Canada Real Estate: Alberta Exodus Could Boost Toronto And Vancouver

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Low interest rates. Foreign investment. A slumping Canadian dollar.

Those are just three factors driving housing markets across Canada, particularly Toronto and Vancouver.

But real estate firm Royal LePage is adding one more driver to the list: an exodus of workers fleeing Alberta's slumping economy.

vancouver real estate
Condos along Vancouver's False Creek. (Photo: Bayne Staley/CP)

The company's first-quarter house price survey for 2016, which was released Thursday, showed the aggregate price of a Canadian home jumping to $512,621, up 7.9 per cent from the same time last year.

Condo prices climbed four per cent to $344,491, while bungalows jumped 6.8 per cent to $426,216 and two-storey properties rose 9.2 per cent to $629,177.

Overall, the figures shows a healthy real estate market, but Royal LePage president Phil Soper said there's also "extreme regional disparities of the kind we haven't seen in over a decade."

Vancouver, for example, saw home price growth of 21.6 per cent to $1,044,750 year-over-year, while Toronto housing prices jumped 8.4 per cent to $613,733.

At the other end of the scale, Regina saw its aggregate home price fall 1.1 per cent year over year to hit $327,618, while Calgary's dropped 0.6 per cent to $466,184.

vancouver real estate
New housing under construction in Calgary in 2014. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)

But Vancouver and Toronto could do even better if, as Royal LePage suggests, Alberta's moribund economy pushes more workers into B.C. and Ontario.

"For the first time in many years, we are witnessing an out-migration trend in [Alberta], as economic conditions and employment prospects dim," Soper said.

"We expect British Columbia, followed by Ontario, to be the top recipients of new household inflows in the coming year, which will further fuel housing demand and price appreciation in Greater Vancouver and the GTA."

La belle province

But B.C. and Ontario aren't the only places expected to see positive housing gains in 2016.

Home sales jumped 9.4 per cent year-over-year in the Greater Montreal Area in the first quarter. Sales of luxury homes worth more than $1 million on the island of Montreal leaped 14 per cent, while sales of properties in the $500,000 to $1 million range there rose 23 per cent.

montreal real estate
A house for sale for $4,998,000 in Montreal's Westmount neighbourhood on Dec. 11, 2015. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Montreal's market is benefitting from factors such as lower energy costs, a cheaper Canadian dollar and an expanding economy down south.

But it is also likely to see a boost from infrastructure projects such as some work on the city's Champlain Bridge, as well as the Turcot Interchange.

"Following a multi-year-period of stalled economic and residential real estate market growth, the Greater Montreal Area is seeing a frankly wonderful upswing in demand and unit sales, which often foreshadows stronger home price appreciation," Soper said.

The Trump factor

But there's yet one more factor that could drive economic growth in Canada this year — the spectre of a Donald Trump presidency.

Earlier this year, Cape Bretoners promoted their region as a great place for people fleeing the U.S., should Trump ascend to the White House.

donald trump
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Milwaukee, Wisc. on Apr. 4, 2016. (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)

But Soper said it's more than a joke: "Canada's attractiveness as a more realistic place to pursue life, liberty and happiness is gaining traction in America."

He said the Cape Breton ad campaign, as well as Americans Googling "how to move to Canada," "reinforces the worldwide strength of brand-Canada as a prosperous and tolerant place to raise a family."

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