Consumer Confidence and Economic Optimism Bolster Canadian Luxury Real Estate Market as Downtown Living Revitalizes

A return to city living and enduring pandemic influences drive price gains and active fall market, as scarce inventory undermines potential sales, according to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada

TORONTO, Oct. 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Canada’s metropolitan luxury real estate markets continue to reflect unprecedented circumstances leading into fall 2021. Following record-shattering sales across major markets through the first half of 2021, pandemic-related influences continue to motivate consumer housing activity, driving new demand for urban real estate as downtown cores revitalize and consumer confidence in higher density, city living continues to rise. However, the supply of available top-tier real estate is deficient in relation to housing needs, constraining sales across multiple market segments, limiting housing mobility, and accelerating price gains as a result. With an unsatiated undercurrent of demand across every major market and a new wave of prospective real estate consumers imminent, rising prices and steady activity is forecast for fall.

New data compiled by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada reveals that the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is positioned to see continued price acceleration in an active fall market, even as the region’s acute shortage of conventional and luxury housing supply caps overall activity. An unexpectedly active summer resulted in residential real estate sales over $4 million rising 12% year-over-year in July and August 2021, with six ultra-luxury properties sold over $10 million compared to four properties sold in this price range over the same months in 2020. As in other major metropolitan markets, the GTA luxury condominium market strengthened as confidence in urban living continues to rise. As a result, sales of luxury condominiums over $4 million were up 40% year-over-year to seven units sold in the GTA in July and August, with one ultra-luxury unit selling over $10 million on MLS compared to a lack of transactions in this price range in the summer of 2020. This outpaced the percentage gains experienced in luxury single family home sales over $4 million, which saw a 15% year-over-year increase from the summer months of 2020. Residential sales over $4 million between September 1–15 reflect underlying consumer demand for premier real estate leading into fall, as sales increased 33% year-over-year.

Vancouver’s luxury market is poised to see some relief from the extraordinary pace and price gains experienced over its prolonged sellers’ market but continues to confront the challenges of the region’s chronic and significant deficit of conventional and high-end housing supply. Overall residential sales over $4 million increased 13% year-over-year in July and August 2021, with one ultra-luxury property sold on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) over $10 million during this time. Top-tier condominium sales also strengthened as confidence in city living revived; summer sales over $1 million increased 22% year-over-year, while luxury condominium sales over $4 million remained steady at 2020 summer levels with nine units sold. At the same time, luxury single family home sales over $4 million increased 14% year-over-year in July and August, while one home sold over $10 million on MLS compared to three in the summer months of 2020, reflecting sellers’ increased requirements for privacy. A new real estate record was set for Greater Vancouver during this time, with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s exclusive sale of the highest priced single-family residential sale on a single lot in the region’s history. Residential real estate sales over $4 million in the first 15 days of September reflected a delayed start to the fall market, as well as the forthcoming challenges of inventory shortages for increasingly frustrated and hesitant buyers. $4 million-plus residential sales declined 68% year-over-year, with none of these selling above $10 million compared to one ultra-luxury above this price point on MLS in the same period of 2020.

Montreal experienced a fleeting seasonal sales slowdown as consumers and the industry briefly withdrew from a heated sellers’ market that set new records through the first half of 2021, but the brevity of this lull and the market’s swift rebound of luxury sales in early fall points to a dynamic and active season ahead. In face of strong consumer demand, the city is set to face the twin challenges of a significant provincial deficit of conventional and luxury housing, and price acceleration in turn. Over July and August, residential real estate sales over $4 million were up 50% year-over-year; while $1 million-plus sales contracted 17% over the summer months, they were up 26% year-over-year in the first 15 days of September. Three luxury sales took place over $4 million between September 1–15 where there had been no transactions of this magnitude in the same period last year. The summer seasonal slowdown resulted in single family home sales over $1 million declining by 24% year-over-year in July and August, even as $4 million-plus sales increased 40%, before resurging in the first weeks of September. Montreal’s luxury condominium market has been experiencing striking gains: sales over $1 million were up 30% year-over-year over in the summer months and jumped 125% year-over-year in the first 15 days of September, signalling strength in this sector in the fall ahead.

Calgary’s luxury residential real estate market, which had gained steady traction since the start of the year, evolved into a true sellers’ market over the summer and is poised for more balanced market conditions this fall. With the recovery of the oil and gas industry and provincial economy, as well as the re-opening of the province, strengthening consumer optimism, residential sales over $1 million increased 50% year-over-year in July and August. The city’s market-dominant single family home segment saw sales over $1 million increase 53% year-over-year during this time; meanwhile, condominium sales over $1 million in this well-supplied segment saw sales double from previous year’s levels to six units sold over the summer months.

