region’s stable economy and rapidly expanding population. Consumer psychology bounced back from temporary setbacks brought on by policy changes, rising rates and tighter lending guidelines,” says Brad Henderson, President & CEO, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “Montreal’s record-setting momentum continued in 2018, but there are clear indications that the market is now settling in at healthy levels.”

According to Henderson, both the Vancouver and Calgary top-tier real estate markets remain vulnerable to further declines as inventory builds, albeit for different reasons. However, there are signals that prospective buyers and sellers who remained on the sidelines in 2018 are prepared to re-engage in market activity in the coming months.


 VANCOUVER

A battery of policy interventions, as well as incremental mortgage rate hikes took their toll on consumer activity in the City of Vancouver’s top-tier real estate market in 2018. While 2017 $1 million-plus home sales had contracted a nominal 5% from 2016 levels, top-tier sales fell sharply across all housing types in 2018. Overall, $1 million-plus residential real estate sales in Vancouver (condominiums, attached and single family homes) decreased 26% to 3,151 units sold in 2018. The $4 million-plus luxury market experienced the most significant downturn, with sales falling 49% from 2017 to 195 units sold in 2018. Sales activity in the latter half of 2018 experienced deeper year-over-year decline: sales over $1 million and sales over $4 million contracted 36% and 51% respectively.

Vancouver’s top-tier single family home market registered its third consecutive year of declining sales activity. Following a 16% reduction in single family home sales over $1 million in 2016 from 2015 levels, and another 20% decrease in sales in 2017 from 2016, $1 million-plus sales fell 35% to 1,505 homes sold in 2018. The most significant adjustment was seen in the market for luxury single family homes over $4 million: 152 homes sold over $4 million in 2018, a 55% year-over-year decrease.

The city’s top-tier condominium and attached home markets, which had remained robust in 2016 and 2017, succumbed to market stressors as 2018 progressed. While the top-tier condo market continued to outperform the attached and single family home markets, condo sales over $1 million decelerated 14% to 1,107 units sold in 2018. Luxury condo sales over $4 million held ground in 2018, with a 3% increase to 39 units sold in 2018. The city’s chronic shortfall of top-tier attached home supply limited sales volume in 2018, despite consumer demand. Sales of $1 million-plus attached homes decreased 22% from 2017 to 539 homes sold in 2018, while luxury attached home sales over $4 million fell from eight units sold in 2017 to four units sold in 2018.

While local demand for conventional and luxury housing is being supported by a population growth rate that exceeds the national average, a build-up of $1 million-plus real estate supply is expected to place downward pressure on top-tier Vancouver real estate prices into the preliminary months of 2019.


CALGARY

Sales activity and housing prices in the City of Calgary’s top-tier real estate market trended downward throughout 2018, as consumer confidence faltered with the province’s uneven economic recovery. Although Alberta’s economy expanded in line with provincial budget targets through the first three quarters of the year, conditions deteriorated in the fourth quarter as Alberta crude oil prices plummeted to record lows.

Within Calgary, an above-national average unemployment rate of 7.9%, ongoing job insecurity, and rising barriers to home ownership brought on by stricter mortgage regulations and rising interest rates weighed on conventional and luxury market performance. Overall, Calgary’s $1 million-plus residential real estate sales fell 10% to 611 homes (condominiums, attached and single family homes) sold in 2018, compared to 677 units sold in 2017. Top-tier inventory increased as homeowners sought to exit the market in face of soft consumer demand.

Challenging 2018 market conditions set back progress made in 2017, when overall residential real estate sales over $1 million rose 11% over 2016. $1 million-plus single family homes saw a 9% decline in sales volume to 539 homes sold in 2018, while attached home sales over $1 million fell 39% to 43 homes sold. Calgary’s top-tier condominium market saw more unit sales in 2018 as motivated sellers exited the market, but remained significantly oversupplied. 29 $1 million-plus condos sold in Calgary in 2018, up 142% from the 12 units sold in 2017.

As Calgary enters its third year of economic recovery in 2019, weaker oil prices, persistent access issues to global oil markets, and downgraded forecasts for investments, exports and GDP are contributing to a somber outlook. The city’s conventional and luxury real estate markets continue to favour buyers in the year ahead.


GREATER TORONTO AREA

The ascent of the GTA (Durham, Halton, Peel, Toronto and York) top-tier real estate market was dramatic and unprecedented in the three years leading up to 2018. $1 million-plus residential real estate sales (condominiums, attached and single family homes) surged 48% in 2015 over 2014, 77% in 2016 over 2015, then crested at historic highs with an additional uptick of 5% from 2016 to 2017.

2018 year-over-year sales volume comparisons misrepresent actual market performance given the inclusion of first quarter figures. The year’s top-tier market trends are better reflected in results from the latter half of 2018. While annual GTA residential real estate sales over $1 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) were down 31% from 2017 levels to 14,255 properties sold in 2018, $1 million-plus sales in the last half of the year increased 4% compared to the last half of 2017. Consumer confidence and activity in the City of Toronto’s top-tier market resurged more quickly. 6,562 properties (condominiums, attached and single family homes) sold over $1 million in the City of Toronto in 2018, a decline of 19% from the previous year; however, $1 million-plus sales in the last half of 2018 experienced a 5% year-over-year gain in sales volume.

