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Real Estate Watch: Divergence expected at the high-end of Canada’s hottest housing markets

The high-end of the Canadian housing market is shaping up to be a tale of two cities -- Toronto and Vancouver, that is. The latest forecast from Sotheby's International Realty highlights those two locales as the drivers of sales growth this spring.

The Greater Toronto Area is expected to see the strongest pickup in sales nationally, particularly for single-family homes worth more than $1 million. Purchases of all types of luxury homes have already started this year on a high note, jumping 38 percent from the same time last year to 997 units. The GTA sold 7,527 luxury homes in all of 2014. Sotheby's credits historically low lending rates, along with a strong economic outlook for Ontario, improving consumer confidence and a shortage of inventory for the increase.

It's a similar story for Vancouver, where a strong economic forecast for British Columbia and an anticipated surge in migration into the city are expected to sustain sales momentum. Sotheby's sees sales of both detached single-family and attached homes building in the coming months. Overall luxury home sales rose 2 percent to 3,134 units in 2014.

Sales of condominiums worth more than $1 million are expected to hold steady in both the Toronto and Vancouver areas.

But one major city is expected to be left behind during the busiest selling season -- Calgary.

Sotheby's expects the downturn in the energy market to drag on the housing market and shake consumer confidence. The brokerage anticipates more 'for sale' signs popping up on lawns in the city and a slowdown in purchases, saying shrewd buyers may be able to take advantage of the economic weakness in Alberta and score a home at a cheaper price -- if they can stomach the uncertainty.

In a reassuring sign, Sotheby's notes extremely low lending rates and vacancy levels should help buttress the luxury market in the short-term.

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