Tighter mortgage rules not cooling luxury home sales
Ottawa's tightened mortgage rules seem to have had less of an impact on high-end real estate than on the overall market, experts say.
"Most people who are going to buy a $3-million to $5-million house usually have access to the funds," said Elli Davis, a sales representative with Royal LePage in Toronto. "They don't really care if they pay a touch more."
A year ago, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made changes to Canada's mortgage rules in a bid to cool down an overheated real estate market.
These changes included reducing the maximum amortization period to 25 years from 30 for insured mortgages as well as limiting government-backed mortgage insurance to homes under $1 million, effectively increasing the down payment required on luxury homes.
Despite the changes, Gurinder Sandhu, executive vice-president of Re/Max for Ontario-Atlantic Canada, said volatile stock markets and low interest rates have made luxury real estate attractive for both Canadian investors and foreigners.
"People like to touch and see (their investment)," said Sandhu. "This is a really large investment for them and it's done well in the past."
Sales of single-family homes more than $1 million were up by more than 60 per cent in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto in the first half of the year compared with the last half of 2012, says a report released by Sotheby's International Realty on Friday.
Year over year, sales of luxury single-family homes were up a more modest 10 per cent in Calgary and down by two per cent in Vancouver and five per cent in Toronto.
"We had a very unbelievable 2010 and 2011 across Canada," said Ross McCredie, chief executive of Sotheby's. "You had this massive volume, especially in Vancouver and Toronto, and obviously you can't sustain that type of momentum."
Sales of condos more than $1 million were up in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary in the past six months but down year over year.
Luxury condo sales dipped by 20 per cent in Vancouver, 37 per cent in Calgary and 19 per cent in Toronto, compared with the first half of 2012.
Davis has seen some luxury homes in Toronto that had to be re-priced in order to sell, but she said it's not a reflection of the market.
"A lot of the sellers have much larger expectations," said Davis.