Posts in Market Review

February 2018 Market Review

March 13th, 2018 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

Once again, there’s a lot of noise and nonsense about the Toronto real estate market. Headlines with words like “plummet” and “slump” make it seem as though the market is in bad shape. It’s not.

Firstly, we typically compare a month (e.g. February) to the same month a year earlier. That’s usually a good measure that captures relative seasonal ups and downs – an apples-to-apples comparison – and it’s a long enough time frame to give us a view of the direction of things. However, when something unusual happens, like the massive price spike we saw in the first quarter of 2017, that measure gets skewed. Last February saw prices jump up 27.7% over February 2016. That was crazy, and it was a good thing that the market came back down in the following months. As I have written previously, 2017 was quite a roller coaster, so as we go through 2018 and do our usual one-year-ago comparison, we have to keep that in mind.

So, saying that the market is in negative territory is wrong. We have to take a broader look – or, put another way, look back a little further, and see how current prices look longer-term. TREB did that in their monthly report. Compared to February 2016, when the average sale price was $685,278, we are up 12%. Not too shabby.

Now, let’s look back over the last few months. The average sale price back in November was $761,757; in December it was $735,021; in January, 2018 it was $736,783; February was $767,818. I think the numbers over the last few months reflect the typical seasonal dip that happens every year. Situation: normal.

Secondly, we also have to look at the segments. It’s certainly very interesting that sales of fully and semi-detached houses were down, as were their average sale prices. The number of sales of townhouses and condos were also down, but prices in those segments were up. As mentioned, the average price in February worked out to $767,818, compared to $876,363 last February – a drop of 12.4%. But, the average townhouse price was up 15.5% and condos were up 10.7%. It seems to me like buyers have shifted away from the highest priced housing types and ‘substituted’ for smaller, cheaper options.

Also of note, the number of new listings edged up slightly, but the overall number of listings increased significantly (147.4%). This serves as a reminder of how tight the market supply was at this time last year. Let’s look at available listings in February over the last several years:

2013 – 15,969

2014 – 14,019

2015 – 12,793

2016 – 10,902

2017 – 5,400

2018 – 13,362

This is why I’m always stressing that supply is a big problem: it declined steadily for five years, then dropped like a stone last  year, and that naturally caused a price spike. Getting the supply back up is key to a healthy market, and we are getting there.

The ‘spring market’ is warming up, too, although this week is March Break, which is usually a bit slower due to travel, etc. I check listings and sales every day, and it looks to me like sales are happening quicker than last month, and usually for over asking. That tells me that there are lots of buyers out there. They now have some more selection, and that is a good thing. Pretty soon the market will have adapted to the latest new mortgage rules, the weather will warm up, and we’ll be able to put ‘bad news’ behind us for a while. 🙂


December 2017/Year End Market Review

January 9th, 2018 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

The Toronto real estate market survived a roller-coaster-like year in 2017. The first quarter (Q1) saw wicked price increases, followed by a hard rebound in prices in Q2, which in turn was followed by a period of relative calm in Q3, then a surge in sales activity in Q4. When the dust settled, the December year-over-year average sale price was up just about 0.7%, but the average price for the year 2017 ended up 12.7% higher than 2016, at $822,681.

Most of that annual gain happened in Q1. That’s when super-tight supply squeezed buyers into making very aggressive bids. Then, the Ontario government gave the market a kick in the teeth with their ‘Fair’ Housing Plan (an Orwellian use of language, as seems to be the style these days…), which scared buyers to the sidelines with speculative talk about ‘foreign buyers’ – the Boogie Man in the Liberals’ pitch. As the TREB report says: “Research from TREB, the provincial government and Statistics Canada showed that foreign home buying was not a major driver of sales in the GTA.” Still, they needed a reason to Do Something, and foreign buyers fit the bill. When buyers retreated, prices plopped back down to where they started the year, and we were into a bit more of a balanced market.

