It continues to be an unseasonably strong late autumn for the Greater Toronto Area housing market, as sales tick 3.59 per cent higher monthly rather than the usual pre-holiday wind-down. The number of homes for sale also shrank from October levels by 3.7 per cent, steering the market to tighter seller’s conditions. Prices, however, are down slightly month over month, falling 2.35 per cent to an average of $761,757, reports the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB)
TREB President Tim Syrianos says a busy November is partly due to recovering demand, as buyers who paused their searches following the Ontario Fair Housing Plan return to the market. It may also be fueled by anxiety to buy before new mortgage rules – which are expected to reduce affordability by up to 20 per cent – take hold on January 1st.
“We have seen an uptick in demand for ownership housing in the GTA this fall, over and above the regular seasonal trend. Similar to the Greater Vancouver experience, the impact of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan and particularly the foreign buyer tax may be starting to wane,” he says. “On top of this, it is also possible that the upcoming changes to mortgage lending guidelines, which come into effect in January, have prompted some households to speed up their home buying decision.”
Says Zoocasa Broker of Record Lauren Haw, “We have felt this return of buyer urgency all month – bully offers are back, bidding wars are normal again and we’re starting to see a slight pick-up in prices. Some of this increase in activity can be attributed to buyers looking to get ahead of the mortgage changes in January. A lot of the pick-up can also be attributed to buyers having waited through the summer and fall to see a sharp price decline – and once that didn’t come, they’re back in the market ready to move.”
She adds that as many buyers don’t take maximum advantage of their pre-approved affordability, the overall hit to what they can purchase may be less drastic than anticipated.
“It should also be noted that while buyer’s affordability is going to take a hit in January due to the tightening mortgage rules, most buyers did not historically go to their absolute maximum,” she says. “This means that while many buyers’ theoretical affordability is dropping in January, their willingness and ability to spend may stay roughly the same. Most clients used to have a number their lender told them versus what they were actually comfortable with spending. With the changes, those two numbers will now be closer to the same. There are buyers that spend the absolute maximum, but most commonly do not.”
However, while the market appears to be benefiting from a short-term boost, sales are still well below last year’s record-breaking numbers; overall GTA sales declined 13.3 per cent with 7,374 homes sold. And, while the MLS Home Price Index composite benchmark rose 8.4 per cent, the average price has softened by 2 per cent year over year, mainly due to fewer pricey detached home sales, TREB notes.
The strongest sales activity continues in the condo segment, with 2,210 unit sales (up 9 per cent from October, though down 8 per cent year over year). By contrast, detached homes sales were flat month over month, and down a whopping 20 per cent from 2016 at 3,131 sold.
“Changes in market conditions have not been uniform across market segments,” said TREB’s Director of Market Analysis Jason Mercer. “In line with insights from consumer polling undertaken by Ipsos in the spring, we are still seeing seller’s market conditions for townhouses and condominium apartments in many neighbourhoods versus more balanced market conditions for detached and semi-detached houses.”
Take a look at the year-over-year changes in home sales and average price:
Here’s how GTA prices and sales have changed per house type, month over month:
Sales M-o-M change
Prices M-o-M Change
905 Bears Brunt of Fair Housing Plan
By region, 905 neighbourhoods are have seen more fallout post-Fair Housing Plan, with sales down 14.6 per cent annually compared to 11.1 per cent in the 416. Prices also fell 4.42 per cent across all home types, compared to growth of 1.47 per cent in the City of Toronto.
905 sellers also appear more anxious to list, with more than double the new inventory coming to market (47.7 per cent vs. 20.5 per cent). In York region it’s even more acute at an increase of 172 per cent more listings coming to market, and sales down by 38 per cent year over year and 4 per cent month over month. Prices have fallen 5 per cent to an average of $974,353.
Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor at Zoocasa, and has over a decade of experience covering real estate, mortgage, and personal finance topics. Her commentary on the housing market is frequently featured on both national and local media outlets including BNN Bloomberg, CBC, The Toronto Star, National Post, and The Huffington Post. 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, travelling abroad, or in the dance studio.