Photo: James Bombales

A national trend of dampening homes sales has not swept through the new condo segment of every large Canadian housing market.

Activity is markedly down in a number of Canada’s major housing markets, but new condo sales in a handful of cities tracked by real estate consultancy Altus Group are actually surging.

Specifically, new condo sales through the first three quarters of 2018 skyrocketed 69 percent on a year-over-year basis in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, 31 percent in Montreal, and 19 percent in Hamilton, according to Altus Group’s joint New Home Outlook 2019 and 2018 year in review report.

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Both Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton had similar appeal for condo buyers over the past year.

“Markets outside of the GTA have continued to benefit from their relative affordability compared to Toronto, particularly in Kitchener-Waterloo where the new supply of condominium apartment product experienced strong demand in 2018,” reads the Altus Group report. “Both markets benefit from markedly better pricing compared to the GTA.”

Montreal has seen activity pick up steam for the past three years, but this persistent strength is starting to weigh on what has become one of the country’s hottest housing markets. “Given the growth in sales, many of the challenges seen in the other large markets have started to impact Montreal — rising costs, elevated inventories of under construction product and increased investment activity,” notes Altus Group.

New condo sales in the Ontario markets of Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton are expected increase this year, while Altus Group anticipates Montreal transactions will trend lower. “Montreal had a tremendous sales year in 2018 and 2019 volumes are expected to decline as the market returns to more normal conditions,” says Altus Group.

Calgary new condo sales increased 1 percent annually as suburban sub markets showed signs of recovery. Real estate transactions in the city have been depressed in recent years as lower oil prices have led to worse employment prospects and, as a result, fewer potential homebuyers.

The suburban markets in Calgary have been picking up the slack for inner-city and downtown neighbourhoods where sales continued to trend lower. “The strongest new home sales in the suburbs have been occurring in regions near employment centres,” says Altus Group in the report.

Edmonton, the other Albertan city that Altus Group monitors, posted the second-greatest annual decline in new condo sales last year, with activity plunging 48 percent. Only the Greater Toronto Area, were activity fell 49 percent, was hit harder.

“The GTA market came off a record new condominium apartment sales year in 2017; however, the impacts of mortgage rule changes and new development charges contributed to a decline in project launches and lower sales to start the year,” says Altus Group, noting demand picked up in the second half of the year. Of all Canadian markets, the consultancy suggests those in southern Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe, including the GTA, have the brightest prospect for higher new-home sales tallies this year.

New condo sales were down 19 percent in Vancouver last year, but that is a more modest decline than the 31 percent drop in 2017.

“The Vancouver market, which is currently exhibiting the most potential for downside risk, is expected to see a modest decline in sales volumes as consumers react to higher borrowing costs and developers react to escalating construction costs in the face of lower revenue opportunities,” says Altus Group, noting activity should still track around the Vancouver market’s 10-year average for new home sales.

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