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The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board released its 2020 housing figures this week. And I suspect that the numbers are probably directionally similar for many city regions around the world.

2020 saw more home sales than 2019 with 95,151 homes changing hands. This represents an 8.4% increase compared to last year. December was also a record month with 7,180 sales — a 65% year-over-year increase!

The average selling price in the Greater Toronto Area also reached a new record of $929,699. This represents a 13.5% increase compared to last year. Once again, December was a record setting month with an average selling price of $932,222.

When you look at sales and average prices by home type, the biggest drivers were low-rise homes outside of the city. No surprises here.

 

 

 

But consider the price spread that now exists between condos and detached homes. In the City of Toronto (“416”), we’re talking about an average price delta of nearly $850k. That would be an expensive home in many other markets.

Of course, condos tend to be smaller than detached homes. And so different prices per pound. But total price matters a great deal and historically a widening spread has moved many buyers over to the condo market.

Condo sales soared across the Toronto region in December, and as one economist wrote, it looked like buyers were out “in full force looking for bargains.”

While roaring detached home sales and skyrocketing prices have stolen the lion’s share of the headlines in recent months, it now appears that condos are mounting a comeback, at least when it comes to sales activity.

After the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) released its December sales and pricing data earlier this week, RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue wrote that condo sales caught his attention.

He acknowledged that the challenging rental market is still pushing investors to offload their units, causing condo supply to surge and prices to continue to post only modest gains in suburban communities and fall by nearly five percent in Toronto-proper.

That said, Hogue observed that sales spiked 75 percent across the Toronto region, with similar strength seen in both city and suburban markets as “softer condo prices are now drawing more buyers in.”

In 2021, the economist is predicting that condos’ affordability advantage over detached homes will allow demand to pick up even more steam.

Of the four distinct property types tracked by TRREB, only townhouse sales in the region’s 905 area posted higher annual percentage gains than condos.

In terms of overall sales volume, detached homes still significantly outsold condos across the region, but the gap between the two property types narrowed. In November, detached homes outsold condos by 2,190 units at the regional level. By December, the gap had narrowed to 845 units separating detached homes and condos.

It’s also worth noting that Toronto region condos were the only property type to post a monthly sales increase in December. Detached, semi-detached and townhouses all saw activity decline from November to December.

After years of a booming Greater Toronto Area (GTA) housing market, 2020 marked the first real obstacle for the real estate business since the late 2000s recession. COVID-19 brought on unprecedented challenges that saw staggering declines in market activity starting in the second quarter of the year. Despite all of the hurdles encountered last year, a new report from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reveals that 2020 ended up being the third-best year on record for the GTA market, with a total of over 95,000 home sales and a new record average selling price of $930K.

“The Greater Toronto Area housing market followed an unfamiliar path in 2020. Following the steep COVID-induced drop-off in demand during the spring, home sales roared back to record levels throughout the summer and fall. A strong economic rebound in many sectors of the economy, ultra-low borrowing costs, and the enhanced use of technology for virtual open houses and showings, fuelled and sustained the housing market recovery,” reads a statement issued by Lisa Patel, TRREB President.

Even with the pandemic’s hit to the economy, job losses, and other associated challenges, the 95,151 sales recorded last year actually marked an 8.4% increase over 2019’s sales figures. After the initial wave of public health restrictions was rolled back, the housing market saw an unprecedented bounce-back that included multiple record-breaking months. Most recently, the month of December broke records with 7,180 sales marking a year-over-year increase of 64.5% While sales growth was pronounced overall, it was strongest in the 905 regions, most notably in the single-family home submarket.

“While the housing market as a whole recovered strongly in 2020, there was a dichotomy between the single-family market segments and the condominium apartment segment. The supply of single-family homes remained constrained resulting in strong competition between buyers and double-digit price increases. In contrast, growth in condo listings far-outstripped growth in sales. Increased choice for condo buyers ultimately led to more bargaining power and a year-over-year dip in average condo selling prices during the last few months of the year,” stated Jason Mercer, TRREB Chief Market Analyst.