GTA top-tier condominium sales in the second half of 2018 reflected a strengthening market. 1,259 units sold over $1 million in 2018 compared to 1,296 units sold in 2017, a mild 3% decline. Between July 1 and December 31, 2018, GTA condominium sales over $1 million increased 12% year-over-year to 601 units sold, while eight units sold over $4 million compared to six units sold the year prior. Overall, 24% of GTA condos sold over $1 million and 13% of condos sold over $4 million did so above list price in the last half of 2018. During this time, sales of condominiums over $1 million in the City of Toronto were up 11% to 530 units sold, while luxury condo sales over $4 million were up 60% year-over-year to eight units sold.

The attached home market remained one of the most active top-tier segments in the GTA. While annual sales over $1 million decreased 26% year-over-year to 1,513 units sold, in the last half of 2018, overwhelming demand resulted in rapid sales velocity and a significant 54% of $1 million-plus attached homes and 25% of $4 million-plus luxury attached homes selling above list price. Within the City of Toronto, strong demand resulted in 61% of $1 million-plus and 25% of $4 million-plus luxury attached homes selling above list price. GTA sales of attached homes over $1 million between July 1 and December 31, 2018 increased 8% to 707 units sold, while luxury attached home sales over $4 million doubled to four sold in the last half of 2018. During this time, $1 million-plus attached home sales in the City of Toronto saw a 10% increase to 614 units sold, and luxury $4 million-plus sales increased from three homes sold in 2017 to four sold in 2018.

The GTA top-tier single family home market steadily regained momentum in 2018. Annual single family home sales over $1 million decreased 34% to 11,483 units sold in 2018, but between July 1 and December 31, 2018, $1 million-plus single family home sales stabilized with a 2% year-over-year gain. Furthermore, 17% of homes sold over $1 million in the last half of 2018 did so above list price. During this time, luxury home sales over $4 million were down a more significant 24% in the last half of the year to 95 units sold, due in part to a shortage of supply in prime neighbourhoods. In the last half of 2018, single family sales over $1 million in the City of Toronto increased 2% from the last half of 2017, with a significant 28% of homes selling above asking price. Luxury single family home sales over $4 million however, were down a more notable 16% in the last half of 2018 compared to the same months in the year previous, with 6% of homes selling above list price.

While demand for limited top-tier inventory sparked multiple offer scenarios, subject-free deals and sales above list price in prime neighbourhoods within the City of Toronto, the heated bidding wars endemic in past years calmed. In 2018, as the GTA market balanced, fatigued buyers were more likely to withdraw from overpriced listings or unnecessary competition.

MONTREAL

Montreal boasted the fastest growing metropolitan economy in 2018, with a growth rate of 2.9%. Job creation, income growth and population gains bolstered demand across the conventional and high-end real estate market, while investment in public infrastructure and urban development projects increased real estate values in key communities across the region. As a result, while the city firmed its position as a global luxury real estate destination in 2018, top-tier sales in Montreal remained predominantly driven by local residents in search of housing rather than investor, speculator or foreign demand.

The City of Montreal’s top-tier real estate market continued its upswing in 2018, shattering records previously set in 2017. Overall residential real estate sales over $1 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) increased 20% year-over-year to 883 units sold in 2018, compared to the previous record of 734 units sold in 2017. In contrast to 2017, when $4 million-plus luxury sales increased 33% year-over-year to 12 properties sold, $4 million-plus sales held steady at eleven units in 2018.

After a 49% year-over-year surge in $1 million-plus condominium sales set a new record in 2017, Montreal’s top-tier condominium market achieved new highs in 2018 with an additional 29% year-over-year gain to 157 units sold. The city’s top-tier attached home segment experienced a significant surge in consumer demand in 2018, as sales over $1 million increased 40% over 2017 levels to 290 properties sold. Following moderate year-over-year sales gains of 21% in 2017 over 2016, Montreal’s top-tier single family home market calmed to healthy levels in 2018 as sales over $1 million increased 8% from 2017 to 436 homes sold.

Although Montreal’s prolonged run-up in top-tier real estate demand has moderated, the city’s robust economic fundamentals and growing population are expected to foster active, healthy market conditions well into 2019.


Disclaimer

The information contained in this report references market data from MLS boards across Canada. Sotheby’s International Realty Canada cautions that MLS market data can be useful in establishing trends over time, but does not indicate actual prices in widely divergent neighborhoods or account for price differentials within local markets. This report is published for general information only and not to be relied upon in any way. Although high standards have been used in the preparation of the information and analysis presented in this report, no responsibility or liability whatsoever can be accepted by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada or Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates for any loss or damage resultant from any use of, reliance on, or reference to the contents of this document.

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