“Canada’s luxury real estate market has seen an extraordinary level of demand since the start of the pandemic, and in 2021 to date, that pressure has resulted in levels of sales activity and price acceleration that made history across almost every major metropolitan market. With the re-opening and revitalization of so many of our cities and downtown cores over the spring and summer, we’ve seen any lingering hesitancy about the future of urban living dissipate; instead, we are in the heart of a vibrant urban real estate revival,” says Don Kottick, President and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “The challenge is that the levels of activity we’ve seen since the start of the year are simply not sustainable in markets where we have such an extreme and deeply entrenched imbalance of demand and supply. Toronto, Vancouver, and increasingly Montreal, are facing such a deficit of top-tier housing, that we are already seeing this gap undermine potential sales activity. These pressures are only going to increase this fall.”

According to Kottick, Canada’s metropolitan luxury real estate market, while positioned for healthy activity overall, will see supply shortfalls frustrate strong undercurrents of local and global demand. This will increasingly drive price acceleration and discourage real estate mobility across the conventional and luxury housing market.

Key Influences

Severe Inventory Deficit Sparks Price Gains, Undermines Sales
A severe shortage of conventional and luxury inventory across Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal undermined potential sales across the conventional and luxury markets for condominiums, attached, and single family homes, and will continue to thwart transactions this fall. Calgary, which tipped into true sellers’ market conditions over the summer months and saw diminished supply sparking bidding wars for premier single family homes, is projected to experience more balanced conditions.

Frenetic sellers’ markets that drove luxury residential sales over $4 million up year-over-year by 276% in the GTA, 152% in Vancouver, and 133% in Montreal over the first half of 2021, incited heated bidding wars that increased housing prices to historic highs. Sales tapered briefly over the summer as frustrated and fatigued home buyers withdrew from the market, while prospective sellers reconsidered the challenges of navigating market conditions that offered limited choices should they place their home on the market. The lulls in these markets were brief and masked underlying consumer demand.

Activity has resurged in the preliminary weeks of fall. While a balanced market is anticipated for Calgary, extreme demand-supply housing imbalances across Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are deeply embedded. This is now revealing itself in increased activity in the comparatively accessible top-tier condominium market, buyer fatigue and hesitancy, market conditions that almost universally skew in favour of sellers, and continued price gains in the months ahead.

Return to City Living Ignites Urban Sales & Condominium Demand
Although the pace of recovery was uneven across major metropolitan markets, most Canadian jurisdictions had near-final stages of public health reopening plans in place by August 2021, with restaurants, entertainment venues, retail and personal service businesses, and recreational facilities generally open at varying capacity requirements. Furthermore, non-essential travelers from the U.S. who were fully vaccinated were permitted to enter the country without quarantine requirements as of August 9, expanding business vitality in downtown areas. With broadening immunization coverage increasing public confidence, city centres and downtown cores re-energized at a faster pace than any point in time since the pandemic’s inception in March 2020.

As a result, demand for luxury real estate in the heart of Canada’s major urban centres has increased more steeply, most notably, in the market for high-end condominiums. This has been further magnified by the shortage of single family and attached home supply, and resulting affordability challenges, which are compelling prospective buyers across every generation into condominiums out of necessity. In recent months, across every metropolitan market, top-tier condominium sales activity has exceeded industry projections and contradicted anticipation of a seasonal summer slowdown. In the GTA, which has seen demand for luxury condominiums steadily increase since the start of 2021, sales of luxury condominiums over $4 million were up 40% year-over-year in July and August. Montreal’s luxury condominium sales surpassed optimistic industry expectations over the summer months, as $1 million-plus sales increased 30% year-over-year, with $4 million-plus condominium sales remaining consistent. Similarly, sellers’ market conditions were sustained in Vancouver’s top-tier condominium market through the summer, as sales over $1 million increased 22% year-over-year and luxury condominium sales over $4 million remained on par with 2020 levels. Calgary’s conventional and luxury condo market, with ample supply that heavily skewed the market in favour of buyers for several years, saw a noteworthy increase in luxury activity: in July and August, $1 million-plus condominium sales doubled from previous year’s levels, and consumer and investor enquiries rose significantly.

With post-pandemic urban life reinventing itself, revitalized consumer and investor confidence positions every major metropolitan luxury condominium market for steady gains this fall.

Job Gains Bolster Top-Tier Real Estate Sales
Steady, albeit uneven, gains in the Canadian job market have supported positive consumer confidence across the conventional and luxury housing market. Employment rose for a third consecutive month in August 2021, up 0.5% year-over-year, while the unemployment rate fell by 0.4% to 7.1%, the lowest rate since the pandemic’s start. During this time, unemployment rates fell in every major metropolitan real estate market. Vancouver’s August unemployment rate saw the most dramatic decline as it fell to 7.1% (down 5.9% year-over-year), while Montreal’s unemployment rate fell to 7.0% (down 4.9% year-over-year). Although unemployment rates in Toronto and Calgary remained above the national average, they also decreased to 9.3% in Toronto (down by 4.7%) and to 9.6% in Calgary (down by 4.8%).

Although the economic and labour market recovery remains deeply unbalanced, its improvement, particularly for mid/high wage sectors has bolstered confidence and will continue to support the recovery of Canada’s conventional and luxury housing market in the months to come.

