New York Times Feature | House Hunting in … Westmount, Montreal

September 18, 2013


$3.1 million (3,250,000 Canadian dollars)

This three-bedroom Victorian mansion perched halfway up Mount Royal has upper-floor views of the St. Lawrence River in Westmount, an affluent suburb of Montreal. The original 1.5-story red-brick home was built in 1847 by a Montreal merchant and his wife, a member of the Hurtubise family, one of the first farmers in the Westmount area. A spacious attic and summer kitchen were added over time, and in 1879, a Montreal banker bought the home and added the central tower and wraparound veranda that give it a distinctive Victorian appearance. The three-story home, with its multicolored slate-tiled roof, widow’s walk, casement windows with brass hardware, and ornate gingerbread trim has been recognized for its well-preserved historic architecture with Montreal’s Heritage Emeritus Award in 2005.

Because of its historic status recognition, changes to the home’s exterior are very difficult to make, said Liza Kaufman, a broker with Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec, which has the listing.

With the conversion of a nearby old well house into a two-bedroom guesthouse and the expansion of the summer kitchen into a two-bedroom town house, the property now consists of three dwellings on more than a third of an acre, much of it landscaped with gardens and a cedar hedge. The main home is surrounded by an original wrought-iron fence and has stained-glass panels around the front door bearing its historic name, Riverview. Interiors have been modified over time, but the owners have retained period features like the 12-inch sculptured baseboards, original doors with glass transoms, and a staircase with a diagonal newel post. The property has five parking spaces and plans for a double garage have been approved by the city of Westmount.

This property is in the oldest section of Westmount, a city with a population of more than 20,000 residents. The most affluent suburb of Montreal, Westmount has excellent public and private schools, attractive parks and copious public services, such as a pool and sports arena. The home is near a primary shopping area along Sherbrooke Street called Victoria Village, and downtown Montreal is about a 10-minute drive by car or 30 minutes by public transportation. Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is about 20 minutes away by car.


Montreal has seen the volume of home sales slip in the last year, because of slower economic and employment growth, and buyers have enjoyed more negotiating power in certain areas, according to a spring 2013 report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Prices in the region aren’t anticipated to fall, but their growth has slowed, with the average resale price expected to grow by 1.4 percent in 2013, versus almost 4 percent the year before, according to the report.

One of the areas where buyers have gained the upper hand is Westmount, where average prices have fallen by 7 percent in 2013, according to statistics provided by the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board. But the Westmount market is typically a solid one, and prices aren’t expected to fall much farther, said Diane Ménard, the board’s vice president.

“Westmount has always been an area in demand — it’s a very high-end area,” she said. “There’s a slight decrease in prices, but I don’t see that they’re really going to fall down too far. The market is still good in Montreal.”

While the average price of a detached home for resale in Montreal in 2012 was about 326,000 Canadian dollars ($311,000), in Westmount, the average single-family home was almost 1.5 million Canadian dollars ($1.4 million). Ms. Kaufman said the most expensive single-family home ever sold was about 7 million Canadian dollars ($6.7 million).

“There are also semidetached homes that go up to 2 million Canadian dollars,” she said, or $1.9 million.


Only about 2 to 3 percent of home buyers in Westmount are from foreign countries, Ms. Menard said. The bulk are Canadian, and many of them are Westmount residents upgrading their homes, she said.

The small percentage of foreign home buyers come from all over the world, particularly from France and China most recently, Ms. Kaufman said. She said she is also handling buyers from Dubai, Belgium and Japan. The strength of the Canadian dollar kept Americans away in recent years, but those buyers may be returning, Ms. Kaufman said.


There are no restrictions on foreign ownership in Quebec, where notarial law much like that of France governs real estate sales. Notary fees typically cost about 1,000 to 2,500 Canadian dollars ($968 to $2,420), and home buyers also must pay a municipal transfer tax that equates to roughly 1.5 percent of the home’s sales price, Ms. Kaufman said.

Mortgages are available for foreign home buyers, though banks may only finance 50 to 65 percent of the purchase. “Most of my foreign buyers tend to buy in cash,” Ms. Kaufman said.


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