Toronto Real Estate December 2018 Market Update
2019 started positively, surprising many who were anticipating the double-digit declines that the Toronto and area residential resale marketplace delivered in November and December of last year. Although moderate, January delivered increased sales volume and average sale prices compared to January 2018.
There were 4,009 sales reported in January, a less than 1 percent increase compared to 2018, but an increase nonetheless. Encouragingly, January’s positive results were due to an improvement in Toronto’s 905 region. The Greater Toronto Area was dramatically impacted by the provincial foreign buyers’ tax and has lagged behind the Toronto 416 market since the spring of 2017. In January, the 905 region’s sales were up by 2.5 percent compared to last year, while the City of Toronto’s sales declined by 3.5 percent. The decline in City of Toronto sales was not caused by a decline in demand. Rather the decline was driven by a chronic shortage of supply. At the end of January, the Greater Toronto Area had 2.7 months of inventory, whereas the City of Toronto found itself with only 1.9 months of inventory. The difference in inventory is also reflected by the fact that sales in the 905 region took place in 33 days (an average), yet it took only 29 days for all properties in the City of Toronto to sell.
Another positive aspect to January’s performance is the supply of new properties that came to market. In January, 9,456 new properties became available to buyers. This is a favorable 10.5 percent increase compared to the 8,561 new listings that became available last year. Entering February, active listings were slightly higher than last year. February began with 11,962 active listings compared to the 11,894 available last year. The bulk of these listings are located in the 905 region. OF the 11,962 active listings, 8,387, or more than 70 percent, are located in the 905 region.
January’s average sale price came in at $748,328, an increase of almost 2 percent compared to last year’s average sale price of $735,874. This is exactly the kind of increase that reflects a stable and sound market, not the double-digit monthly increases that became common place in 2016 and early 2017. Double digit increases in average sale prices become unsustainable and unfortunately can lead to painful corrections.
In this regard Toronto’s high-end residential market continues to adjust. In January, 76 properties having a sale price of $2 million or more were reported sold. This compared to 90 reported sold during the same period last year. The adjustment is also evident in the sale price to listing ratio witnessed in January. Detached properties in Toronto’s central districts are the most expensive properties in the Greater Toronto Area. All detached properties in these districts sold for 95 percent of their asking price. This ratio was much lower than detached properties in other trading districts. For example, all detached properties in Toronto’s eastern districts sold for 100 percent of their asking price. The fact that the average sale price in the eastern districts is half ($916,588) that of the central districts ($1,938,617) is no doubt responsible for this divergence. Higher-end properties accelerated more dramatically during the pre-2017 introduction of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan and are retracting proportionally, especially with the introduction of the 15 percent foreign buyers’ tax.
Condominium apartments continue to be the most affordable housing form, but again, because of supply, average prices continue to increase. In January, the average sale price in the City of Toronto increased by almost 9 percent to $591,444. In Toronto’s central districts, where most condominium apartment sales are located, the average sale price came in at $677,997, a 10 percent increase compared to last year’s prices. In January, there were only 1,738 condominium apartments for sale in the City of Toronto and only 1,093 in Toronto’s central districts where most sales take place. This shortage of supply will continue to put upward pressure on prices, constrained only by affordability.
Although it is a little early in the year to be forecasting for 2019, January’s results – sales volumes, price increases and increases in supply – all point to a healthy 2019. Last year only 77,375 residential properties were reported sold, the lowest number since the recession of 2008. Barring any unexpected economic events this year, we should see between 83,000 and 85,000 reported sales, with average sale prices increasing by about 2-3 percent. January’s average sale price came in at $748,328. Last year’s annual average sale price was $787,000. By year-end Toronto and area’s average sale price should be approximately $800,000. From a long-term sustainability prospect we should be thrilled with this number.