Gap Between Luxury and Conventional Housing Trends Widen
The impact of the pandemic has differed across Canada’s housing markets and property types; however, a defining factor has been the extraordinary demand for luxury real estate relative even to the heated demand for conventional housing. Steep gains in luxury sales have been attributed to significant shifts in consumer housing needs with the pandemic, and the increased willingness and capacity for affluent home buyers to invest in housing necessities and luxuries. Over the course of 2021, this has resulted in several historic, record-breaking sales, including Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s sale of the highest-priced condominium in Québec’s history in Montreal, and its recent sale of the Greater Vancouver region’s highest single-family residential sale on a single lot.

According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada experts, the gap between luxury and conventional consumer market behaviour and trends is set to widen. On one hand, luxury real estate consumers will continue to drive new levels of activity in the metropolitan and recreational housing markets to fulfill post-pandemic lifestyle needs and tastes. Extensive luxury home renovations, as well as elevated luxury amenities and finishings driven by this consumer group, will permanently transform luxury housing stock and place upward pressure on future high-end real estate prices. This cohort will also be at the forefront of accelerating intergenerational wealth transfer into the single family home market. At the same time, the desire for elevated levels of privacy and discretion amongst this cohort will shift an increasing number of ultra-luxury transactions to exclusive global sales and marketing networks.

At the same time, first-time buyers and conventional housing purchasers face increasing barriers, particularly in the single family home market, given rising prices, tighter mortgage qualification criteria and the risk of eroding buying power given recent inflation. Sotheby’s International Realty Canada continues to underscore the urgent need for new housing supply across the rental, vertical, low-density and high-density spectrum to support residential mobility and to ensure housing affordability for more Canadians.

Top-Tier Market Outlook: Fall Forecast 2021

Vancouver
Following an extraordinary sales surge in the first half of the year that saw luxury residential real estate (condominiums, attached and single family homes) sales over $4 million and $10 million soar 152% and 300% above 2020 levels, the City of Vancouver’s luxury market continued to see steady demand over the summer. Despite a significant shortfall of top-tier supply, acute buyer fatigue given 2021’s frenetic sellers’ market conditions, plus a brief seasonal slowdown as pandemic-weary real estate consumers paused activity to enjoy the summer, $4 million-plus sales continued to gain ground over July and August.

According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada experts, confidence in the city’s luxury real estate market is resolute leading into the fall, particularly as the Metro Vancouver economy continues to bounce back from its pandemic-driven recession in 2020, regaining approximately 250,000 jobs. In addition to resilient local demand, the culmination of months of backlogged foreign interest from prospective permanent residents, new Canadians, returning expatriates, and investors, is expected to translate into additional activity as international travel resumes, although local demand dominates. While the fevered pitch of the market experienced in the first half of 2021 is set to normalize, enduring consumer demand and the city’s substantial deficit in top-tier inventory is projected to support price gains and a robust fall market ahead.

Overall residential sales over $4 million in the City of Vancouver saw a 13% year-over-year increase to 53 properties sold in July and August 2021, with one ultra-luxury property sold on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) over $10 million during this time, compared to three sold in this price range during the same period in 2020. The true strength of the city’s ultra-luxury housing market was reflected in private and exclusive sales off MLS, a segment that has expanded significantly as sellers seek discretion and privacy. This included Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s private sale of Belmont Estate in July 2021, which set a historic price record as Greater Vancouver’s highest single-family residential sale on a single lot. Over the summer months, residential sales between $2–4 million and $1–2 million remained stable from previous year’s levels, with a marginal 1% and 2% year-over-year decline to 222 and 524 properties sold respectively. Overall, July and August residential real estate sales over $1 million held steady at last summer’s levels, with an inconsequential 1% dip to 799 properties sold.

In the first 15 days of September, residential real estate sales over $4 million reflect a delayed start to the fall market due to consumer and industry’s extended “summer slowdown” mindset, and some trepidation about engaging in the market so early in the fall given uncertain outcomes of the Federal election, and previous prolonged inventory starved market conditions. Preliminary fall performance suggests inevitable normalization of luxury activity following an extraordinary 2021 to date. $4 million-plus residential sales were down 68% year-over-year to seven properties sold, with none of these transacting over $10 million compared to one sale above this price point in the same period of 2020. Since the fall, luxury and ultra-luxury inventory have come into a better balance from previously tight conditions; however, multiple offers in premier neighborhoods on sharply priced properties are still a norm.

Luxury sales between $2–4 million contracted 15% to 40 properties sold while sales between $1–2 million decreased 31% to 107 properties sold during this time. Overall residential sales over $1 million contracted 31% to 154 properties sold during this period.

