Real Estate During COVID-19

March 24th, 2020 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

Interesting times, eh? Many businesses have been shut down in the last week or so, but many are still up and running – including real estate… for now! TRREB continues to see new listings every day, and plenty of sales. I’ll admit that I’m a bit surprised, but it’s happening. These are strange times, but if you need to sell, and/or if you’ve spotted something that you want to buy, we can probably get it done.

Since much of real estate is conducted in person – client consultations, home valuations, showings, open houses, home inspections, etc. – it would seem like real estate would be a prime candidate for a shut-down – and it may yet happen. However, at least so far, business has continued with some interesting modifications. Here are a few:

  • No public open houses. This makes sense, and really doesn’t require any further explanation. 😉
  • No over-lapping showings. Sometimes, we allow more than one agent to take their buyer(s) through a home at the same time. This practice has been paused for now in an effort to limit physical contact amongst strangers.
  • Video showings – I’m not sure how common this will be, but it’s possible for an agent to, for example, walk through a listing with FaceTime or Skype going, and show a potential buyer more details than would be apparent via a standard virtual tour. (I have actually done this before, for an out-of-town buyer.)
  • Encouraging people viewing a property to follow hand washing and sanitizing guidelines established by health officials.
  • Using disinfecting wipes to clean commonly-shared surfaces like door handles.
  • Reminding clients viewing a property to avoid touching surfaces or items in the home.
  • Refraining from greeting others with handshakes or hugs (#socialdistancing!).
  • Encouraging sellers to thoroughly clean and disinfect the house after viewings.
  • Requesting that clients notify their Realtor if they become ill within two weeks of an open house or showing. If an attendee does become sick or is diagnosed with COVID-19, we’ll want to communicate this with the homeowner and other attendees if possible.
  • Being extra diligent about tracking who attends the property, including the date, time and their contact information. In the event of an infection, we want to be able to provide the information to local public health authorities so they may investigate further.
  • Having buyers provide deposits via e-transfer, instead of a physical bank draft (which saves a trip to the bank, followed by a visit to the listing Brokerage, and further handling of the paper by staff, etc.).

Most of the above are obvious, and just require a reminder from time to time – but, we do need to be extra mindful of taking precautions.

The bottom line is that, for now, real estate business is still being conducted, and I’m here for you if you need anything!

January-February 2020 Market Review

March 11th, 2020 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

To start the year, I’m combining January and February into one review. 😉 Plus, I’ll make some comments about interest rates near the end.

January 2020 basically picked up where 2019 left off – busy! The pace of sales increased 15.4% (4,581 this January over 3,968 last January); at the same time, the number of new listings declined (again) to 7,836, from 9,456 last January. By the end of the month, there were just 7,772 listings available, down 35% from 11,962 last year! This now-familiar dynamic between the number of homes available and the number of sales caused the usual upwards price pressure: the average sale price hit $839,363, up 12.3% over the average for the same month last year (which was $747,175).

By the way, TRREB is now reporting seasonally adjusted, month-over-month changes in sales activity. I’m not sure if that will help with understanding the market – except to help identify when the spring and fall markets start and stop – but for the record, January sales were up 4.8% over December….

Condo sales in the 416 remain strong. Sales were up 9.7% and the average price was up 15%.

TRREB also noted that “the MLS® HPI Composite Benchmark price was up by 8.7 per cent compared to January 2019 – the highest annual rate of growth for the Benchmark since October 2017”. Detached houses and condos were the biggest contributors to the change in the weighted average.

February 2020 was also a big month. There were 7,256 residential sales in February, up a whopping 45% over February of 2019 – but, it’s important to note that February 2019 saw a 10-year record low for sales (just 4,982). The big sales increase was somewhat mitigated by 10,613 new listings, an increase of 7.9% over the same month last year. However, by the end of the month there were just 8,816 listings available, down 33.6% from last year. The resulting price pressure drove up the average sale price to $910,290, +16.7% over the February 2019 average of $779,791.