Toronto Real Estate December 2018 Market Update
There were no surprises in December. The year came to an end as expected. Higher borrowing costs and the new stress testing measures implemented at the beginning of the year are now a driving force in the Toronto housing landscape. The landscape is now one of moderating sales volumes and average sale prices, as was made evident in December’s resale data.
In December sales declined by more than 22 percent compared to last year. Last December 4,876 properties were reported sold by Toronto and area realtors. This year that number shrank to 3,781, the lowest number of December sales since the 2008 recession. December’s sales brought total sales for 2018 to 77,426, a decline of 16 percent from the 92,000 plus sales recorded in 2017, and more than 30 percent fewer than the 113,000 sales reported in 2016. In 2016 mortgage interest rates were half of what they are today, and borrowers did not have to qualify subject to rigid stress testing rules.
In December the average sale price for all properties reported sold in the greater Toronto area held up well, coming in at $750,180, 2.1 percent higher than the $734,847 average sale price achieved last December. On an annualized basis however, Toronto’s average sale price declined by slightly more than 4 percent, from $822,000 last year to $787,000 in 2018.
The decline in overall average sale prices was driven primarily by the decline in sales and sale prices for Toronto and area’s more expensive properties. In December only 82 properties having a sale price of $2 Million or more were reported. Last December 116 were reported sold. In December 2016, 140 properties were reported sold in this price category. On a year-to-date basis 2,077 $2 Million plus properties were reported sold. In 2017, 3,435 properties in this price category changed hands, an eye-popping 40 percent decline. It should be noted that the bulk of these sales took place in the first 4 months of the year before the Ontario Fair Housing Plan and increased interest rates took effect.
Notwithstanding these negative figures, the landscape for resale housing remains fractured. It could be argued that these negative numbers are due not only to higher borrowing costs and the stress testing measures, but to a lack of supply. In December only 4,308 new listings came to market. Last December 6,289 new listings came to market, a decline of over 30 percent. Heading into 2019 there were only 11,431 properties in the greater Toronto area available for buyers, a decline of more than 11 percent compared to the almost 13,000 available properties last year at this time. Most of the available properties are located in the 905 regions of the greater Toronto area. In the City of Toronto there are only 3,270 properties available to buyers. In fact, 72 percent of all available inventory is located in the 905 regions.
These inventory levels mean that there will be neighbourhoods, particularity in the City of Toronto, where demand far outstrips supply. This was evident in Toronto’s eastern neighbourhoods, (Riverdale, Leslieville, Beaches), were even in December all properties reported sold generated sale prices exceeding their asking price by more than 100 percent. Semi-detached properties in these neighbourhoods sold for more than 105 percent of their asking prices, and in just 11 days or faster.
The inventory shortage can be dramatically illustrated by looking at detached and semi-detached properties available for sale in the City of Toronto. At the end of December only 377 new detached properties came to market, not many more than the 340 that sold in the month. The situation for semi-detached properties is even more severe. At the beginning of this year there were only 154 active listings in the entire City of Toronto, only 38 more properties than the 116 semi-detached properties that sold in December. The situation for condominium apartments parallels the shortage of semi-detached properties.
These property shortages would normally result in substantial price appreciation. Normal however is no longer 2.5 percent five-year fixed mortgage interest rates. Bank posted rates are currently 5.59 percent, and even if that isn’t the rate borrowers will have to pay, the buyers will, because of stress testing, be required to qualify at that rate. The disappearance of cheap and easy money is now driving the Toronto and area market place.
Looking forward, certainly in the short term, there is nothing on the horizon that will see any dramatic changes to the current Toronto real estate market. Sales volumes will be lower than historic norms, and average prices will continue to moderate. Currently unemployment numbers are at a 40-year low. Subject to stability in the mortgage markets, wages should start to rise beyond inflationary levels which with time will ease our prevailing affordability problems, which in turn should see moderate increases in sales volumes and to some extent in average sale prices. The process will be slow with both buyers and sellers at times adjusting painfully to the new resale landscape.
Chris Kapches, LLB, President and CEO, Broker