Conquering adversity
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Canadian demand for luxury properties has increased dramatically during the pandemic, with sales doubling or even tripling in some cities year over year, says RE/MAX Canada in a new report.

The real estate firm analyzed sales data of both freehold and condominium properties priced over $3 million in Metro Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and over $1 million in 17 other Canadian housing markets.

Overall, 18 of the 19 markets recorded impressive sales increases, with the greatest increases in smaller urban markets such as Barrie, London, Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton — all in Ontario — where sales of homes priced over $1 million climbed about 518%, 255%, 208% and 200%, respectively.

Canada’s largest markets for luxury homes — Metro Vancouver and the GTA — had sales increases of about 76% and 113%, respectively, for homes over $3 million. The latter was a GTA record.

In those two metro areas, transactions of homes priced over $10 million rose a “substantial” 167% and 156%, respectively, RE/MAX said.

The only outlier in the country was Charlottetown, P.E.I., where sales over $1 million declined to four units, down from seven unit sales one year earlier, it said.

The firm also noted that sales increases could be even higher than it reported.

“We believe [the percentages] just scratch the surface,” said Christopher Alexander, president of RE/MAX Canada, in a release. “These levels likely do not truly reflect what is happening in markets across the country given an abundance of exclusive sales, and in white-hot markets such as Toronto, instances of private sales where buyers approach sellers whose listings have expired.”

Last year marked the continuation of a pandemic-fuelled buying spree that shattered existing records for luxury home sales and, in some instances, prices, the release noted.

“Tight inventory levels were prevalent in at least half of the markets we surveyed and contributed to an uptick in values across much of the country,” said Elton Ash, executive vice-president with RE/MAX Canada, in the release.

Brokers surveyed for the RE/MAX report attributed the 2021 increase in luxury activity to economic drivers amid the vaccine rollout, including rallying stock markets.

And trade-up activity was brisk in most markets as buyers cashed in on substantial equity gains realized when selling their existing properties, RE/MAX said.

Interest rates also remained at historically low levels.

Now, with consumers bracing for rate hikes, the overall real estate market may be set to simmer in 2022.

The national average home price hit $713,500 last month, up almost 18% from the previous December, the Canadian Real Estate Association said on Monday.