The tranquil, affluent and mountainous neighborhood of Westmount is considered Montreal’s most desirable residential enclave and is sought-after by Quebec’s business and political elite.
The area used to have an older population, with the average resident between 70 and 80, according to agents based in the area. But the population is now getting younger. Agents say young professionals with families are relocating to Westmount because of the area’s private schools and its proximity to downtown Montreal.
“They are willing to spend more money on a property so that they can save on commuting costs and be within a five-minute drive or walking distance of good schools,” said Carl Rémillard-Fontaine, real estate broker at Profusion Immobilier, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.
Parents or other relatives are helping to finance deposits, according to Sacha Brosseau, vice president of brokerage for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “These buyers are on high salaries but are struggling to raise large deposits that are now required,” Mr. Brosseau said.
Buyers need a down payment of 20% of the purchase price to get a conventional mortgage, and certain banks may require residents to pay a deposit of 50% on loans over C$1 million.
Westmount is located on Westmount Summit, one of the three peaks of Royal Mount, a small mountain just west of downtown Montreal, which is part of the Monteregian Hills, a chain of hills in the city.
Though it resides on the island of Montreal and is next door to the downtown area, Westmount is classed as a borough, and it has its own mayor.
Streets that roughly make up the boundaries are: Autoroute Ville-Marie to the south; Avenue Claremont and Victoria Avenue to the west; Avenue Devon and the northern edge of Westmount Summit park to the north; and Avenue Mount Pleasant and Avenue Wood to the east.
The area can be divided into two areas: Upper Westmount comprises the roads on the slopes and summit of the mountain, and the bottom is referred to as the flat.
Home to mainly row houses and some converted apartments, the homes on the flat of the hill have smaller proportions but are nearer to the downtown area. As you go higher up the mountain, the houses get larger and more expensive. Upper Westmount has substantially larger homes, less traffic and better views of the city. Summit Circle, a circular road that borders Westmount Summit, is known for its multimillion-dollar houses.
However, demand has increased for homes on the flat, according to Mr. Rémillard-Fontaine. “Empty nesters are trading larger houses at the top of the mountain for smaller properties on the flat,” he said. “If you live in Upper Westmount, you really need a car because the roads are steep. Public bus services operate in the area, but residents mainly use their cars.”
Houses selling for around C$1.5 million (US$1.2 million) in Westmount are entry-level properties, and usually have two to three bedrooms, a small courtyard garden but no garage or guaranteed off-street parking, according to Mr. Brosseau.
Mr. Rémillard-Fontaine said that the starting price for a home in Westmount is around C$1 million (US$793,000). The least expensive property currently on the market is a small townhouse listed for C$690,000 (US$547,308).
A large house on Avenue Sunnyside broke a record for Montreal by selling for C$14 million (US$11 million) in April, according to Mr. Rémillard-Fontaine. The property, which was sold privately for C$2 million (US$1.58 million) under its asking price, needed updating but had great views of the city.This seven bedroom home, currently asking for $7.52 million, is perched atop a 38,000 sq. ft. hill and offers magnificent vistas.
SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY QUEBEC
The average asking price of a home in Westmount is C$2.8 million (US$2.23 million), the median asking price is C$2.35 million (US$1.87 million) and the average selling price is C$1.8 million (US$1.43 million), Mr. Rémillard-Fontaine said. Homes priced south of C$2 million sell much faster than properties with higher price points, he said.
Single-family homes outnumber any other type of property in Westmount. The area mainly has historic brick and stone-built row, semi-detached and detached houses, which have a similar style to classic brownstone and greystone townhouses found in New York and Chicago.
The area has homes dating from the 1890s, the early 20th century and the 1960s, with the majority built from the 1910s to the 1920s. The 1960s-era homes were predominantly single-story but many have been extended into two stories.
“Homes are well built and have been tastefully renovated,” Mr. Brosseau said. “Period features, such as open fireplaces and timber flooring, have been blended with contemporary kitchens and bathrooms.”
The area’s well-preserved look is partly because many homes are classified as heritage buildings, which prevents residents from altering properties without obtaining permission from the local authority.
What makes it unique
Westmount has well-maintained streets lined with mature trees, lovely architecture, views of the city and the St. Lawrence River and a mountain as its backdrop, said Christina Miller of Christina Miller Real Estate Group, which is part of Profusion Immobilier.
