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A new report says 19,692 properties sold in the GTA in 2016 for $1-million or higher, a 77-per-cent surge compared with 2015.

Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The $1-million club isn't so exclusive any longer, as a record number of homes sold for at least that much in the Greater Toronto Area last year.

"Local demand remained the primary overall driver even as international demand, particularly from mainland China, continued to play a key but secondary role," according to a new report by Sotheby's International Realty Canada.

In the GTA, 19,692 properties sold last year for $1-million or higher, a 77-per-cent surge compared with 2015, according to the Sotheby's analysis.

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"The GTA's market strength was driven by several factors – insatiable consumer demand, enduring confidence in real estate as a secure and appreciating asset, low interest rates and a low Canadian dollar," said Sotheby's, which targets high-end sales. "A chronic shortage of listings supply relative to market demand was a key contributor to rapidly rising housing prices."

Within the City of Toronto, 7,799 homes sold last year in the $1-million-plus category, up 44 per cent compared with 2015.

Read more: The dark side of the boom

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Sotheby's didn't provide statistics for Greater Vancouver, but it said that in the City of Vancouver, 4,515 properties sold last year for at least $1-million, a 1.4-per-cent decline from 2015.

Sales of $1-million-plus homes in the first half of 2016 in the City of Vancouver were 26 per cent higher than the same period in 2015. But then the market softened considerably, with second-half sales falling 34 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.

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Residential sales volume peaked in Greater Vancouver last March, months before the B.C. government implemented a 15-per-cent tax in August on foreign home buyers in broader region called Metro Vancouver.

Foreign purchasers who closed deals (including those from China) accounted for 6.7 per cent of Metro Vancouver's total number of residential transactions between June 10 and Nov. 30, according to the latest data from the B.C. government.

The Toronto Real Estate Board said last week that foreign buying plays a minor role in the GTA. An estimated 4.9 per cent of GTA transactions involved a foreign purchaser, based on an Ipsos survey in October of members of the board.

Brad Henderson, president of Sotheby's in Canada, said he sees the GTA's momentum in 2016 carrying into this year, while the Vancouver region is headed for a slow first half of 2017.

In October, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. cautioned about high prices in and around Vancouver and Toronto.

The B.C. Real Estate Association forecasts that the average price for all housing types sold in 2017 could decline 8.7 per cent in Greater Vancouver compared with 2016.

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Mr. Henderson said 2017 won't be as strong as 2016 in the Vancouver region, but he expects "upward pressure" on prices in the second half of this year. "Notwithstanding the foreign tax, we still think Vancouver is an attractive market," he said in an interview.

Of the total number of $1-million-plus properties that sold last year, 89 per cent were single-family houses in the GTA and 64 per cent in Vancouver.

Sotheby's labels its analysis as the "top-tier real estate report," though qualifying for the top category requires reaching the $4-million level. Last year in the City of Toronto, there were 209 sales at $4-million or higher, accounting for 2.7 per cent of that market's total number of sales for at least $1-million, compared with 573 transactions (12.7 per cent) in the City of Vancouver.

In the GTA in November, the average price for single-family houses sold reached $2.37-million in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood, $2.45-million in Rosedale-Moore Park, $2.96-million in Forest Hill and $4.93-million for an area that covers the Bridle Path, Sunnybrook and York Mills.

In Vancouver in November, detached houses sold for an average price of $3.29-million in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood, $3.74-million in Point Grey and $7.72-million in Shaughnessy. The average price for condos sold in December hit $2.3-million in Vancouver's downtown Coal Harbour area.

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