That balance started to shift back towards the sellers’ favour in December. I think that the year-end surge was fuelled by two things: 1) buyers realised that foreign buyers were not behind the steady rise in GTA prices, and the new tax wouldn’t really change anything long-term (after a period of adjustment); and 2) more government intervention, this time in the form of new federal ‘stress test’ rules for buyers in 2018, meant that many folks wanted to get their purchase locked in before those new rules kicked in.

Basically, the wild volatility throughout the year was largely due to government intervention in the market. As mentioned, we’ll see more of that this year, but hopefully less, and with less of a destabilising effect.

TREB also noted that in the second half of 2017, the buyer market shifted away from the most expensive housing type – fully detached homes – to semis, towns and condos. Clearly, the market has the capacity to offer buyers options, which naturally mitigates the need for government intervention, but whaddya do…? Sales activity in the detached segment was down 13.4%, and the average sale price was down 2.1%, to $1,250,235. At the other end of the spectrum, while condo sales volume in the 416 dipped 8.8% in December, the average price was up 14.1%, to $532,700.

So, what does 2018 have in store for us? Life goes on, in spite of policy changes, and lots of folks plan to move for various reasons, so I figure there will be lots of sales this year. The 2017 end-of-year available listing volume sat at 12,926, way up from just 4,746 at the end of 2016. If that can be maintained we might be able to settle in to a ‘liquid’ marketplace that offers buyers choice. There’s no structural shortage of buyers – they just get shooed away by governments from time to time – so more supply will allow more buyers to succeed. With some luck, price appreciation will be lower, which is more sustainable long-term.

What are your plans this year? Feel free to get in touch with me to talk about that! 😉

Market Review September 2017

October 13th, 2017 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

The most obvious aspect of the September market was the drop in sales volume. Transactions were down 35.1%, from 9,830 last year to just 6,379 this year. At the same time, the number of active listings surged from 11,255 to 19,021, an increase of 69%. This is, broadly speaking, good for the market. For perspective, there were 21,571 active listings in September ’07, and that was down from 26,363 the previous year; the current number is below historic levels. However, it does make for some stark-looking numbers. Still, the average price did manage to eek up 2.6% year-over-year. That means that, despite the wild roller coaster ride that the market experienced in the first half of the year, we are still in positive territory over-all.

The average sale price for the month was $775,546, well down from the fever-pitched levels that we saw in the first quarter of 2017. I don’t usually track same-year stats, but with the way things have gone in 2017, I think it’s warranted. Average price hit a peak of $920,791 in April, and had trended downwards every month since then, quickly giving up the rapid gains seen in the first few months. The August average was $732,292, so September at least showed its usual strength relative to the summer months.

When discussing the condo market, I always make a point of focusing on sales in the 416 area code (separate from sales in the 905). This month, it’s interesting to note the difference in prices for detached homes in the 416. Last month, the average sale price in Toronto was $1,355,234, up significantly from the $1,191,052 average we saw in August. That indicates a strong market, despite the news. In the 905, the August average was $906,592 and rose just slightly to $912,921 in September. Clearly, the decline in the overall average sale price isn’t because of lower prices for detached homes. As TREB noted in its report, “the MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark was up by 12.2 per cent on a year-over-year basis”, which indicates that the ‘decline’ in prices is more due to the mix of home types sold, which is a healthy reaction by the marketplace.

The condo segment was also interesting. Sales in the 416 volume was down 23.2%, but the average sale price was up 24%, to $554,069. Condos seem to have been acting as a ‘relief valve’ for people finding themselves priced out of low-rise dwellings, and the price gap is narrowing in reaction to that….