Canada’s largest metropolitan luxury real estate markets experienced some of their strongest summer gains in the condominium segment, and the City of Vancouver was no exception. The reopening of businesses and workplaces in the downtown core, as well as increasing COVID-19 immunization coverage rates, continue to revitalize confidence in urban, high-density living. According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada experts, rising local and global confidence in the local condominium market is motivating investment-minded end users to purchase in the city. At the same time, rising single family and attached home prices continue to shift prospective homebuyers into the condominium market out of necessity. Overall, in July and August, top-tier condominium sales over $1 million rose 22% year-over-year to 238 units sold, while luxury condominium sales over $4 million remained on par with 2020 summer levels at nine units sold. During this time, $2–4 million sales fell 24% to 29 units sold, while $1–2 million condominium sales increased 35% year-over-year to 200 units.

Luxury condominium sales in the first 15 days of September reflected normalizing conditions from the unsustainable pace endured earlier in the year. However, underlying demand and confidence is firm, and sales will remain swift in a fall market that remains skewed in favour of sellers. Condominium sales over $1 million totalled 48 units, down 8% year-over-year, while one condominium sold over $4 million, whereas four transactions were reported during this period in 2020. Five units sold between $2–4 million sales, up 25% from four sold in the first 15 days of September 2020 while $1–2 million condominium sales contracted 5% to 42 units sold in the first 15 days of September.

Luxury single family home sale activity saw greater sales gains than that in the conventional single family home market, as home sales over $4 million increased 14% year-over-year to 42 homes sold in July and August. One home sold over $10 million compared to three in the summer months of 2020. High-end single family home sales between $2–4 million remained largely consistent with 2020 levels with a 1% decline to 173 homes sold over the summer months. In contrast, conventional single family home sales between $1–2 million fell 24% to 176 units, reflecting the lack of viable inventory in this price range, as the benchmark price for a single family home in Vancouver West and Vancouver East rose 12.2% and 12.4% year-over-year respectively to $3,462,200 and $1,689,700 in August 2021, prompting the retreat of discouraged purchasers to higher density housing options. Overall, single family home sales over $1 million were down 12% year-over-year to 391 properties sold in the summer months.

Top-tier sales from September 1–15 reflect the strains of conventional and luxury inventory shortages across the city’s single family housing market. Luxury sales over $4 million fell 71% to five homes sold from the same period of 2020. While one ultra-luxury home sold over $10 million during this period in 2020, no transactions were recorded over this price point in the first 15 days of September this year. $2–4 million and $1–2 million sales were down 23% and 48% year-over-year to 30 and 37 homes sold respectively. Overall, $1 million-plus single family home sales fell 43% year-over-year to 72 homes sold between September 1–15 to start the fall.

Vancouver’s luxury attached home market continued to reflect strong consumer demand and tight market conditions over July and August. Two luxury attached homes sold over $4 million during this time, compared to one sale in the summer months of 2020, while $2–4 million sales surged 67% to 20 units sold. Sales of attached homes between $1–2 million contracted 6% year-over-year to 148 homes sold. With 170 attached homes sold over $1 million across July and August, top-tier home sales remained on par at summer 2020 levels.

Luxury attached home sales in the first half of September continued to reflect the significant shortfall of top-tier housing inventory in face of consumer need and demand. As in 2020, there were no attached homes sold over $4 million this September 1–15; during this time, five $2–4 million attached homes sold compared to four sold in the same period in 2020. $1–2 million attached homes, highly coveted given the city’s elevated single family housing prices, were down 30% to 28 homes sold in the first 15 days of September, reflecting a sheer lack of available supply. Overall, attached home sales over $1 million were down 24% year-over-year in the first 15 days of September a reflection of continued attached home shortages to be anticipated in the fall.

Local and international demand for urban luxury real estate in Vancouver has clearly rebounded, and the city’s condominium market will continue to experience notable activity in the fall ahead. However, normalizing demand trends, and the region’s sustained shortage of single family and attached home supply will impede sales activity in the months ahead.

Calgary
The City of Calgary’s once deeply entrenched buyers’ market flipped to a true sellers’ market in July and August. Strengthening fundamentals, including diminishing housing inventory, the resurgence of the provincial economy and loosening COVID-19 restrictions, revitalized confidence and engagement in the city’s top-tier real estate market. Bolstered by the re-opening of the province and Calgary’s resilient “return to normal” spirit, those contemplating a move outside of the city centre reconsidered the now tangible benefits of living and reinvesting in its reviving urban core. In addition to recovering local demand, the city has also been seeing an uptick in remote work-empowered buyers and investors from other provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario, seeking comparatively affordable luxury real estate or a return to their original home province.

These factors have led to what Sotheby’s International Realty Canada experts are predicting will be a balanced top-tier real estate market in the coming months, albeit tenuously. While ongoing economic gains will continue to support sales activity, recent concerns surrounding rising public health risks have tempered local sentiment. Previously heated segments of the market have also come into better balance, with a decline in bidding wars and multiple offers compared to the summer months.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, total residential real estate sales in the City of Calgary rose 37% year-over-year in August, reducing once healthy inventory levels by 7% from the year prior. Consumer demand, coupled with limited luxury and conventional real estate, contributed to price increases across all property types with single-family, semi-detached, row and apartment housing prices increasing 10.6%, 9.9%, 8.0%, and 2.3% year-over-year, respectively.

