The first six months of 2017 saw a 30 per cent increase in the number foreign buyers of property in Montreal over the previous year, figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) indicate.

While not as marked as 2015 to 2016, which saw a 60 per cent increase, the new data confirms that the trend continues.

As trends go, it's still a relatively tiny one — the 425 foreign buyers accounted for only 1.3 per cent of all real estate transactions between January and June 2017.

The same period last year saw 330 property transactions with foreign buyers in Montreal, or one per cent of total sales.

But the CMHC said the fact foreign buyers in Toronto and Vancouver now have to pay a 15 per cent tax may be pushing Chinese investors toward Montreal, if only "very slightly."

"The investor profile has changed a bit," said Francis Cortellino of the CMHC. "There are more investors from China, where it used to be dominated by France and the United States."

Westmount, Town of Mount Royal popular

Paul Cardinal, an analyst with the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards, said the number of foreign buyers is still too low to have a significant impact on housing prices in Montreal.

He noted, however, that there can be a localized price bump in Montreal neighbourhoods that are popular with the Chinese buyers,  like Westmount and Town of Mount Royal.

Colin Bogar, a real estate broker based in Shanghai, said he's seeing a growing interest in Montreal. The city is currently the 10th most-researched location on the online platform Property Passbook.

Montreal's universities, public transit among draws

Bogar said the interest he's seeing began before the 15 per cent tax was introduced in Vancouver and Toronto to curb real estate speculation in those cities.

Chinese buyers like Montreal for its universities, its economy and its transit system, among other factors, Bogar said.

This assessment was echoed by Unsal Ozdilek, a professor at UQAM's School of Management, who said Montreal has enviable assets including air and water quality and safety, but continues to lag behind other cities on international capital markets.

He said the price increase resulting from more foreign buyers could be detrimental to first-time buyers, but would benefit those who already own property in Montreal.  

With files from Radio-Canada's René Saint-Louis