So, what does it all mean? Who knows! The real estate market has been under constant pressure from the government for a few years now (several rounds of tightened mortgage rules, with more to come; new taxes; enhanced rent controls, etc.) so it’s hard to tease out what’s actually going on. The ‘fundamentals’ are still in favour of a strong, growing market: decent economy, some job creation, historically low interest rates and a growing population. But, with so much meddling by governments, and the natural confusion that causes, the behaviour of the market is not a reflection of fundamentals. It’s probably safe to say that the fundamentals will eventually show through – meaning a resumption of solid price increases – but we may have to wait for the meddling to recede before we see that…. In the meantime, the market is surviving!  😉




August 2017 Market Report

September 8th, 2017 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

August was a slow month in the Toronto real estate market, which is fairly typical. TREB reported 6,357 sales, down 34.8% from the 9,748 sales we saw in August of 2016. While that sounds pretty dramatic, it’s more than the 6,418 sales reported in August of 2012 (which I just picked randomly when looking for something to compare this year to).

The average sale price has been volatile this year. For the last decade or so, that number has trended upwards steadily, and only sometimes dramatically. Then, in the first part of this year it spiked way up, mostly due to extremely tight supply. Then, as the ‘spring market’ got going and more supply hit the market, the average price dropped back down to normal. The average sale price in August was $732,292 – well below the April average, $920,791. Still, that number is up 3% over August 2016. Check out the graph (click to enlarge, courtesy my RE/MAX Hallmark colleague Robert Ede). Despite the hysterical headlines about a ‘plunging’ Toronto real estate market, we are still up over last year!

The condo segment had an interesting month. Sales volume in the 416 was down 24.5%, to 1,476 transactions. At the same time, the average price spiked 20.9%, to $540,169. That indicates to me that supply was limiting sales volume, and forcing buyers to step up.

Another number that I have been tracking recently is Active Listings. There were 16,419 at the end of last month, up 65% over August 2016 (9,949). Again, sounds dramatic, but in August 2012 there were 19,043 Active listings. So, when we are looking at what direction the market is going, it’s important to think past the short-term graph (which looks pretty wacky) and try to step back for a broader view. Supply is still tightly constrained, and demand is still strong. Look no further that the latest economic data and we’ll see that the economy and job creation are really picking up steam. That always boosts the real estate market. Also, this week’s Bank of Canada rate increase, and subsequent mortgage rate increases, should act to push more buyers into the market, as they look to lock in a great rate before those rise too much more….

Of course, anything could happen, but I expect the fall market to be busy, and for prices to start going back up – although I hope at a more sustainable rate than we saw earlier this year. We’ll know more in the coming weeks!



Market Review – June 2017

July 7th, 2017 Posted by Market Review No Comment yet

The Toronto Real Estate market continued to moderate in June. The first point to note is that the average sale price was up 6.3% over June, 2016. Somehow, TREB’s HPI was up 25.3%, which may indicate that the unweighted average was brought down by a higher proportion of sales at the lower end of the market (e.g. condos: in June 2016 about 24% of sales were condos; last month is was closer to 30%). Over the last 12 months, the average price of a detached house was up about 10.2%, and the average price of a condo was up about 23%.

Of course, the louder news is that prices are down from earlier in the year. That’s no surprise, given the severity of the price spike in the first quarter – and, again, it’s a good thing. The market cannot sustain price increases in the 20-30% range. A bit of a pull-back was in order. As for the causes, who knows? Some speculate that it’s because of the 15% foreign buyers tax. Foreign buyers were such a small part of the market (maybe in the range of 5%…?) that it’s hard to say if enough of them have backed out of the market to have a measurable impact. Maybe it’s just buyers taking stock and getting the new lay of the land before proceeding. Or, maybe it’s just the usual spring surge in listings taking the pressure off price escalation. Either way, the market has been unsettled for a few months.

Still, it has been good for buyers – although fewer buyers took advantage of these more favourable conditions. The number of sales was down 37.3% from 2016, to just 7974 (and keep in mind that year-over-year the average sale price was up 6.3%). Those buyers had greater selection: the number of new listings was up 15.9% and the total number of available listings at the end of the month (19,680) was up 59.6%. For reference, the number of available listings in June 2007 was 21,789 – and that was down from 25,393 the year before! The current supply is up over last year, but we are still well below historical supply levels.

