We had a deal. We would accept potholed roads, language politics, and terrible winters in exchange for paying a little bit less for Montreal real estate and the convenience of buying beer from the corner store.

But now it appears that capitalistic forces are altering the deal.

Montreal's real estate prices are increasing faster than Toronto's and Vancouver's, according to a new report from CENTURY 21 Canada, which found that a downtown condominium in Montreal costs an average of $805 per square foot, a 13.5% increase from last year.

That's cheaper than the $1,083 per square foot it costs in Toronto, where prices jumped about 9%, and $1,192 in Vancouver, where they dipped by about 4%, but not by much.

Some of the most dramatic price increases were in Montreal's detached homes and townhouses, states the report, which found the city has, "the strongest real estate market in Canada right now."

For a downtown detached house in Montreal, the cost shot up about 42% to $958 per square foot, while townhouses increased 44% to $768 — but hey at least you can still get beers from the dep.

To complete the study, CENTURY 21 measured the average price per square foot for sales in the country between January and June.

It found that Montreal's housing market is heating up, despite the coronavirus.

"When the pandemic took hold in Canada in mid-March, there was a lot of uncertainty about what would happen to real estate sales during the typically busy spring market," said Brian Rushton, executive vice-president of CENTURY 21 Canada, in a statement.

"What we have seen is that after a dip in the number of sales early in the pandemic, the pace of sales has returned to near-normal levels."

As for many parts of the economy, COVID-19 has changed the way real-estate brokers are doing business, said the report.

Virtual tours that allow sellers to minimize the number of people entering a home are becoming more popular, it said.

And it's not only homebuyers that are having a harder time. A June report from the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires (RCLALQ) sounded the alarm on worsening housing shortages in many parts of the province.

Quebec's vacancy rate is the lowest it's been in about 15 years, it states. Montreal's vacancy rate is 1.5%, which means renters may have a hard time finding a place.

In the report, the RCLALQ calls on the provincial government to help curb increases in rent, protect the rights of tenants and promote affordable housing. 

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