Calgary's ultra-luxury real estate heats up

New report from Sotheby’s International Realty Canada highlights that the city leads the nation for demand growth.

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Ultra-luxury homes in Calgary may not be selling like hotcakes, but homes priced $4 million or more are seeing higher demand than ever before, says a local realtor, specializing in the niche resale real estate segment.

“This spring, Calgary has seen multiple ultra luxury sales over the $4-million mark, compared with last spring,” says Corinne Poffenroth, senior vice-president of sales with Sotheby’s International Realty in Calgary.

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She points to one sale in late April in Upper Mount Royal for more than $5 million among a handful of ultra-luxury home transactions that are becoming more common, though still far from the norm in Calgary. The recently published Top-Tier Real Estate: Spring 2024 State of Luxury Report, by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, reveals that Canada’s luxury market is recovering after the recent slump in activity in many major centres, resulting from higher borrowing costs.

It also highlights Calgary as a luxury market outlier with higher demand than other large cities, further adding the city should continue to lead Canada for percentage sales growth of high-priced homes.

“One big reason is Calgary is attracting a lot of new businesses right now,” says Don Kottick, president and chief executive officer of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

What’s more, Calgary is a value market for luxury, unlike Vancouver and Toronto where luxury starts at $4 million. In Calgary, by comparison, luxury starts at $1 million.

Yet luxury is a moving target in Calgary these days — upward in price, that is — given that the average price for a single-family detached home in the city exceeded $800,000 at the end of March, Calgary Real Estate Board statistics show.

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Still, buyers are arguable purchasing a luxury home in Calgary for about $1 million, with Kottick noting a comparable home in Vancouver costs $4 million — which is considered luxury there.

Most luxury demand in Calgary is for single-family homes “accounting for 83 per cent of sales for homes priced at $1 million-plus,” Poffenroth says.

Yet ultra-luxury — $4-million-plus — in Calgary, often a slow market, has picked up, as noted in Sotheby’s report.

It points to two luxury properties worth more than $4 million selling in the first three months of the year versus none in the same period in 2023.

The market for luxury homes under that price, however, was much more active. All told, 441 sales over $1 million occurred in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 63 per cent year over year, the report states.

The vast majority of sales are in the $1-million to $2-million range, accounting for 92 per cent of luxury activity in Calgary.

While many of these transactions involve single-family detached homes, other luxury housing types — townhomes and condominium apartments — are seeing stronger demand than seen in the previous 10 years, Poffenroth says, pointing to recent sales for $1.5 million and $3 million for apartment condominiums downtown.

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“We are seeing both downsizers wanting larger luxury condos and a lock-and-leave lifestyle to replace their large estates, combined with out-of-province buyers who see the investment value in Calgary luxury condos.”

CREB statistics from the first quarter of 2024 reveal 15 apartment sales of $1 million or more versus 10 in 2023, also a strong market historically. Row sales did fall from four to three sales year over year, ending March 31, but semi-detached transactions in that price range were up sharply from three last year to nine this year.

Kottick says the report forecasts improving demand for Canada’s luxury market, especially if interest rates fall, with Calgary expected to again be a luxury activity leader.

“The city is still booming economically, and that will certainly drive luxury sales.”

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