Luxury houses, a growing market
The lack of a wealthy buyer is not at all to blame when the sale is delayed
Strangely enough, former field hockey player Mario Lemieux's second home in the Laurentians has been "on the market" for four years now. Despite the years, no buyer has yet agreed to pay the $22M required to purchase it.
But contrary to popular belief, the lack of buyers rich enough to afford such a "pied-à-terre" on the mountainside of Mont-Tremblant, is not at all the issue, assures real estate broker Michel Naud, whom the president of the Pittsburgh Penguins continues - despite everything - to trust.
« We sell millionaire homes all the time in the area. There are many more families of means than is generally believed. For example, I am currently in contact with two billionaires. One is Canadian, and the other is American. I wouldn't say it's common, but it's possible. You just have to find the right one. »
The 1% club
These potential buyers, often members of the very select club of the richest 1% on the planet, do not necessarily come from very far away. It is true that Quebec does not attract many very large fortunes, from the United Arab Emirates for example, as Switzerland or France do.
On the other hand, he explains, Tremblant attracts many wealthy families from New York. From further south as well, such as Florida and Mexico, says the broker associated with the real estate agency Engel & Völkers.
« This is also true for Monegasques and Londoners. The English use the direct link between London and Montreal. They tell me that it is not much longer for them to come to Tremblant than to go to the Alps. »
This is the type of visitor who, while on a ski trip, might be tempted to buy a luxury second home like the one the ex-hockey player is trying to get rid of.
Named the Fleur de Lys Castle, the 17,000 ft2 residence, overlooking Lake Tremblant, has 8 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, 4 powder rooms, 17 fireplaces, an elevator and 4 garages, among other features. It is offered, fully furnished, for $21,999,906. Its municipal and property taxes exceed $72,000 per year.
The investor from elsewhere
However, it would be a myth to believe that foreigners must necessarily be courted to sell such homes.
« There is a lot of money in Quebec. Many people can afford $5, $6, $7 million properties in Quebec. And much more, without any problem », says M. Naud.
For example, in 2021, according to data collected by Le Journal, the highest transaction in Mont-Tremblant was concluded for $11.8 million. The property of Harley Gregory Chamandy, one of the co-founders of Gildan, was sold to François Carignan, president of Purkinje. This Quebec-based company develops and integrates software solutions for the healthcare sector.
That's also the opinion of Marie-Yvonne Paint, a renowned real estate broker in the luxury residential market of Westmount and the Golden Square Mile area of Montreal's Ville-Marie borough. Since the beginning of 2022, she has already had seven sales of over $4 million.
« Of course I have clients from elsewhere. But on the whole, I can tell you quite frankly that 80% of the transactions I conclude are with Quebecers, members - as they say - of Quebec Inc. »
That's about the same proportion as in the private residences of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a popular address for the city's wealthy, she adds.
« Out of 45 residents, I estimate that only about 10% are foreign nationals. This is not a lot. »
The new techno-rich
The latter notes that the wealthy clientele currently found in the Montreal luxury market is increasingly composed of young professionals from the technology sector.
The still emerging fields of 3D animation, fintechs and proptechs, e-commerce and artificial intelligence, would attract or create fortunes not seen, or more rarely, a decade ago.
Our research, carried out in the sales records of the last two years, tends to prove him right. The two largest transactions recorded in Quebec last year, all over $18M, were made by tech entrepreneurs.
This is the case of Hui Hung, partner of Denis Martineau, founder of Aptilon Health Reach Net, and Pinar Cetin, wife of Rami Atallah, co-founder of online luxury retailer Ssense.
Two second homes?
The same is true of the major resort areas surrounding the Montreal region. In the last two years, they have been taken over by hordes of deep-pocketed city dwellers determined to get closer to nature.
This is evidenced by the fact that twice as many homes (8 in total) over $4M were sold in Mont-Tremblant in 2020 and 2021 than in the previous three years.
The same phenomenon was observed in Magog and Austin, in the Eastern Townships. Twelve homes worth more than $4 million were sold in two years, compared to only four in the previous three years (2017 to 2019).
So why, under these circumstances, does a castle at Tremblant fail to find a buyer in four years?
« I have been extremely close to closing on at least two occasions," says Michel Naud. It's circumstantial, the price was never an issue. But COVID, he continues, did not help. »
Far from being discouraged, he does not rule out the possibility that the Eastern Townships, often presented as a rival to the Laurentians, could be hiding the next owner of the Château Fleur de Lys. Rather than choosing, he says, Quebec's wealthiest people tend to own second homes in both regions at the same time.
« It's not always one or the other," he explains. They spend the warm season at their summer home on Lake Memphremagog. And they come to spend the winter in Mont-Tremblant. They can, and many do, share their free time, and their heritage, between the two regions ».