The market is not “correcting” in the sense that prices are going to go down below previous years. It’s leveling out. *BUT* these conditions won’t last. The Canadian economy is strong, and job creation is at its quickest pace since 2010. With interest rates set to rise, buyers will want to move quickly to make a purchase and secure as low an interest rate as possible. That’s going to fuel a surge in buying. What that will do to prices remains to be seen. Getting back to 5-10% annual increases would be great – healthy, great for investing, but also sustainable.

I think that sellers should hedge their bets and try to sell into this summer market. Things are going to pick up soon, and you don’t want to miss your buyer. Sure, prices may firm up through the second half of the year, but we’ve seen the top prices for 2017 already. Whatever we see for the rest of this year will be up from last year, but probably not by much. And buyers really should get out there and make their purchase ASAP. Whatever prices do, I doubt that the selection will get much better than it is now. The best time to buy is when nobody else is (or few others are) buying – that’s when you can make your best purchase. Lock in a great rate before they start rising.

The bottom line is: don’t miss your chance!

Market Review – May 2017: Double-counting of ‘new listings’ confounds data

June 16th, 2017 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

Much is being made (e.g. in the media) about the ‘decline’ in sales in Toronto. As I have been saying (writing) for years, it’s one thing for the pace or volume of sales to decline, and another for prices to decline.

It’s true that the volume of sales in May 2017 was lower than sales in 2016. That said, 10,196 transactions is typical for a busy month in the spring market. The number of sales in May 2016 was 12,931, an all-time record for that month. So, we saw fewer sales than the record set last May. Do we have to set a record every month?! I don’t think so.

Also, the average price in May 2017 was $863,910, up 14.9% – or about $112,000 – still a very high increase. It was down from April (which was basically the same as March) because the market was so crazy in the first quarter, and that drove prices up quite dramatically. I’m glad to see that those super-high price increases are behind us.

Much is also being made of the increase in the number of new listings. As noted in the headline, that number is faulty: TREB has double-counted (and in some cases triple-counted) some new listings. Here’s how: a new listing is posted with an eye-catching price. The home-owner wants competition that will drive up that price. Then, due to the slowing activity that we’ve seen in the last six-to-eight weeks, ‘offer night’ comes and goes without a sale. The Realtor cancels the existing listing and posts a new listing with a higher price. TREB (through no fault of its own) can’t yet track that, so that property has appeared twice in the system and gets counted twice. You can imagine that this could easily happen a couple of times with the same property, and it happens all the time across the city. There could be hundreds, if not thousands, of double-counted properties in that “New Listings” number. Clearly, it’s not what it seems.

The better number to track is Active listings, which hit 18,477 last month, up 42.9% over May 2016. This is a good thing! The market has been trapped in a low supply situation for years, and if a bunch of new listings can take off some of the pressure, that would be great. Ten years ago, in May 2007, TREB reported  23,739 active listings (which was down from 26,220 the year before). The city population is higher now, and we are still nowhere near that volume of available listings for all the eager buyers out there. Why would anybody start ringing the alarm bells in conditions like this? My guess is sensationalism. Fear sells, doesn’t it? :/

The supply issue is perhaps more easily understood if one looks at the number of active listings added to sales. That number would provide a sum of the real estate activity for the month. In May 2007 (which I chose as a nice, round ten years ago), there were 23,739 active listings and 11,146 sales, which adds up to 34,885.

Last month there were only 18,477 active listings left at the end of the month and 10,196 sales, which adds up to 28,673, only about 82% of the activity recorded in 2007. With a rising population, solid economy, good job growth and continued low interest rates, we still have less real estate activity now than we did ten years ago. In this supply-constrained, competitive environment, what would cause a correction? There’s certainly a fear factor infecting the market these days, but underneath all that is the relentless supply shortage, and that should absolutely preclude a correction (beyond the simple re-balancing we’ve seen recently).