TRREB reported that the sales activity in February was up by 14.8% over January. This shows some momentum over the last few months, but that’s to be expected at this time of year. We’ll have to see how this month-to-month data develops as the year progresses before I decide how I feel about this new metric; I’m not sure how helpful it will be. For example, it’s reasonable to expect that the COVID-19 panic will slow down sales this month – but I’d bet anything that the market will surge back to balance when the fears blow over. So, the month-to-month data could end up being misleading to some….

Condos had another good month. Sales activity increased by 26.2% and the average price increased by 18%, to $722,675.

TRREB’s MLS® Home Price Index Composite Benchmark was up 10.2%. Townhouses had the smallest increase in price (10.5% – not exactly a ‘small increase’!) and condos had the largest increase in price.

Interest rates are dropping this week, partly due to the COVID-19 scare. (Rates are more directly related to bond prices, but the decline in bond prices may also be related to the COVID-19 scare….) If you got a mortgage last year or the year before, it may be worth speaking to your mortgage broker or bank and ask about the possibility of breaking your mortgage for a new one at the current rates. BEWARE OF THE PENALTIES! Don’t assume that today’s lower rates will make up for the cost of penalties – it depends upon who lent you the money, and what terms are in the mortgage. All I’m saying is that it’s something to consider/talk about. Contact me if you’d like to speak to one of my partners in the mortgage industry.

December 2019 Market Review

January 28th, 2020 Posted by Market Commentary, Market Review No Comment yet

The Toronto real estate market had a decent December to close out 2019. There were 4,399 sales, up 17.4% over December 2018. It’s worth noting, though, that 2018 was a very slow year and December of that year saw only 3,781 sales. For reference, December 2017 saw 4,876 sales, and 2016 saw 5,305 sales, so 2019 was more in line with those years, and did not represent significant net growth. So, a relatively busy December rounded out a year that saw total sales for the calendar year hit 87,825 – up 12.6% over the decade-low 78,015 sales that were reported in 2018. All good!

At the same time, the increase in prices *was* rather significant: up 11.9%, to $837,788, over $749,014 at the end of 2018. Again, I attribute this mostly to the supply issue. New listings were down 18.1%, to 3,531, and total listings at the end of the month were down 35.2% to just 7,406. At a time when sales activity was up over the previous year, reduced availability of homes to buy (down 2.4% for the whole year) caused prices to surge.

I also like to reference the MLS® Home Price Index Composite Benchmark from time to time. It weights sale prices by home type (e.g. detached, semi-detached, townhouse, etc.), so it helps to smooth out the impact of, for example, super-high-end sales. That measure was up by 7.3% year-over-year basis in December 2019. TRREB* has pointed out, though, that from June 2019 onward, the annual growth rate in the MLS® HPI Composite Benchmark accelerated.

Note also that there will be price fluctuations throughout any given year, so the end-of-year price could be higher than the average price for a whole year, which may seem confusing at first, but it makes sense. 😉 So, as noted above, the average selling price in December 2019 was up almost 12% year-over-year, but for the entire calendar year 2019, the average selling price was $819,319, up a much more modest 4% over $787,856 in 2018. The ‘affordability’ issue is often exaggerated, but I think that a 4% annual increase is manageable for most potential buyers.

So, what to expect in 2020?! The economy is still pretty good (especially in Toronto), interest rates remain low, and I think there’s still a lot of pent-up demand for owned housing in the GTA. It’s still relatively quiet out there now but, based on the sale prices being reported this month, I think that we are in for another busy year in the Toronto real estate market!

*TRREB is not a type-o! The Toronto Board is now called the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, which better reflects the territory covered by the Board.

November 2019 Market Review

December 6th, 2019 Posted by Market Review No Comment yet

The Toronto real estate market had a pretty hot November. Sales volume was up 14.2% over November 2018, at 7,090 units, over 6,206 last November. A fairly sharp decline in both new listings (8,650, down 17.9%) and total active listings (11,958, down 27.2%) put pressure on prices, driving up the average sale price by 7.1%, to $843,637.