At the same time, luxury residential real estate sales over $1 million (condominiums, attached homes and single-family homes) experienced significant gains in activity over the summer months. In July and August 2021, 316 properties sold over $1 million, up 50% from the same period in 2020. Of these, 279 properties sold between $1–2 million, up 47% year-over-year and 36 units sold between $2–4 million, a 100% gain from 2020. One property sold over $4 million over the summer months on Multiple Listings Service (MLS), down from two units sold during this period in 2020. As in 2020, there were no sales reported in the ultra-luxury $10 million-plus price point during this time.

Of particular note was Calgary’s condominium market, which outperformed industry expectations over the summer months. The city saw the highest condominium sales for the month of August in the last six years, according to the Calgary Real Estate Board; this underscores resurging confidence in the downtown core and refutes the narrative that suburban living is exclusively the new norm following the pandemic. Instead, a fresh cohort of buyers and investors are seeing the appeal and potential of urban living and seeking out the liveliness of a bustling downtown after over a year of pandemic-induced stagnation. Reviving condominium demand trickled into the luxury market: in July and August, condominium sales of over $1 million doubled from previous summer’s levels to six properties sold, all within the $1–2 million price point. In the first 15 days of September, condo sales over $1 million were up from 2020 with three properties sold, compared to two units sold in the first half of September 2020. Despite strengthening condominium sales, an oversupply of inventory relative to demand kept prices in check; in August, Calgary saw 332 condominium sales and 1,786 units of inventory – equating to roughly five months’ worth –and the healthiest amount of inventory across all housing types in the market.

Calgary’s luxury single family home market rebounded this summer, as sales above $1 million increased 53% year-over-year to 287 homes sold in July and August, even as overall single family home inventory levels fell below average according to the Calgary Real Estate Board. Single family home sales between $2–4 million close to doubled, with an increase of 94% year-over-year to 35 properties sold. 251 single family homes were sold between $1–2 million, an increase of 49% from the year prior. One single family home sold over $4 million during this time down from two sold above this price point over the summer of 2020. Momentum in the luxury single family home market continued into the first two weeks of September, with 61 single family homes sold over $1 million, an increase of 33% year-over-year. Of these, 49 were sold between $1–2 million, an increase of 22% year-over-year, and 12 were sold between $2–4 million double the homes sold from September 1–15, 2020. $4 million-plus and $10 million-plus sales were quiet on Multiple Listing Service in the first 15 days of September, as has been the case in previous years. Sotheby’s International Realty Canada experts noted, however, that there has been a marked increase in the use of real estate auction service providers, such as the firm’s strategic partner Concierge Auctions, as well as exclusive international marketing networks, to sell luxury and ultra-luxury homes as home sellers and the industry seek inventive solutions to target qualified clients. This has resulted in more private sales being recorded off MLS.

Demand in the city’s conventional and luxury attached home market is also robust leading into fall, as summer market demand contributed to record high year-to-date sales in Calgary’s semi-detached housing market, with 1,797 total units sold in August, more than a 70% year-over-year increase. In July and August, luxury $1 million-plus attached home sales in Calgary saw 21% year-over-year gains, with 23 homes sold. Of those properties, 22 sold between $1–2 million, up 16% year-over-year. Attached home sales between $2–4 million increased by one unit year-over-year, as one property sold over the summer months. In the first two weeks in September attached home sales over $1 million were up 33% year-over-year with four properties sold between September 1–15, all between $1–2 million.

As the market recalibrates from sellers’ conditions to a more balanced fall, the performance of the City of Calgary’s luxury real estate market will remain closely tied to the province’s economic fortunes, which is forecast to post a Canada-leading gain of 7.2% in GDP this year, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Despite the still uncertain outcome of the city’s municipal election, as well as escalating risks with COVID-19 public health management, current top-tier inventory levels and steady consumer confidence set the stage for cautiously optimistic and balanced conditions, in what remains one of Canada’s most affordable luxury markets.

Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
The performance of the Greater Toronto Area (Durham, Halton, Peel, Toronto and York) luxury real estate market eclipsed that of all other major metropolitan centres in the first half of 2021. Overall, residential sales over $4 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) soared 276% year-over-year and sales over $1 million increased 217% in a sellers’ market characterized by exuberant consumer and investor confidence, heated bidding wars, sharply rising prices and an under-supply of top-tier inventory.

In the months that followed, steady sales activity and an uncharacteristically active and engaged summer market that bucked industry expectations of a seasonal slowdown prefaced a healthy and confident fall market ahead. Sotheby’s International Realty Canada experts caution that the region’s chronic and underlying deficit of conventional and luxury housing will continue to drive price acceleration. Local demand is set to continue as ongoing pandemic lifestyle adjustments motivate continual housing upgrades while the lifting of travel restrictions is encouraging activity from buyers from international destinations, whether they are new Canadians, permanent residents, students or returning expatriates. Furthermore, the gap between high-end and conventional sales activity is set to widen, as financially-empowered, affluent real estate consumers continue to drive new luxury sales, even as first-time buyers and conventional housing purchasers face increasing barriers given affordability challenges and tighter mortgage qualification criteria.