By the way, looking at the 11,146 sales in May 2007, from that ‘selection’ of 34,885, it’s clear that buyers had a lot more choice then; prices were up a manageable 5% that month. That was a strong market, and we would be lucky if our supply were to increase steadily over the next few months to get us back to that level.


April 2017 Market Review

May 8th, 2017 Posted by Blog, Market Review No Comment yet

April was another busy month in the Toronto real estate market. New listings finally started to appear (21,630 new listings for the month, up 33.6% over April 2016) giving buyers more choice. Coupled with 11,630 sales for the month (down 3.3% from the 12,016 recorded in April 2016), that allowed available listings to edge up 3% ,to 12,926 by the end of the month.

Price pressure remained in place, though, with the average sale price up 24.5% to $920,791. Note that the average sale price in March was $916,567, meaning prices remained essentially flat month-to-month. So, although we saw another big year-over-year price, this could be a sign that prices are leveling out, which will come as a relief to buyers.

The condo segment in the 416 had an impressive month. Sales volume was up a modest 8%, but prices soared 32.3%, keeping pace with last month’s increase.

The long-awaited increase in the supply of available listings is great news for the market, but it still leaves us far from historical levels. For example, in April, 2007 TREB reported 22,829 available listings, almost double the current level. The average Days on Market (i.e. how long the average listing took to sell) was around 30 days. Last month it was just 9, indicating how short-lived our supply really is. If we are lucky, we’ll get a couple of months of increasing supply, which should bring some balance to the market.

Right now it looks like the price increases are locked in, but it’s important for sellers to note that the market is not the same as it was in Jan-Feb-March. The new supply is taking some of the heat off buyers, meaning they don’t have to put everything on the line for every house that they see. So, while we are still seeing multiple offers on a lot of houses, we won’t get that for every single listing. Marketing – especially pricing – is more important than ever. But, we’ve seen this before; almost every spring, in fact! We make the adjustment, and move on.

The bottom line is that it’s still a great time to sell, and an even better time to buy.




March 2017 Market Review

April 10th, 2017 Posted by Market Review No Comment yet

The Toronto real estate market blasted through March, 2017. We saw a decent increase in new listings (17,051, up 15.2%), which we expect this time of year, but sales once again gobbled ’em up. There were 12,077 transactions, an increase of 17.7% over March 2016. By the end of the month, only 7,865 listings were left, 35.2% fewer than the same time last year.

This ongoing supply-demand crunch once again drove prices up. The average sale price (all types) hit $916,567 ($688,011 in March, 2016), up 33.2% year-over-year.

Condos in the 416 continued to surge too, with sales up 29% and the average price up 32%, to $550,299. The average price for a townhouse – which can be a bridge between condo apartments and houses – was up 22%, to $761,128. Clearly, there are options for buyers who can’t (yet) afford a semi or fully detached house in Toronto, and the increasing sales numbers in these segments indicate that more and more buyers are going that route.

The biggest numbers are in the fully detached segment, where the average sale price hit $1,561,780! TREB’s HPI, which takes into account differences among housing types, and tries to smooth out the averages, was up 28.6%, slightly lower than the overall average. Still, these are all hefty increases.

The next few months are going to be interesting. We’ll have to wait and see how many new listings come out for the spring market, and whether or not there will be enough to satisfy demand and take the pressure off prices. Sky-high pricing usually brings sellers to market. Again, the lack of options for sellers – i.e. where will they go after they sell? – remains a problem, but anybody motivated to ‘cash out’ will find a way. This market needs that, so I’m not saying that we’ll see a flood of listings and a subsequent correction. At this point, I’m just hoping for something to help ease that pressure.

I’m a big fan of Toronto real estate as an investment – that’s not going to change – but 33% annual increases are not sustainable. Maybe buyers will back off, and do their part to take control of the market (but don’t ask me where they will live while waiting for the market to cool). Of course, even lower price increases won’t likely go below double digits, and real estate should always be a medium-to-long-term investment, so it’s probably still better to buy sooner than later….

