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Montreal, Quebec City home sales hit record highs in January: QPAREB

People in Montreal and Quebec City rushed to buy a record number of homes at the start of the year, but had fewer options to choose from.

People in Montreal and Quebec City rushed to buy a record number of homes at the start of the year, but had fewer options to choose from. 

The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers said Tuesday that Montreal sales climbed to 3,971 in January, up 17 per cent from 3,398 the year before.

Quebec City's sales during the same month reached 829, a 16 per cent jump from 713 in 2021.

The record highs show that house hunters weren't deterred from snatching up properties even as the province contended with strict lockdowns and curfews meant to keep Quebecers home and curb COVID-19.

Those that ventured out found a competitive market, but a lack of options.

"It was a feeding frenzy, but there was no food, no inventory," said Catherine Dawe, a Montreal broker with Keller Williams Realty.

She noticed housing demand was high in most of the regions' trendiest neighbourhoods, including the Plateau, throughout January and she was urging buyers to stay calm and not get overwhelmed by the heated conditions.

Charles Brant, director of market analysis at the QPAREB, noticed the frenzy too.

"Condominiums and plexes registered record sales, including on the Island of Montreal, with the highest number of transactions ever recorded since the early 2000s," he said in a statement.

But there were also signs of the market of easing up.

January was the first month since June 2020 that the increase in sales was well below the 40 per cent mark in Quebec City, he pointed out.

That easing is likely due to active listings falling by nearly two-thirds in the past 12 months in the single-family home category and the Quebec City market seeing a strong increase in sales last January.

The QPAREB said the number of active listings this January dropped by 48 per cent to 3,848 in Quebec City and 25 per cent to 11,176 in Montreal.

The number of new listings was down by 30 per cent to 1,003 in Quebec City and 11 per cent to 5,042 in Montreal.

Meanwhile, the price of a single family home edged up by 11 per cent to reach $282,000 in Quebec City, while condos slipped in price by two per cent to an average of $200,000.

In Montreal, the average single family home price crept up by 23 per cent to hit $434,000 while condos moved up 23 per cent to $434,000.

"What is shocking is that the prices are still going up and up and up," said Dawe. "We re-establish our prices based on what we think the new normal is and then people are still getting beyond that."

She recently helped a client put a $600,000 offer — $50,000 over the list price — on a house "in the middle of nowhere" that she figures would have sold for $450,000 a year ago.

It generated 17 offers and sold for $100,000 over asking.

Another property she was involved with needed a "total gut job," but sold for what it would have, if it was renovated.

"There's just no end to what is going on," Dawe said.

"The only place where there's not as much crazy demand is in a condo in the heart of downtown."

QPAREB's new numbers come a month after the regions proved so resilient that they reported the best December on record for home sales across every Montreal neighbourhood.

The association said that agents sold 4,613 Montreal homes in December, up 32 per cent from 3,503 during December 2019. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press