Toronto Home Sales Plunge Again, Bank of Canada Hikes Interest Rate, and Selling the Great Gatsby House: Weekly Real Estate News Recap

Great Gatsby Mansion Hits Market

The Long Island estate that served as both inspiration and backdrop for the literary classic “The Great Gatsby” is up for sale.

235 Middle Neck Road in Sands Point is listed for US$16.88 million, and features 13 bedrooms, 8.5 baths, eight fireplaces, a six-car garage, private waterfront – and a library that F. Scott Fitzgerald is rumoured to have whiled an afternoon away in. The iconic author was reportedly a friend of Mary Harriman Rumsey, the mansion’s owner and daughter of railroad magnate EH Harriman. It was she who hired renowned architects McKim, Mead and White – who also designed the White House, natch – to construct the 1920’s-era home in French Normandy castle style.

“It is rumoured that the time he (Fitzgerald) spent at the house helped to inspire the writing of the novel The Great Gatsby, and the area of the Gold Coast of Long Island is largely considered to be ‘Gatsby’s East Egg’”, reads the mansion’s listing.

PHOTO: Sotheby’s International Realty

Owning a Vancouver Home Pays More Than Actual Job

Don’t feel like working the nine-to-five slog? Just pick up some Vancouver real estate – the return on a single-family dwelling in the city outpaces that of actual residents’ income, reveals an article from Bloomberg.

The average Vancouver house appreciated $600,000 in 2016 alone, according the mathematician and MountainMath Software founder Jens von Bergmann, who found, as a whole, detached properties in the city rose $47 billion in value – double that of what Vancouverites earn in a year.

That’s despite the 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax introduced last August. Sales fell 26 per cent in the month following, but prices haven’t been impacted.

“In this environment, every purchaser has become a speculator,” Simon Fraser Economic and Public Policy expert Rhys Kesselman told Bloomberg.

Bank of Canada Hikes Rate to 1%

In a somewhat surprising move, Canada’s central bank opted to increase its trend-setting interest rate to a full 1 per cent this week, effectively scaling back the economic safeguards put in place to offset the 2015 oil price downturn.

It’s the second time this year the BoC has opted to tighten its monetary policy, citing an improving economy, solid employment and income growth, and increased business investment.

“Given the stronger-than-expected economic performance, Governing Council judges that today’s removal of some of the considerable monetary policy stimulus that is in place is warranted,” the BoC stated in a release.

That means interest rates will rise once more for variable mortgage and line of credit holders, as consumer lenders have followed suit by upping their Prime rates to 3.2 per cent.

And analysts don’t think the BoC is quite finished, with another hike widely expected in 2018. Doug Porter, Chief Economist at Bank of Montreal, stated in a previous research note that the lender anticipates rates to settle at 1.50 per cent by the end of 2018 – that’s two more hikes, at the BoC’s current pace.

Read the full story to see how this could impact your mortgage payment.

GTA Home Sales Fall Nearly 35% in August

Home sales fell for a fourth consecutive month in August according to the latest numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board. Only 6,357 homes changed hands over the course of the month, a 34.8-per-cent plunge from this time last year.

The average price for all home types in the GTA came in at $732,292 – a 3-per-cent increase from 2016, but a stunning reversal from the double-digits appreciation experienced in March, when market prices peaked.

However, this tamer pace of price growth is good news for Toronto buyers, especially those who have aspired to purchase a house but were sidelined due to the steep cost. The data points to balancing conditions in the GTA market says Jason Mercer, TREB’s chief market analyst, who adds that more manageable listing prices could lead to booming autumn real estate activity.

“Recent reports suggest that economic conditions remain strong in the GTA. Positive economic news coupled with the slower pace of growth we are now experiencing could prompt an improvement in the demand for ownership housing, over and above the regular season bump, as we move through the fall,” he says.

In fact, detached prices have declined more than 20 per cent across the majority of TREB regions.

Check out our infographic to see how house prices have changed from April to August 2017.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver…

Canada’s priciest market is snapping back to pre-foreign-buyer tax activity – but most of the action is happening in the lower-priced home segments, as prices and bidding wars increasingly erupt for condos and townhomes.

