The residential resale market in the first month of 2018 is, in a phrase, a tale of two markets. Actually, that is not entirely true. It is a tale of many markets, a fractured landscape that varies by housing type, and, importantly, by location.
The overall data for the greater Toronto area indicates that compared to January 2017 sales declined by 22 percent, from 5,155 last year to 4,019 this year. The average sale price also declined, from $768,351 last year to $736,783. A closer look at the data reveals that, except for detached properties, the decline in average sale prices was almost exclusively in the 905 regions. The 416 regions, or the City of Toronto, actually experienced price growth.
In January 2017 the average sale price for all properties sold, the bulk of which were in the 905 region, was $770,745. This year the average sale price declined to $736,783. Last year, the average sale price in the 416 region was $727,928. This January the average sale price increased to $766,616, an increase of 5.4 percent. So, whereas prices are declining in Toronto’s outlying areas, within the city itself, they continue to increase.
The only housing type in the 416 region that saw price reductions was detached properties. The decline was modest at 3.9 percent. There is no surprise in this decline. Detached properties in Toronto in early 2017 had become exceedingly expensive. Detached properties continue to be expensive, the average sale price coming in in January at $1,283,981. The high end of luxury properties sales had an overall decline in January. Last year 166 properties were reported sold having a sale price of $2 million or more. This year that number dropped to only 90.
There are a number of factors responsible for this decline. Firstly, the run up of prices in early 2017 for detached properties, particularly in the City of Toronto, was simply unsustainable. Secondly, we were greeted with new mortgage stress testing rules in 2018 for conventional mortgages (all sales over $1 Million must by conventional – that is the minimum deposit required by buyers is 20 percent of the purchase price). Early indications are that the new mortgage stress tests reduce the purchasing horizon of buyers by about 15 percent. That means that buyers will either buy lower priced properties, or pay less than they could have before the new stress testing. Lastly, there is an uncertainty in the market place that is resulting in hesitancy. There is a belief that prices may continue to decline, so why buy now.
Active listings are also up substantially in early 2018. Last year at this time there were only 5,034 available properties for sale, less than the total number of sales that were achieved in January 2017. Active listings this year have increased by 136 percent, to 11,894. Interestingly, the increase in active listings is heavily concentrated in the 905 region.
For example, last year there were 211 semi-detached properties for sale in the greater Toronto area. This year that number has jumped to 765, an increase of 262 percent. By comparison, in the City of Toronto last year there were 102 semi-detached properties for sale, and this year there are 219, an increase of 115 percent, substantially less than the increase in the 905 region. In fact, in the case of semi-detached properties in Toronto, even with the increase we have experienced, the supply remains insufficient to meet demand. It is for this reason that in Toronto’s popular eastern districts (Riverdale, Leslieville, Beaches) sales continued to take place at more than 105 percent of asking prices, and on average in only 16 days. Sales in the Greater Toronto market place took place on average in 32 days, 68 percent longer.
As has been the case for a number of months, condominium apartments sales continue at a blistering pace, albeit not quite as fast as last year. Sale prices have been sky rocketing. Last year the average sale price for condominium apartments in the Greater Toronto area was only $442,598. This year it is $507,492. In the City of Toronto the average sale price has jumped from $471,409 to $543.279. Prices have reached challenging levels in Toronto’s central districts. Last year the average sale price was $529,000. That same condominium apartment will now cost you $616,322, almost 17 percent more than last year.
As we move into February the resale landscape remains fractured. It will continue to remain in this strange state until May, when comparisons on a year over year basis become more balanced. Until then comparisons will be made with the first few months of 2017, the most incredible months in Toronto’s resale market history, and unless the various markets in Toronto’s overall landscape are examined, the variances will appear very negative. It’s that psychology that will be at play for the next few months.