February 2017 Market Review

March 14th, 2017 Posted by Market Review No Comment yet

Sometimes I feel like I could just copy-paste last month’s review, update a few numbers and be done! The Toronto market has been reliably consistent for years and years: prices go up. Sometimes the supply goes down and sometimes… well, it always seems to be down these days. 🙁

With the consistently strong demand for Toronto real estate, sales volume in February was up 5.7% to 8,014 transactions (7,583 in Feb ’16). There were just 9,834 new listings, down 12.5% (11,234 in Feb ’16). By the end of the month, only 5,400 listings were left on the market. At the end of Feb ’16 there were 10,902; that’s a drop of 50.5%. With supply dropping by half, it’s no wonder that prices continue to surge. The average sale price (for all housing types) leapt 27.7%, to $875,983.

Do you know anybody who is still dumping on the condo market? Tell ’em that sales in the 416 were up 14%, and prices climbed 18.2%. That’s getting up around low-rise rates of increase…. On the bright side, the average condo price for the month was $515,424, far below the average house price.

There are always multiple factors affecting markets – supply and demand, interest rates, land transfer taxes, the job market, foreign buyers, etc. – but the biggest, most obvious challenge these days is supply (which you know I’ve been on about for a while now). There are lots of qualified buyers ‘out there’, and they are fighting like mad to get the home they need in the neighbourhood they want… and sometimes the neighbourhood they didn’t know they wanted until they got priced out of one or two others! I see it every day, and there’s no getting around it. We need more listings, but there’s no easy solution to that.

This city needs more low-rise housing, better transit and improved infrastructure – I know, *news flash*, eh? Fortunately, there are always people who can cash out of the Toronto market and move to another city. There are lots of good reasons to do that, and I happen to know a couple of people who are doing that this year. Stay tuned! 🙂

January 2017 Market Review

February 14th, 2017 Posted by Market Review No Comment yet

January marked a tremendous start to the 2017 Toronto real estate market. Sales volume was up 11.8% over January 2016 – which had been up 8.2% over 2015. New listings last month were down 17.6%, to 7,338, while the total number of available listings dropped 49.5%, to just 5,034 by the end of the month. That made for some intense sales pressure. Accordingly, the average selling price was up 22.3%, to $770,745 (for all housing types). That’s on top of the 14.1% price increase recorded last January. Even TREB’s HPI, which tries to smooth out the average by taking into account differences among housing types, increased 21.8%. Last January, that number was up a more moderate 10.7%.

The number of properties on the market last month was less than half what it was just two years ago: in January 2016 TREB reported 9,966 available listings; in 2015 it was 11,600. The bottom line is that the Toronto market continues to be defined by the scarcity of listings. All this while the population continued to grow….

It’s no wonder that the once-maligned condo market has firmed up – it’s doing its best to take up the slack. Condo sales in the 416 surged 26.8% last month (after increasing 11.6% last January), driving the average selling price to $471,409, up by 13.1% year-over-year (up 8.6% last January). Condos (if you can get one…) remain a good purchase, for occupying and/or as an investment.*

Although this example isn’t necessarily typical, it illustrates how dramatic the competition is currently: a house in Scarborough that sold in December and closed in January, just resold (just a couple of weeks later) for $150k more. That’s nuts. With so few houses on the market, the usual battle over homes has intensified, but I’d like to think that things will calm down a bit as the spring market generates more listings. Although we typically see more buyers at this time of year, the current – apparently desperate – mood may subside. One can hope, anyway….

Still, if you have a house to sell, let’s get it on the market ASAP!

*If your primary residence has significantly increased in value since you bought, and you have no intention of moving any time soon, you might want to consider drawing on some of that capital to buy an investment property that will both increase in value, and generate income down the road.