In July and August, luxury residential real estate sales over $4 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) in the GTA increased 12% year-over-year to 102 properties sold. Of these, six properties sold over $10 million compared to four ultra-luxury properties sold in this price range on Multiple Listings Service (MLS) during the same period of 2020. $2–4 million and $1–2 million sales experienced 11% and 10% year-over-year gains to 888 and 6,298 properties sold respectively. Overall, sales over $1 million saw a 10% increase to 7,288 properties sold in the summer months.

In the first 15 days of September, luxury real estate sales continued to see steady gains across the GTA with a 33% year-over-year increase to 28 properties sold over $4 million. One ultra-luxury property sold over $10 million on MLS during this time, on par with the single unit sold in this price range in the first half of September 2020. Sales between $2–4 million and $1–2 million rose 21% and 9% year-over-year to 238 and 1,532 properties sold respectively. Overall sales above $1 million in the first 15 days of September 2021 surpassed the previous year’s levels by 11% to 1,798 properties sold.

While consumer demand for luxury real estate in the City of Toronto was robust over the summer, a shortage of inventory, as well as the withdrawal of increasingly weary buyers from the frenzied sellers’ market of the first half of 2021, reduced potential transactions. Luxury residential real estate sales over $4 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) rose 5% year-over-year to 65 properties sold in July and August; of these three ultra-luxury homes sold over $10 million, compared to four sold in this price range in the summer of 2020. Percentage gains in $4 million-plus luxury sales activity surpassed that in the $2–4 million and $1–2 million segments, which fell 26% and 11% to 312 and 1,664 units sold respectively. As a result, the City of Toronto’s $1 million-plus market contracted 14% year-over-year to 2,041 properties sold over the summer months.

In the first 15 days of September, luxury sales over $4 million held steady from 2020 at 14 properties sold; there were no ultra-luxury sales recorded over $10 million, compared to one sold between September 1–15, 2020. While $2–4 million sales fell 10% to 90 properties sold, $1–2 million sales saw a 2% year-over-year uptick to 435 properties sold. Overall, sales over $1 million in the City of Toronto remained consistent in the first 15 days of September, with a marginal 0.4% year-over-year contraction to 539 transactions.

As in the case of Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, the GTA luxury condominium market continued its urban renewal over the summer and into the initial weeks of fall, with percentage sales gains that surpassed that of other high-end housing types. The confidence of consumers and investors in the high-end condominium market continued to strengthen in tandem with the returning vitality of city centres, increased vaccine adoption rates, and business reopenings. As in Vancouver, the lack of viable and affordable top-tier single family and attached home inventory drove prospective homebuyers into higher-density housing. As a result, sales of luxury condominiums over $4 million were up 40% year-over-year to seven units sold in the GTA in July and August, with one ultra-luxury unit selling over $10 million on MLS compared to a lack of transactions in this price range in the summer of 2020. With sales between $2–4 million and $1–2 million up 27% and 28% to 42 and 389 units sold respectively, the GTA saw an overall 28% year-over-year increase in condominium sales over $1 million to 438 units sold.

This summer momentum carried over into fall. From September 1–15, GTA condo sales over $4 million remained consistent year-over-year at one unit sold. Sales between $2–4 million and $1–2 million increased 50% and 28% year-over-year to 12 and 95 units sold respectively. Overall GTA condo sales over $1 million were up 30% year-over-year to 108 units sold in the first half of September.

Strong luxury condo sales in the City of Toronto reflected these regional trends. Sales over $4 million were up 40% to seven units sold over July and August 2021. $2–4 million sales rose 23% year-over-year to 37 units sold during this time, while condominium sales between $1–2 million increased 20% year-over-year to 309 properties sold. Overall, City of Toronto condo sales over $1 million saw 21% year-over-year gains in the summer, with 353 units sold. In the initial weeks of fall, luxury condominium sales over $4 million were on par with previous year’s levels at one unit sold over $4 million in the first 15 days of September. $2–4 million and $1-2 million sales were up 43% and 12% year-over-year, to 10 and 65 properties sold respectively. Overall sales over $1 million were up 15% during this time at 76 units sold between September 1–15.

The GTA’s luxury single family home market, which experienced a record-setting influx of activity since the start of 2021, saw recent sales track well below levels of actual consumer demand due to the region’s significant inventory shortfall. In July and August, GTA sales over $4 million increased 15% from the same period in 2020 and 8% in the City of Toronto to 94 and 57 homes sold. $10 million-plus single family homes increased to five sold over the summer in the GTA from four in the summer of 2020, with two of these sold within the City of Toronto, half of the number sold in the city in summer months of 2020. Single family home sales between $2–4 million and $1–2 million rose 12% and 2% to 816 and 4,756 homes sold in the GTA. However, in the City of Toronto, $2–4 million and $1–2 million sales fell 30% and 11% to 248 and 968 homes sold in the summer months. As a result, while overall single family home sales over $1 million in the GTA were up 3% to 5,666, City of Toronto single family home sales declined 15% year-over-year to 1,273 homes sold.

