Pricey homes still selling well in Canada

CALGARY (CBC) - If you cannot get rid of your $2-million starter home in Vancouver or that $1-million bungalow in Calgary, take heart, according to a new report by realty giant Re/Max Canada.


Sales of luxury homes across Canada have stayed solid for the first seven months of the year, unlike the overall housing market, the company said Thursday.


The number of expensive homes changing hands rose for the first seven months of 2008 in 10 of the 15 major Canadian urban markets tracked by Re/Max.


That compared favourably with the country's overall housing market, where only St. John's and Winnipeg have sold more homes this year versus 2007.


"In two-thirds of the markets we surveyed, demand for upscale homes surpassed peak levels reported last year," says Elton Ash, regional vice-president of Re/Max's western Canadian operation.


Regina was the big percentage winner in the Re/Max survey with a 306 per cent spike in the number of luxury homes sold in the January-to-July period this year compared with the same seven months in 2007. That translated into 69 ultra-expensive residences sold in that city so far in 2008, up from 17 homes last year.


Two other Prairie cities - Winnipeg and Saskatoon - also posted huge percentage gains in the sale of luxury houses in the same time frame, 89 per cent and 72 per cent respectively.


The average home price in all three markets stood at $500,000, according to Re/Max.


By contrast, overall housing sales were down, in Regina by 11 per cent and in Saskatoon by 14 per cent.


Of the three provinces, only Winnipeg posted a sales gain, if you can call it that, up 0.01 per cent in total home sales for the first seven months of the year.


St. John's was the other city in the survey to post a gain in the number of overall home sales in 2008 versus 2007.


Vancouver topped the list for most expensive abode with an average luxury price of $2 million.


Re/Max said the price tag for this type of home in some urban markets is still rising.


"[The report] notes serious appreciation in housing values in recent years has pushed upper-end price points to new levels. This is especially so in Western Canada where $2 million is now merely a starting price in Greater Vancouver, while in the tony Westside, that figure is closer to $4 million," the study said.


The number of luxury homes changing hands fell in five cities this year - Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton-Burlington and Kelowna, B.C.


Interestingly, Kelowna, a city of roughly 108,000, sold more high-end homes in the January-to-July period than did Hamilton, which has five times as many people (63 versus 50).


While the luxury market has continued to show life, the sales of these kind of homes might begin to fall as the year progresses, Re/Max's Ash said.


"[W]ith supply edging higher in most major centres and few markets reporting tight inventory levels, we are seeing a return to more balanced conditions. This situation is expected to have an impact on high-end values in coming months, especially in areas that have experienced consistent double-digit growth," Ash said.

Stephen George

Stephen George

CENTURY 21 Action Power Team Ltd., Brokerage*
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