All housing types experienced at least a small increase in average price:

Detached +4.9%

Semi-detached +0.3%

Row/townhouse +3.2%

Condo +10.9%

Condos once again lead the way! 😉

There could be a few reasons for the increase in activity, but it likely boils down to buyers having adjusted to the so-called ‘demand side’ policies of recent years, primarily the ‘stress-test’ that obliges new buyers to meet stricter mortgage requirements. Maybe they’ve saved a bit more over the past year or so, and more of them are ready to jump in, or they’ve switched their attention to condos (as I have suggested before), or looked to different neighbourhoods, having been ‘priced out’ of their top choices…. Whatever it is, it should come as no surprise that the market has adapted to the changing conditions – after all, that’s what markets do!

December is usually a very slow month in real estate, but coming off a busy November we may see continued activity and price increases. But, eventually, the market will quiet down for the holidays/New Year. Then, we should probably get ready for a busy 2020! 😉

29 Unity Rd – fully renovated 3 bed, 3 bath semi – **SOLD!!**

October 18th, 2019 Posted by Blog, SOLD!! No Comment yet

Unity Rd is in a small development off Greenwood Ave, just a few blocks south of Danforth. Built in 1981, number 29 Unity Rd has been extensively renovated by the current owners since they bought it about 7 years ago. Improvements include new hardwood floors, an all-new kitchen, three bathrooms, windows, doors, a new roof and a fully landscaped back yard (with carport).

The home is located just three short blocks from beautiful Monarch Park, which features a playground, a dog park, a swimming pool, and a skating rink – not to mention mature trees and quiet places to sit and relax. And, at the east end of the park is Monarch Park Stadium (fully covered in winter). The park is a true gem of the East End!

It’s just about a 10 minute walk to Danforth Ave, and all the shops, restaurants, pubs and services it has to offer – and Greenwood Station. If you need the highway, just pop down Greenwood/Leslie St to the Lakeshore, or head up Greenwood towards the DVP – your escape routes are close by! 😉

The local public school is Earl Haig, with high school options being Monarch Park CI and Danforth Collegiate & Technical Institute.

 

 

43 Gainsborough Rd – beautiful 3 bed, 2 bath semi **SOLD!!**

June 7th, 2019 Posted by Blog, SOLD!! No Comment yet

Located near Gerrard and Coxwell’s Little India (AKA India Bazaar AKA Ashdale Village), Gainsborough Rd is a pleasant, tree-lined street of mostly semi-detached homes. Number 43 is a fantastic home set near the bottom of the street, just south of Eastwood Ave and just a few doors up from Moncur Park. It has a renovated kitchen, two nice bathrooms (5 piece upstairs, 3 piece downstairs) and hardwood throughout. The three bedrooms are larger than average, and the finished basement includes a rec room and loads of storage. There’s also a great front porch – perfect for getting to know the neighbours – and a beautiful back yard.

Just a block away from the #22 bus route, this location offers quick access to the subway, but there’s plenty of nearby amenities – standard stuff like banks and grocery stores, but also interesting options like Lasiy Daisy’s cafe, Godspeed brew-pub, The Pantry (an artesan cheese shop), Sanagan’s Meat Locker (a butcher) and Lake Inez.

Monarch Park, Greenwood Park , Orchard Park and Woodbine park are all within walking distance, as are the beach (and The Beach!) and Leslieville. If you have to head downtown you can hop on the 506 Carleton or walk down to the Queen St 501.

There are great schools nearby, too: Bowmore Rd (Junior and Senior), Roden PS, Equinox Holistic Alternative School (housed inside Roden PS), Georges-Etienne-Cartier (Catholic French). High schools are Monarch Park, Danforth Tech (although local kids also attend Riverdale CI) and St Patrick.

I’ll be hosting an open house this Saturday and Sunday, 2-4pm both days. Please do pop by, say hi and check out this great house!