“First-time home buyers have led a surge this summer in demand for condominium and townhome rentals,” says Jill Oudil, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. “Homes priced between $350,000 and $750,000 have been subject to intense competition and multiple offers across the region.”

A total of 3,043 sales occurred in August, up 22.3 per cent from 2016, and a 2.8-per-cent bump from July. Activity remains 19.6 per cent over the 10-year average.

Sales trends for detached homes, however, continued to soften, with only 901 changing hands at an average price of $1,029,700. The sales-to-listings ratio for houses also fell to 16.3 per cent (under 12 per cent depresses prices, while over 20 boosts them), signaling more balanced conditions, says Oudil. By comparison, the ratio is 44.8 per cent from townhomes, and a whopping 76.3 per cent for condos.

“Conditions in our detached home market are distinct today from the dynamic in our condominium and townhome markets,” she says. “Detached homes have entered a balanced market. This means there’s less upward pressure on prices and that buyers have more selection to choose from and more time to make their decisions.”

This may sound familiar to Toronto buyers, as analysts have pointed to the west coast market as a model for how conditions may play out following the implementation of Ontario’s own foreign buyer tax. Sales activity plunged double digits in the months following the move in Vancouver, but has now largely been recouped.

Prices continued to rise overall in the city, with the MLS Home Price Index Composite benchmark up 9.46 per cent year over year to $1,209,700. The average price for townhomes rose to $778,300, while the average Vancouver-area condo now sells for $626,800.

BC Government Bans Agent Double Ending

The British Columbia government has announced a full ban on the practice of “limited dual agency” – aka real estate agent double ending – meaning real estate agents in the province will no longer be able to represent both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction.

The move is not going over well with local realtors. who have expressed concern that it strips the consumer of choice when selecting their real estate professional, and could even lead to clients going unrepresented, rather than work with a pro they don’t have an existing relationship with.

“Every day, REALTORS® help their clients understand real estate transactions, so they can make informed decisions,” said BC Real Estate Association (BCREA) President Jim Stewart. “Over my nearly 25-year career as a realtor, many long-standing clients have developed trust with me, and now my clients have no choice but to start from the beginning and build new relationships. Trust is a crucial part of what is often the largest financial transaction in people’s lives.”

An exemption will be made in small and rural communities, where there may be few realtors to service the area.

The ban is one of 28 recommendations made by the Independent Advisory Group in June 2016, when it announced tougher regulations for real estate agent practices in BC. However, the issue of double ending is also a sore spot in Ontario, as recent media scrutiny revealed some agents were using the practice to mislead buyers and sellers in order to pocket double commission.

Related Read: Is Your Real Estate Agent Double Ending Your Deal?

Canada Home to Four Millionaire Cities

There are more Canadian millionaires than ever – and they’ve ridden the real estate train to higher net worth reveals the annual Wealthscapes Report from Environics Analytics.

While the report found that overall national wealth increased 12 per cent to an average of $770,635, three municipalities fueled by a real estate boom are now boasting “millionaire” status: Vancouver, Toronto, and Victoria.

The report found a direct correlation between real estate holdings growth and average household net worth that exceeds a million:

  • Vancouver: 21.8 per cent
  • Toronto: 19.7 per cent
  • Victoria: 19 per cent.

However, Calgary – Canada’s fourth millionaire city – is a bit of an outlier, attributing most of its household growth not to property values, but the improving performance of Canadian equity markets and booming asset growth.

“The biggest story by far this year is real estate,” stated Peter Miron, lead developer of the report. “The growth in real estate prices has been jaw dropping in the Golden Horseshoe and Vancouver. Even if you step out of these markets, there is very strong real estate growth.”

One caveat of the report, though, is that it was compiled with data prior to Ontario’s implementation of the Fair Housing Plan, which has resulted in a double digit decline in home sales and prices.

About Penelope Graham

Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor at Zoocasa. A born-and-bred Torontonian and quintessential millennial, she has over a decade of experience covering real estate, lifestyle and personal finance topics. When not keeping an eye on Toronto's hot housing market, she can be found brunching in one of the city's many vibrant neighbourhoods. Find her on Twitter at @pjeg14.