Why are Home Sales Slowing in York Region?

When the Ontario government announced initiatives to calm the Greater Toronto Area’s housing market, many expressed doubt that taxing foreign buyers and speculative flippers would lead to real change for buyer affordability.

However, while it may be too soon to tell if the Fair Housing Plan has impacted its intended targets, there has been a palpable shift in market dynamic over the last month, according to regional realtors. Sellers, nervous at how the changes could impact their home values, have been in a bigger rush to list, while buyers are taking a more cautious approach to their home search.

That’s resulted in less competition throughout the market, as buyers – who were starved for detached and low-rise choice in the first months of 2017 – suddenly find themselves with options. That’s led to fewer offers and bidding war situations for houses that would have been snapped up for over asking a mere six weeks ago.

Bidding Wars Down as Inventory Grows

It can be a vicious cycle acknowledges Zoocasa agent Carlos Moniz. “Inventory is building, buyers have disappeared – many have taken a step back to see how the implementation would affect the market conditions,” he says. “As inventory builds, buyers expect prices to come down, so they are hesitant to jump in. Now that the market has shifted buyers getting more choice and gaining back leverage.”

York Region Activity Considerably Down

While the Toronto Real Estate Board’s May report will offer a month-long snapshot of activity, early data released last week offers concrete proof of a sales slowdown.

According to a report by brokerage Realosophy, sales of low-rise homes have fallen an average of 26 per cent in the GTA between April 20 and May 20 – the immediate aftermath of the Fair Housing Plan’s implementation. York Region appears especially embattled with a 44-per-cent drop in Newmarket, 46 per cent in Markham, and a whopping 61 per cent decline in Richmond Hill. The report forecasts prices – which have not yet softened in any way in the GTA – could follow suit by 5 – 7 per cent as a result.

Sales within the City of Toronto are down an average of 23 per cent, while Durham region stayed flat with sales actually increasing in Pickering and Whitby at 15 and 11 per cent, respectively – the only cities to see growth.

A Variety of Factors

So why such a gloomy prognosis for homes for sale in York region?

Moniz says it’s a unique mix of demographics, combined with more available suburban inventory. As York Region has been a popular destination for out-of-country buyers and investors, the province’s new foreign buyer tax – not to mention negative foreign media reports prompting bubble fears – may be a driving force behind fewer sales, he adds.

York has also experienced steep price growth for years, compared to other areas outside downtown Toronto; TREB data reveals it has been among the top three regions in terms of rising Home Price Index Composite – which measures the valuation increase in homes – for the first half of 2017, and throughout 2016, along with Durham and South Simcoe Regions.

Top Three GTA Markets in Terms of Increasing HPI (January 2016 – April 2017)

York Durham  South Simcoe County
Year-over-year HPI % + (composite all home types)
Apr-17 34.04% 36.17% 38.05%
Mar-17 31.34% 31.79% 35.24%
Feb-17 26.37% 27.69% 29.43%
Jan-17 25.80% 26.95% 27.38%
Dec-16 25.24% 26.43% 24.44%
Nov-16 24.81% 25.38% 24.94%
Oct-16 24.48% 24.35% 25.38%
Sep-16 23.23% 22.75% 23.08%
Aug-16 22.00% 20.97% 21.42%
Jul-16 21.34% 20.43% 20.32%
Jun-16 20.61% 20.43% 18.77%
May-16 20.42% 19.81% 18.54%
Apr-16 16.69% 16.57% 17.31%
Mar-16 15.39% 14.48% 16.57%
Feb-16 14.08% 13.08% 15.94%
Jan-16 13.92% 12.73% 15.57%

Source: Toronto Real Estate Board

April-only data released by the real estate board found an HPI increase of 34 per cent for all home types in York Region, and up 35.87 per cent for detached homes. However, it’s not as commuter-friendly as some of its 905 counterparts, with large swaths still facing residential and commercial development.

“It’s at a higher price point for properties and transit isn’t as great as other regions,” says Moniz. “In regards to proximity to Toronto, it’s not great in some areas – for example, Newmarket. There’s also an abundance of land that’s still undeveloped between the Toronto core and some of these areas.”

Tips for York Region Sellers

While GTA conditions are far from a “buyers’ market” – indicative of a sales-to-new-listings ratio over 60 per cent, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association – York Region sellers need to take additional care to stand out in today’s market, Moniz says.

He suggests those looking to sell in the area to do so before buying a new property, as to avoid the time and legal pressure of needing to close before fulfilling a new buyer contract. There are many who bought homes a month ago, he says, who are now relying on the sale of their home to close, which can put them at a disadvantage when accepting reasonable offers.

Related Read: Should You Sell Your Home Before Buying a New One?

He also suggests investing in a few upgrades to help the listing shine among existing inventory.

“Spend some money upgrading your house in areas where you will get the return back. You want to stand out from the rest of the competition,” he says. “And ensure you’re working with a good agent who will make sure your house is being property marketed and is getting maximum exposure.”

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.

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