MONTREAL - Canada's federal housing agency says the number of foreign buyers in the Montreal area surged by 37 per cent in the first four months of the year.

The 236 purchases by foreigners accounted for 1.8 per cent of all real estate transactions from January to April, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said in a report.

That's up from 172 deals representing 1.3 per cent of total sales a year earlier during the same time period.

By comparison, home purchases by foreign buyers in the Vancouver area have hovered around three to four per cent of all transactions since the introduction of a 15 per cent foreign buyers' tax last August. In the Toronto area, about five per cent of transactions were made by foreigners before a tax was added in April.

Quebec housing 'light years way' from Vancouver, Toronto: Leitao

BNN speaks with Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao about the growth in jobs and how that's helping to drive the housing market in the province. He talks about Montreal's stable housing and says "we are missing the boat" if we only focus on foreign homebuyers.

Buyers from China accounted for the strongest growth in Montreal, representing 17 per cent of all foreign buyers, up from less than 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2016.

The number of buyers from China more than tripled since the adoption of the Vancouver tax, while the number of French and American buyers increased by about 33 per cent.

Condominiums were the first choice of foreign buyers but 40 per cent of Chinese buyers selected single-family homes.

The median price they paid for these homes was about $720,000 while 25 per cent exceeded $1 million, far greater than prices paid by American and French buyers.