Home sales slumped 11 percent in lead-up to Quebec election

By Robert Frank

While for sale signs spouted like mushrooms on Laval lawns this year, the number of residential real estate sales dropped eight per cent during the first three months of 2014.

According to fresh figures released by the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards (QFREB), April 14, the dollar value of Laval home sales plummeted even further. Total sales tanked by 11 per cent during the first quarter of the year. The fall coincided with a 13 per cent increase in the number of Laval homes that owners decided to put up for sale since Jan. 1.

The period coincided with a spike in ethnic tension in the province, as the former Parti québécois government ramped up rhetoric over its now-defunct values charter, followed by a highly divisive election campaign in March. 

Median house prices didn’t budge in Laval during the first quarter, though nearly 40 per cent of Laval residents are non-francophone, according to the 2011 census, a rapid increase from the nearly 30 percent that Statistics Canada reported after the 2006 census—a trend that shows no sign of abating.

Upscale condos remain attractive

Increased supply and lower demand usually pushes prices down. Instead, single-family home prices seemed to defy economic gravity so far this year. They didn’t budge during the first quarter, and condominium prices managed a four percent increase.

“Laval is still slightly a buyers’ market for condos,” QFREB analyst Paul Cardinal told The Suburban, “so [the price increase] might be because Laval has for several years been a market for more expensive condos.”

“Many baby boom empty nesters want to move out of their single-family homes and want to buy something smaller, with less maintenance work to do,” he explained in an interview. “With the equity that they have built up in their home, they can afford more expensive condos with better services and amenities than first-time buyers.”

Throughout Quebec, house prices remained sluggish during the 18 months of Parti québécois rule.

“Price increases on the residential real estate market have been much more tenuous in recent quarters in all areas of the province,” Cardinal said. “The pace of growth in the median price of single-family homes in Quebec ranged between zero-to-two per cent over the last seven quarters.” 

As previously reported in The Suburban, the federal government also tightened residential mortgage criteria in 2012, to dampen a frothy real estate market inflated by the lowest interest rates in recorded history.

Condominium sales suffered the most during the first quarter of 2014, declining seven percent throughout the province from the year before, while the corresponding number of active listings spiked by 12 per cent.

Only on the South Shore did residential real estate sales fare worse, falling nine per cent during the first three months of the year.
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