 

27 Laxis Ave: cute 2-bed detached **SOLD**

May 23rd, 2019 Posted by SOLD!! No Comment yet

When my clients bought this house a couple of years ago, it needed loads of work. The structure was fine, but the place hadn’t been upgraded in…well, forever! The kitchen was kinda falling apart, and the back yard was a disaster. And the decor… well, see for yourself!

Two years of hard work has completely transformed the house. The kitchen is all-new – even some of the joists supporting the floor – there’s new flooring in the living/dining room and master bedroom, the sunroom has been fully insulated and prettied up, some of the windows have been replaced and insulation has been added to the attic. See below for a fuller list. Plus, overall, the decor has been given a massive upgrade!

The back yard is now a sight to behold – the flower gardens are works of art, and the veggie garden is huge. The deck is perfect for barbecuing and entertaining (or just relaxing!), and the new shed is large enough for storage and a bit of a work space. It’s fantastic.

The area is a real up-and-comer. Already known for its close proximity to the Humber River (via Portage Gardens Park, just around the corner), Fergy Brown Park and the huge Eglinton Flats playing fields, Mt Denis is getting an LRT station (not far from Laxis Ave), which will also have GO service, a UPX stop and the Maintenance and Storage facility. All that will greatly improve transit options for local residents – and that always helps real estate values (not to mention local businesses).

The local public school is Portage Trail Community School (Our Lady of Victory Catholic), and Weston CI is the high school (Chaminade College and St Oscar Romero Catholic).

List of Improvements

– New Kitchen cabinets, 2017
– Kitchen floor, from floor joists, vinyl wood style flooring, 2017
– Insulation in kitchen crawlspace (accessed under the fridge through trap door), 2017
– Kitchen window, 2016
– Wiring throughout, 2017
– New toilet and bathroom sink, 2017
– New laminate flooring main and second floor, 2017
– Oak tree in backyard professionally trimmed, 2017
– Oak veneer stair caps, 2017
– New shed, 2017
– Bathroom window, 2018
– Sunroom fully insulated (walls, ceiling (blown insulation not accessible now) and underneath – accessed through side by rain barrel outside), 2018
– Sunroom side window, 2018
– Attic blown in insulation, 2018
– New dishwasher, 2018
– New vertical posts on fence, 2018
– Built in closet in sunroom, 2019
– New vinyl siding on kitchen, 2019
– New programmable thermostat, 2019.

Inclusions:
– Existing fridge, stove and dishwasher; clothes washer and dryer (‘as-is’); custom baby gates.

Exclusions:
– wisteria in front garden
– BBQ and patio furniture
– Front window boxes and other potted plants inside and out
– Some of the perennial plants will be split so that a portion is left and some will be taken.

71 South Bonnington Ave – large 2-unit home on a great lot **SOLD!!**

May 15th, 2019 Posted by Hot Listings, SOLD!! No Comment yet

Located in Birch Cliff Heights (between Birch Cliff and Cliffside, just north of Kingston Rd), South Bonnington is a quiet street with a real range of house types, from the original local farm house (just across the street), to post-war bungalows, to modern homes. Number 71 was a two-bedroom bungalow, topped up roughly 15 years ago, now featuring two almost-identical two-bedroom flats. Set on a large corner lot, the property has a fully fenced back yard with a deep, kidney bean-shaped pool and pleasant lawns and gardens. Add to that the four-car private parking and it’s all really quite impressive!

Now fully vacant, both flats have large living/dining area, west-facing picture windows, and two east-facing bedrooms that over-look the back yard. On the main floor, the master bedroom has a sliding glass walk-out to the yard, while the upper master has a nice Juliette balcony. The main floor could use some sprucing up, but is absolutely livable as-is. To be honest, though, the upper unit would benefit from a bit more work, e.g. kitchen and flooring. Keep in mind that it’s only about 15 years old, so it’s nothing that a bit of handiwork can’t fix.

