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Montreal home purchases by buyers from China took off in past 18 months; agent

MONTREAL — Homebuyers from mainland China have helped fuel a Montreal housing market that continued to sizzle last month with record sales and rising prices, says one real estate agent.

David Mellor, who owns three Royal LePage offices in Montreal, says home purchases by Chinese buyers, especially in the western part of the island, have taken off during the past 18 months.

But he doesn't believe it's because of the introduction of taxes on foreign buyers in British Columbia and Ontario.

"I'm not too sure the fact there are these taxes in Vancouver and Toronto have affected their decisions to come here," Mellor said Thursday.

He noted there are now direct flights from Montreal to Beijing and Shanghai and, if the Chinese are coming directly to Quebec, "it's certainly just not for tourism."

"For the most part, the Chinese are coming here for the schools — for their children," he said. "They pick out a few schools and they seem to be spreading the word among themselves."

Mellor said probably between 300 and 400 homes on Montreal's west island have been sold to people from mainland China over the past 18 months.

He added that several agents in his offices speak Mandarin and have a backlog of at least 60 Chinese buyers looking for homes.

"Some of them buy three or four houses and the ones who do that are living in one of them and then they rent out the others for investment purposes," said Mellor, who is in his 16th year as a real estate agent.

A recent report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the share of foreign buyers in the Montreal residential market is increasing, although it remains low overall.

The Housing Market Insight report noted that buyers from China were a factor in the increase.

The report, released in late June, said Chinese homebuyers represented about 17 per cent of all foreign buyers in the Montreal residential real estate market.

That figure was less than 10 per cent about a year ago.

CMHC market analyst Francis Cortellino says there's no proof the increase is because of the taxes that were imposed in Ontario and B.C.

"The only thing we can say is that this increase started in August of last year when the tax was implemented in Vancouver," he said.

"There could have been a small shift in the demand from Vancouver to Montreal, but the shift would be really, really small."

Cortellino said the number of all foreign buyers has continued to increase in the Montreal area since the beginning of 2017, but purchases by them represent only about two per cent of all transactions in the residential market.

"It's like 1.5 per cent of all transactions in Montreal," he said, adding that recent data showed foreign buyers in Vancouver accounted for three or four per cent, while it was about five per cent for Toronto and southern Ontario.

Meanwhile, the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board said booming condo sales drove an eight per cent increase in residential sales across the Montreal region.

There were 2,899 sales, with condo transactions surging 19 per cent. Single-family homes that account for more than half of sales rose four per cent.

— With files from Ross Marowits. 



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