TORONTO, May 10, 2018 – Canada’s spring luxury real estate market is well underway in Canada’s largest cities. While sales in Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are significantly down in the first four months of the year, luxury home prices have remained relatively resilient, according to Royal LePage.
Overall, sales activity declined in Greater Vancouver and the GTA luxury real estate market as both sellers and buyers adjusted to federal and provincial measures affecting both domestic and foreign buyers. The introduction of the new mortgage stress test implemented by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) at the beginning of 2018 created market turmoil as buyers moved to the sidelines in order to gauge the impact on luxury home prices, similar to what was witnessed in the overall residential resale market. More significantly, in British Columbia, the 2018 provincial budget included policies targeting foreign and domestic buyers who do not pay tax in the province, as well as a tax increase for all homes over $3-million through increases to the property transfer and school tax. Similarly, the non-resident property tax included in Ontario’s 16-Point Fair Housing Plan dampened price expectations for the GTA region.
“Home prices in Canada’s luxury real estate market have remained remarkably resilient when you consider the economic headwinds that serial government interventions have created,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO, Royal LePage. “The resilience of home values reflects the strong aspirations of luxury buyers to reside and work in cities that are consistently ranked among the most desirable on the planet.”
During the first four months of 2018, price appreciation of a luxury condominium in Greater Vancouver and the GTA outpaced that of a luxury detached home, with median condominium prices rising by 7.0 per cent and 10.4 per cent year-over-year, respectively. For the same period, the median price of a luxury condominium in the Greater Montreal Area and Ottawa rose by 3.9 per cent and 4.0 per cent, respectively, while Calgary posted the only decline, decreasing 6.1 per cent.
The Greater Montreal Area posted the largest year-over-year price gain in the detached luxury home segment, increasing 9.1 per cent to $1,569,515 in the first four months of the year. During the same period, detached luxury homes in Ottawa (6.3%) and Greater Vancouver (5.2%) also saw prices rise, while home values in Calgary (0.6%) and the Greater Toronto Area (-0.2%) remained flat.
“Somewhat unusual in historical terms, and reflecting an important demographic shift happening across North America, appreciation in the luxury condominium market is outpacing the traditional target for large value residential property investment, the detached house,” said Soper. “Baby Boomers are finally exiting their large family homes, and luxury condos, with their low maintenance lifestyles, are the favoured destination.
“Contrary to popular belief, wealthy homebuyers are price sensitive too. They didn’t reach the point in their lives where they have the capacity to acquire high-value real estate without being financially astute,” concluded Soper. “Luxury condominiums represent value in today’s market.”
Spring 2019 Forecast
The momentum behind luxury condominium price growth is forecast to continue through the year and into the 2019 spring market in all cities surveyed, with the exception of Calgary. When broken out by region, the median price of a luxury condominium in the GTA is forecast to post the largest price gain, rising 8.0 per cent to $1,847,194 in the first four months of 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018. Over the same timeframe, luxury condominiums in both Ottawa and the Greater Montreal Area are forecast to increase 3.0 per cent. Calgary is the only city surveyed that is expected to see the median price of a luxury condominium dip in spring 2019 when compared to 2018, decreasing 4.0 per cent year-over-year.
Detached luxury home prices in Greater Vancouver are forecast to decline in the first four months of 2019, decreasing 3.0 per cent year-over-year to $5,619,153, while properties in this segment in the GTA are estimated to remain flat (0.0%) over the same period. The Greater Montreal Area and Ottawa are both forecast to increase 5.0 per cent year-over-year, and detached luxury homes in Calgary are expected to rise 2.0 per cent during the same period.
Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
GTA luxury home price appreciation falls flat after the introduction of Ontario’s 16-Point Fair Housing Plan and OSFI’s most recent mortgage stress test, while luxury condos make largest price gain of any region studied
The median price of a luxury detached home in the Greater Toronto Area remained relatively unchanged (-0.2%) at $3,522,117 in the first four months of 2018, while the median price of a luxury condominium increased 10.4 per cent year-over-year to $1,710,365 during the same period.
On April 20th, 2017, the Ontario government introduced a 15 per cent non-resident tax on home prices in the Golden Horseshoe as part of the province’s 16-Point Fair Housing Plan. Leading up to the announcement, the median price of a luxury detached home in the first four months of 2017 was $3,527,882, a 23 per cent increase over the same period in 2016, while luxury condos appreciated 8 per cent to $1,549,864.
“When examining the second half of 2017, it is clear that the province’s measures have impacted price appreciation in the Greater Toronto Area’s luxury home market,” said Soper. “The new OSFI mortgage stress test introduced in January, in addition to dampening sales, has also put further downward pressure on detached luxury home prices.”
During the first quarter of 2018, luxury detached home sales decreased 67.9 per cent  year-over-year. However the decline was significantly more modest when compared to the same period in 2016 (-18.1%). In the first quarter of 2018, luxury condominium sales decreased 28.2 per cent year-over-year compared to the same period in 2017, while almost twice as high (90.6%) compared the same period in 2016.
The region’s high quality of life for families, a result of good schools and excellent healthcare, is expected to continue to drive foreign buyer interest in the detached luxury home segment once the real estate market adjusts to government measures, and consumer confidence improves.
“Foreign buyers looking at luxury properties in the Greater Toronto Area can often prioritize lifestyle over finances but they also have the privilege of flexibility, allowing them time to watch the market,” said Elli Davis, sales representative, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. “The draw for many foreign buyers is our excellent quality of life. While some may choose to sit on the sidelines to gauge the market, the desire to relocate here is still strong.”
While luxury home price appreciation stalled, demand for luxury condominiums remained strong largely driven by established homeowners.
“The selection of luxury condominiums has greatly increased over the years and we are seeing more retirees selling their luxury homes to buy condos with great amenities and little upkeep. Condominiums are also easy properties to manage when you want to spend more time travelling,” added Davis.
When looking ahead to the 2019 spring market, the median price of a luxury condominium in the Greater Toronto Area is forecast to increase 8.0 per cent year-over-year to $1,874,194, while the median price of a luxury detached home is forecast to remain flat (0.0%) at $3,523,378 when examining the first four months of the year.
“Our longer term forecast for the Greater Toronto Area real estate market, including the luxury market, is for healthy price appreciation. The region has experienced significant inventory shortages for many years, has a robust economy and an international reputation as a great place to live and work,” concluded Davis.
 Sales data compiled by Royal LePage through the Toronto Real Estate Board; luxury sold listings with a lower threshold of $3,046,206 and $1,454,446 for detached homes and condominiums, respectively, in the Greater Toronto Area.