GTA single family home sales in the first 15 days of September highlighted the pressures within its inventory-starved market, particularly for the City of Toronto. While 26 luxury single family homes sold over $4 million in the GTA, up 30% from the same period in 2020, City of Toronto $4 million-plus sales were down 8% to 12 homes sold. One of these was an ultra-luxury $10 million-plus home sale outside the city, on par with the single unit sold in the region in this price range during this period of 2020. GTA single family home sales between $2–4 million rose 22% to 216 sales, but sales between $1–2 million sales fell 8% to 1,089 sold. In contrast, the City of Toronto saw $2–4 million and $1–2 million sales fall across the board by 15% and 3% to 70 and 254 homes sold. Overall, single family home sales over $1 million in the GTA and City of Toronto contracted 3% and 6%, to 1,331 and 336 homes sold in the first 15 days of September.

Sales data from the summer months of 2021 reflect a vigorous luxury attached home market, with activity restricted only by the absence of sufficient high-end supply. One attached home sold over $4 million in July and August across the GTA within the City of Toronto, down from four homes sold in the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, luxury sales between $2–4 million declined 25% year-over-year in the GTA and 31% in the City of Toronto to 30 and 27 homes sold. These decreases were offset by significant attached home sales gains between $1–2 million, which surged 57% to 1,153 properties sold in the GTA, even as they fell 28% to 387 units sold in the City of Toronto. Overall, summer GTA attached home sales over $1 million were up a significant 52% to 1,184 homes sold, while the lack of available inventory reduced City of Toronto transactions by 28% year-over-year to 415 units sold.

Luxury attached home sales from September 1–15 reinforced the critical need for additional supply in this housing segment and suggested continued price gains heading into the fall market ahead. One sale took place over $4 million across the GTA during this time within the City of Toronto, compared to a quiet market during this period of 2020. While sales between $2–4 million declined 17% year-over-year to ten attached homes sold across the GTA, and by 9% to 10 properties sold in the City of Toronto, $1–2 million attached home sales increased significantly. In the first 15 days of September, attached home sales between $1–2 million soared 134% year-over-year to 348 units sold across the GTA and rose 9% to 116 properties sold in the City of Toronto. Overall, $1 million-plus GTA and City of Toronto attached home sales surged 123% and 9% year-over-year respectively, to 359 and 127 homes sold in the first half of September.

The demand-supply imbalance across the GTA’s conventional and luxury markets for condominiums, attached, and single family homes is acute heading into fall, and this imbalance will be the deciding factor in the region’s performance in the coming months. While luxury activity may normalize slightly from the unprecedented, history-making conditions of the first half of 2021, the undercurrent of local and global consumer demand remains strong. Continued supply shortfalls are expected to drive persistent price acceleration in the market ahead.

Montreal
Following a record-breaking first half of 2021 that saw $1 million-plus residential real estate transactions (condominiums, attached and single family homes) increase 112% from the same period in 2020, underlying local and international confidence in the City of Montreal’s luxury real estate market remained strong throughout the summer, even as sales temporarily retreated. General optimism in Quebec’s economic recovery post-COVID-19, as well as the broad adoption of pandemic management and vaccination measures, restored public confidence in Montreal’s urban lifestyle and its luxury real estate market. As a result, the seasonal sales slowdown experienced as consumers and the industry withdrew from scorching sellers’ market conditions to enjoy the summer months has been fleeting. With local and an increasingly active contingent of international real estate consumers now returning to a fall market marred by a provincial deficit of 40,000 units of housing as estimated by the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB), an increase in conventional and luxury housing prices is inevitable in the coming months.

The swift rebound of Montreal luxury sales in the initial weeks of September following a subdued summer points to a dynamic and active fall market ahead. While residential real estate sales over $1 million (condominiums, attached and single family homes) contracted 17% year-over-year to 242 properties sold over July and August, luxury residential real estate sales over $4 million increased a striking 50% year-over-year in 2021 with nine properties sold. $1–2 million and $2–4 million sales each experienced a dip of 18% year-over-year to 187 and 46 properties sold, respectively. There were no transactions over $10 million recorded on MLS over the summer months, compared to a single transaction above this price point in the summer of 2020. This came at a time when the supply of total residential properties for sale was down 20% year-over-year compared to August 2020, according to the QPAREB, aggravated by several recent months of new listings.

Despite this summer lull, residential real estate sales over $1 million have since rebounded in the first two weeks of September, with a year-over-year increase of 26% to 72 properties sold in the first 15 days of the month. Sales between $1–2 million were up 36% from 2020 levels with 61 homes sold, while sales between $2–4 million fell 33% to eight homes sold. Three luxury sales were recorded over $4 million between September 1–15 this year, compared to the absence of such transactions in the same period last year. As in years past, there were no ultra-luxury $10 million-plus sales recorded in the first half of September.

