As Brossard's home prices keep rising, challenges mount for first-time buyers

·4 min read
Prospective buyers are seeing single-family homes selling fast in Brossard, Que. (Matt D'Amours/CBC - image credit)
Prospective buyers are seeing single-family homes selling fast in Brossard, Que. (Matt D'Amours/CBC - image credit)

Sasha Konjkave and his girlfriend started house-hunting about two months ago, wanting an upgrade from their condo in Brossard, Que.

The couple wanted to stay in the city on Montreal's South Shore, but given the hot housing market, they also set their sights on neighbouring areas.

They ended up buying a house in nearby Saint-Hubert for $540,000.

"Brossard was way too expensive," Konjkave said. "For the same property in Brossard, we may have had to pay maybe $600,000 or $700,000."

Aside from high price tags, the couple encountered another increasingly common residential real estate reality: bidding wars.

Matt D'Amours/CBC
Matt D'Amours/CBC

"[A listing] comes out, and you have to call them as quickly as possible, because they're booking, maybe, the Friday, Saturday and Sunday to do the visits," Konjkave said. "It's all 15 minute blocks, and it's full from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening."

Many buyers and rising prices

Brossard's real estate market is seeing a drop in listings, coupled with a price increase that's among the highest in the province.

The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB) groups Brossard and Saint-Lambert together in its quarterly reports.

The most recent figures show the area's median single-family home price over the last 12 months ($658,500) was still lower than on the island of Montreal ($685,000).

But in the last five years, the median price here jumped by 80 per cent — compared to a 67 per cent rise in Montreal.

"The market is really, really tight — and is overheating, actually — and we can see that there's a shortage of inventory," said Charles Brant, the QPAREB's market analysis director. "It creates some bidding wars, and it drives rapid acceleration of the prices."

Brant points to an exodus from the island of Montreal in recent years, along with infrastructure investments and the arrival of the Réseau express métropolitain light-rail network in Brossard.

Moving further out

Real estate broker Jessica Tam says she still has buyers from Montreal who can get a larger property in Brossard with the same budget.

But she points out that the city's hot housing market makes it harder for some first-time home buyers to find something here.

Matt D'Amours/CBC
Matt D'Amours/CBC

"It's heartbreaking to actually have to announce to the clients: 'unfortunately, we lost another bidding war,'" said Tam.

"If young first-home buyers, or a young family, are not able to purchase a house in Brossard, they have different options: either they go further away, or some of them will say 'OK, let's buy a bigger condo for now.'"

Vanessa Vermette, who was renting a townhouse with her family in Brossard, had to choose the first option after deciding to buy a home.

"We were pre-approved for a little over half a million — which is a lot of money — and three or four years ago, we would have had the opportunity to have a beautiful home in Brossard at that price," said Vermette.

"Unfortunately, there was nothing available for us."

Matt D'Amours/CBC
Matt D'Amours/CBC

Vermette was able to buy a house in Saint-Mathieu, south of Highway 30, and about 20 minutes by car from Brossard.

"I do believe that [Brossard is] a hot spot, but I think that it's ridiculous that it went up by so much in the last five years. I mean, it's still the South Shore of Montreal."

Mayoral candidates weigh in

CBC News asked Brossard's three mayoral candidates about their proposals and policies for dealing with affordability of home ownership in the city going forward.

Incumbent mayoral candidate for Brossard Ensemble, Doreen Assaad, says her party would promote different kinds of housing in new developments, including affordable housing.

"By encouraging different types of housing options, we can provide more choice, without incurring negative consequences to the current property owners," Assaad wrote to CBC News in an email.

"Downward pricing pressure on the market can have a catastrophic impact on owners who have just recently purchased a property at current market prices and who are heavily mortgaged."

Hanadi Saad, candidate for mayor with the Brossard Uni party, is committing to a property tax freeze until 2023, and wants to seek additional revenue from government grants.

"Thus, we will ensure to keep our tax rate as low as possible and decrease the tax burden on our citizens," Saad said in a statement.

Coalition Brossard's mayoral candidate, Michel Gervais, touched on four policy areas to keep the city "welcoming to all," including municipal regulations on construction, and affordable housing in large new developments.

"If Brossard cannot stop the train of rising house prices, [my administration] will work to keep the city welcoming and accessible for all budgets," Gervais wrote in an email.

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