Buyers’ conditions are prevalent across the markets tracked by the Toronto Real Estate Board so far in the new year, perhaps due to a combination of seasonality, the impact of new mortgage rules, rising interest rates, and the “pull forward” effect of the busier-than-usual December market.
Sales fell year over year for all housing types except semi-detached homes, reveals data from the first two weeks of January, reflecting a dramatically different market from the year prior.
Multi-family and high-rise homes outperformed all others in the latter half of 2017, surging in value an average of 23.1 per cent over the course of the year, and absorbing a 9.6-per-cent slowdown in sales compared to the heftier double-digit losses across other home types. However, that hasn’t been the case thus far in the new year, with sales to new listings ratios of 26 per cent in the total TREB area, and 28 per cent within the City of Toronto. This ratio, which is determined by dividing the number of sales by the number new homes put on the market, gauges the demand of a particular area; a ratio between 40 – 60 per cent is considered balanced territory, with below and above signalling buyers’ and sellers’ markets, respectively.
Tumbling sales of -21 per cent throughout TREB and -19 per cent in the 416 have pulled condo conditions firmly into buyers’ territory as a 3-per-cent and 10-per-cent reduction in new listings did little to offset softer demand.
This could be due to a slower start to the 2018 market; January activity is typically delayed until school and business pick back up in the second week. Frantic sales in late 2017 to evade the OSFI mortgage stress test regulations that went into effect January 1st may have also “borrowed” from deals that would usually occur in the new year rather than over the holidays. As well, both buyers and sellers may be tentative to make a move due to considerable uncertainty in the market as the Bank of Canada hikes its trend-setting interest rate for the third time over a six-month period and the new mortgage rules are absorbed.
With 24-per-cent and 31-per-cent decreases in sales in the TREB and Toronto regions, the townhouse market is also off to a slow start, particularly in the 416, where an 18-per-cent tightening of inventory couldn’t keep the segment out of buyers’ territory, at 27 per cent. Part of the issue could be lack of inventory compared to condos, with only 260 and 75 new listings added, in contrast to 1,044 and 649 multi-family units. Decreased affordability from the OSFI rules could be increasingly displacing townhouse buyers, prompting them to purchase cheaper high-rise units rather than low-rise multi-family housing.
Conditions for the most expensive home type continued to soften across the board, with an influx of new listings and a double-digit decline in sales.
A total of 548 houses sold within the first two weeks of January in the TREB region, a 20-per-cent decrease, while only 71 sold in the city proper (-34 per cent), plunging their respective ratios to 24 and 22 per cents.
Demand for detached homes fell steadily following the implementation of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan in April, and are anticipated to be further impacted by the introduction of OSFI’s mortgage rules, which slashed affordability by 20 per cent for most prospective buyers. With smaller budgets in hand, fewer buyers have sought pricier detached options, and have resorted to downsizing their homeownership ambitions, or withdrawing from the housing market altogether.
In an interesting twist, semi-detached homes appear to be the highest in demand in early 2018, kicking off the new year with a 15- and 14-per-cent uptick in sales in TREB and the 416. Activity outpacing a 12- and 3-per-cent increase in new listings has boosted the semi-D market into balanced conditions in the TREB region with a ratio of 45 per cent. However, they are still in a buyers’ market in the City of Toronto, at 35 per cent.
This comparatively strong demand could be due to more buyers seeking less expensive alternatives to detached homes, but with the freehold status, land, and square footage semi-detached homes often provide at a cheaper price point.