Montreal’s luxury condominium market was red-hot this summer, with gains in activity surpassing other housing types as the renewal of city living and optimism in economic recovery motivated buyers to invest once again in condominiums. Overall, 65 luxury condominiums sold over $1 million in July and August of this year, a 30% year-over-year gain that surpassed industry expectations. During this time, condominium sales between $1–2 million increased 27% from 2020 levels to 56 units sold, while $2–4 million condominium sales surged 60% to eight properties sold. $4 million-plus condominium sales remained consistent year-over-year, with one property sold in July and August, as did $10 million-plus sales, which saw no transactions in the summers of 2020 and 2021.

Top-tier condominium activity continued its brisk pace in the first two weeks of September, pointing to a healthy, active market in the months ahead. Overall, $1 million-plus condominium sales increased 125% year-over-year to 27 units, and sales between $1–2 million saw a 178% year-over-year gain to 25 properties sold. Sales between $2–4 million fell to one property sold compared to three sold in this price range during the first 15 days of September 2020. However, one condominium sold over $4 million in the first half of September 2021, where there had been no transactions reported above this price in the first 15 days of September 2020. The $10 million condominium market was quiet in the first two weeks of September, as was the case last year.

In the wake of Montreal’s hyper-competitive and heated sellers’ market for top-tier single family home supply in the first half of 2021, fatigued prospective buyers and sellers withdrew from the market over the summer. As a result, luxury single family home sales over $1 million softened with a 24% year-over-year decline to 115 homes sold in July and August. Sales between $1–2 million and $2–4 million each experienced a 24% and 32% year-over-year decline to 80 and 28 properties sold respectively. Montreal’s luxury $4 million-plus market, however, observed strong growth, rising 40% year-over-year with seven homes sold over July and August. Of these, there were no transactions over $10 million compared to one property sold in this price range during the same period of 2020.

The summer reprieve was temporary. Top-tier single family home sales rebounded in the first two weeks of September, with overall single family home sales increasing 4% year-over-year to 27 homes sold. There were 20 homes sold between $1–2 million, down a nominal 5%, or one unit, compared to last year. However, sales between $2–4 million rose 20% to six properties sold in the first 15 days of September 2021. The city also saw one sale over $4 million-plus in the first two weeks of September, compared to no transactions above this price point during this period in 2020. Consistent with last year, there were no ultra-luxury $10 million-plus sales in these initial days of the fall market.

Montreal’s chronic shortage of top-tier attached home inventory limited sales activity over the summer and into fall. Sales of luxury $1 million-plus attached homes decreased 31% year-over-year to 62 homes sold in July and August. Luxury attached homes between $1–2 million experienced a year-over-year decline of 36% to 51 properties sold, while attached home sales between $2–4 million remained unchanged at ten homes sold in July and August this year and last. One attached home sold over $4 million over the summer months where none had sold during the summer of 2020, while the $10 million-plus market remained quiet as in the previous summer.

Strong consumer demand and a lack of luxury inventory are set to tighten market conditions, elevate prices and hamper activity through the fall. In the first 15 days of September, $1 million-plus attached homes contracted 5% year-over-year to 18 properties sold, while sales between $2–4 million fell from four units sold during this period in 2020, to one attached home sold. However, $1–2 million dollar attached home sales were up 7% year-over-year to 16 properties sold in the first two weeks in September. $4 million-plus attached homes saw an uptick with one property sold compared to no transactions in 2020. There were no sales over $10 million, consistent with last year’s data.

The revitalization of the City of Montreal’s cosmopolitan city centre following last year’s pandemic lockdown, as well as strengthening local confidence in the urban real estate market is set to propel an active top-tier market this fall. In particular, luxury condominium demand is poised to see confident gains as domestic and international demand translate into purchases and investments, particularly as relaxed restrictions enable travel into the city. Although Montreal remains one of the most affordable major metropolitan luxury real estate markets in Canada and North America, ongoing shortfalls in conventional and luxury housing supply in relation to demand are set to challenge the market, constraining sales activity and posing emerging risks to affordability that will encourage locals to gain a foothold in the market before prices continue to rise.

For more information on Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and the 2021 Top-Tier Real Estate Fall Forecast, contact:

Talk Shop Media
Nicole Jerick
778-877-8801
[email protected]

About Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
Combining the world’s most prestigious real estate brand with local market knowledge and specialized marketing expertise, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada is the leading real estate sales and marketing company for the country’s most exceptional properties. With offices in over 30 residential and resort markets nationwide, our professional associates provide the highest caliber of real estate service, unrivalled local and international marketing solutions and a global affiliate sales network of approximately 1,000 offices in 74+ countries and territories to manage the real estate portfolios of discerning clients from around the world. For further information, visit www.sothebysrealty.ca.

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 for any loss or damage resulting from any use of, reliance on or reference to the contents of this document.