The back yard is really where it’s at with this house. The pool has a new liner and heater, and the pump is new-ish, so it’s ready to go! There’s a nice interlock patio around it, and there’s still room for a lawn and gardens – basically, it has it all!

This house would be great for large and/or extended families, or an investor looking for a two or three unit property (the basement has been rented out before, but would need to be renovated to make it suitable for that again). It’s close to schools (Birch Cliff Heights is just at the bottom of the block), parks (Highview Park has a baseball diamond and a soccer pitch), the TTC (#20 Cliffside bus is just three blocks away) and walking distance to the shops and amenities of Cliffside Village.

I’ll be hosting public open houses this Saturday and Sunday (May 18th & 19th), 2-4pm both days. Come by for a look!

April 2019 Market Review

May 6th, 2019 Posted by Affordability, Market Review No Comment yet

If you are active in the market at all these days (buyer or seller) you’ve probably noticed that things have picked up recently. Sometimes, we can feel it before the stats start to show it, and that’s basically been the case over the last couple of months, and now reflected in TREB’s April stats. Sales activity perked up significantly last month, with 9,042 transactions reported, up 16.8% over the 7,744 sales we saw in April of 2018. New listings also edged upwards, hitting 17,205 for the month, 8% more than we saw last April. Still, by the end of the month there were just 18,037 (including listings already on the market at the start of the month), actually down a touch from 18,206 last year. That means that, while new listings increased, the even greater increase in the pace of sales chewed into the inventory, and that usually foretells increasing prices….

Fortunately, prices are up only 1.9% over April 2018, with the average hitting $820,148 – still well below the peak prices we saw two years ago. Keep that in mind the next time you hear somebody complaining about ‘affordability’. Prices in Toronto are not skyrocketing; they are (for now, and for most of the last two years) trending upwards, which is a good thing. That said, if we continue to see tight supply, we’ll see escalating increases through the busy spring months.

The condo market had another strong month. Sales activity in that segment accounted for much of the action in the 416, increasing 2.6%; the average sale price surged 5.8%, to $637,181.

On a different – but related – note, I came across the Ontario government’s housing plan today. It’s basically about increasing supply – which stands in contrast to many of the demand-side moves that various governments have made to ‘cool the housing market’, for example tighter mortgage rules, the stress test, etc., all of which have made it harder to buy. I’ve long believed that dealing with supply is the solution, and although it will take a few years to work through the system, this plan could help….

March 2019 Market Review

April 4th, 2019 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

This is interesting – the market was almost exactly the same in March, 2019 as it was in March, 2018! Check out these numbers:

Number of sales: 7,187 – just ONE fewer than March 2018.

Average sale price: $788,335, up just 0.5% over $784,514 recorded in 2018.

New listings: the biggest change; 13,996, down 5.1% from 14,753 last year.

Active listings: 15,576, down about 2.5% from 15,971 in 2018.

Condo sales: volume was down 14.1% in the 416, but the average sale price was up 2.3%, to $603,969.

One good sign for the market is that the number of active listings is up from 13,284 last month. Also, the average sale price last month was $780,397, so there’s been a bit of movement there, too. I think that those indicators point to a market that’s picking up steam for the spring. The spring usually generates more listings, which gives buyers more choices, thus drawing them into the game. Once that gets going, it usually rolls along until sometime in June, so we’re looking at two or three months of real activity. It’s a great time to buy and sell.

The fact that the market is essentially flat compared to last year contradicts the much-ballyhooed notion that Toronto is rapidly becoming un-affordable. In fact, prices are down significantly from that price spike we had in 2017. In March of that year, the average sale price was $915,126 and still rising. Since the correction that went through to about August of 2017, when the average sale price bottomed out at $732,292, prices haven’t gone up much – just about 7.7%, or a bit above inflation.

Of course, anybody in the market wants to see some price increases, and I expect that we’ll get back to the normal rate of 5-to-7% per year sometime in the near future. That’s both affordable for buyers, and it rewards home-owners for their investment.