People are regularly out in the neighborhood with their dogs and getting their children to and from school by walking or cycling, which creates a community feel.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk from Westmount to downtown Montreal and the area has a selection of highly regarded private schools.
Residents, a.k.a Westmounters, can hike, cycle and walk with their dogs through the neighborhood’s three public parks. Westmount Park is on the flat, King George Park is halfway up the mountain and the Westmount Summit is at the top, which offers a viewpoint with far-reaching views over the west side of Montreal.
Roderick Chen / Design Pics / Getty Images
Greene Avenue, the most well-known street in Westmount, is known for its antique shops and art galleries. Green Avenue’s Gallery De Bellefeuille is a go-to spot for art for Westmounters.
Another popular spot on Greene Avenue is Les 5 Saisons, a gourmet grocery store, which has a deli counter, a wide selection of local and imported cheeses, freshly baked bread, a butcher and fresh fish. Vago, an Italian restaurant with sleek dining rooms, is also popular.
Westmount’s younger residents gravitate more toward Victoria Village, which comprises Victoria Avenue and Sherbrooke Street West. Trendier and livelier than other parts, it has Appetite for Books, a cookbook shop; Patisserie de Gascogne; and Park, a highly-regarded restaurant with a menu of sushi, Korean and Argentinian-Paraguayan dishes.
A French restaurant housed in the Mies van der Rohe-designed building on Westmount Square, The Tavern on the Square, is a favorite spot among locals for a post-work drink and nibbles, Mr. Brosseau said. “I can guarantee I will see a minimum of three people I know when I go there,” he said.
Chez Nick, a diner/deli, has been around since 1920 and serves all-day breakfast, making it the ideal place for a late breakfast on the weekend.
As mentioned earlier, Westmount’s private schools draw wealthy families to the area. Popular schools include St. George’s School of Montreal, a co-ed independent elementary school; Selwyn House School, a private, independent all-boys school from kindergarten to grade 11; Miss Edgar’s & Miss Cramp’s School (ECS), a private day school for girls between kindergarten to grade 11; and The Study, a private school for girls between kindergarten and grade 11.
Villa Sainte-Marcelline is a French-language private school for girls from kindergarten to high school.
Who lives there
High-ranking business executives and high-net-worth entrepreneurs and business owners live alongside lawyers, investment bankers, doctors and surgeons.
Westmount’s residents were historically predominantly English-speaking (the majority of Quebec’s population speak French as their first language), but the neighborhood is now more linguistically diverse.
As Mr. Rémillard-Fontaine put it, “it’s a wealthy neighborhood that attracts anyone with a budget for a C$1 million house.”
However, English-speaking overseas buyers are more attracted to the area because English is more widely spoken than other areas.
The largest age group is mid-to-late 40s, brokers said.
Many of Canada’s influential business people have made Westmount their home.
Past residents include Paul Desmarais, the late Canadian financier who was one of Canada’s richest people. He lived with his family in the neighborhood for many years.
Cheese magnate Lino Saputo of Saputo, Inc. and his family are also said be residents of the neighborhood.
Stephen Bronfman, a member of the wealthy Bronfman family of industrialists, lives with his family there as well.
Politician and former prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila, owned a seven-bedroom home in Westmount for nearly two decades, which they sold in 2015 for A$5.8 million, according to The Huffington Post.
Everything worth selling goes quickly, Mr. Brosseau said. “This trend will continue unless the market is suddenly flooded with supply, which would cause a slowdown.”
He continued: “The area is above market and economic fluctuations, such as interest-rate rises. Some buyers don’t require mortgages; we had a buyer recently who paid cash for a C$2 million (US$1.58 million) property.”
With housing inventory in Westmount at such a low, the demand in the luxury real estate market is continuously outpacing supply, Ms. Miller said. “Luxury home sales are soaring.”
She added: “Foreign buyers have realized that Westmount/Montreal is an affordable city compared to Canada’s other large cities, like Toronto and Vancouver.”
It is thought that tax hikes for foreign buyers in Toronto and Vancouver are the reason for the shift in demand from these cities to Montreal. Toronto and Vancouver have recently introduced a 15% tax on home purchases for non-resident foreigners.
Mr. Rémillard-Fontaine agreed: “Chinese buyers are flocking to Montreal to buy property. Increased demand has contributed to price rises and is pricing out local people in some areas. It is a city-wide trend but Westmount, Nuns’ Island and Town of Mount Royal are the most affected.”
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