2020 average home prices climbed to an all-time high of $929,699, a 13.5% jump over 2019. In December, the average was up to $932,222, marking an 11.2% year-over-year climb. As with sales, the average home price increase was most pronounced in the 905 single-family home submarket.

“The next 12 months will be critical as we chart our path through recovery. In particular, the impact of resumption in immigration and the re-opening of the economy will be key. TRREB will once again be releasing its January results, Market Year in Review and 2021 Outlook report on February 8th. This will include a forecast for home sales and selling prices, the latest Ipsos consumer polling on the GTA housing market and new research related to innovative ways to bring on more housing supply,” stated John DiMichele, TRREB CEO.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to spend more time indoors, the desire for bigger homes among luxury buyers across the Greater Toronto Area has pushed sales in some expensive price categories to new highs.

GTA luxury home sales priced between $3 million and $4 million broke a record in 2020, according to new data published this week by RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

One thousand and sixty-two freehold and condo properties over the $3 million mark changed hands last year, about one percent higher than the previous all-time high achieved in 2017, when 1,047 homes in the same pricing category sold. Sales over $3 million in 2020 were also up over 55 percent from 2019, when 682 transactions were recorded.

Sales at even higher price points — the $4 million and $5 million categories — also rose from their 2019 totals, but did not exceed the highs achieved in 2017.

“A combination of both economic and psychological drivers contributed to a robust upswing in demand, influencing one of the greatest pivots in the GTA’s housing market history,” said Christopher Alexander, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President of RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada, in the report.

While economic stimulus, like rock bottom mortgage rates, played a role in the market’s surge in homebuying activity, RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada explains that COVID-19 lockdowns were the true catalyst for the uptick.

The desire for home offices and more personal space were attributed as the driving forces behind luxury buyers seeking larger homes in 2020, often in less densely populated areas that sometimes fell outside of suburbs immediately surrounding the city. For instance, freehold sales over $3 million in Halton region increased by 188.8 percent annually, jumping from 45 to 130 sales.

“This same pattern played out in major urban centres in the US such as New York City and San Francisco where the pandemic has tipped the scales in favour of a more suburban lifestyle,” explained Alexander.

“And while demand is still strong in the 416, where luxury freehold sales represent 59 percent of total sales, performance in suburban areas, especially those north and west of the city, is particularly noteworthy,” he added.

If you think activity in Toronto’s condo market has decelerated, think again.

“The information that’s not being reported, but that I see because I have to approve these and sign off on each one of them, is there are a lot of assignment sales right now,” said Sam Crignano, president of Cityzen Development Group. “This is information that isn’t reported on the MLS. The market is not as quiet as people think. It’s active, and I would say in a good way.”

Indeed, according to Toronto Regional Real Estate Board data for November, condo sales in the City of Toronto rose by 0.8% year-over-year. And while investors flip assignments all the time, being a landlord in today’s condo market, which has been infused with a glut of supply courtesy of a heavily regulated, and shrunken, short-term rental pool, has lost its lustre. That doesn’t mean the condo units aren’t still worth a lot of money, though.

“What we’ve seen recently, because the rental market is somewhat soft, is people are choosing to sell their assignments rather than hold onto them long-term,” said Crignano. “In buildings we’ve finished in the last six months where investors are selling assignments, they’re selling at a decent profit that’s still a discount to today’s market value. If they bought at $800 per sq ft a few years back, the market appreciated. New condos today are at $1,200-1,300 per sq ft, but a lot of investors are selling at a price that’s closer to $1,000 a sq ft. End users are taking advantage of lower prices and historically low-interest rates, which has created relatively cheap money.

“As much as people think the condo market is dead, it really isn’t.”

In fact, as Howard Cohen explains, end users are often unwilling to wait three to five years to occupy their new home, but investors rarely flinch when they put a 20% deposit down on a preconstruction unit. With Toronto condo prices declining by 3% year-over-year in November, end users are likely circling.

“If a condo costs $600,000, you need $120,000 cash deposit, and not a lot of people have that, but investors do and they’ll buy the unit,” said Cohen, president of Context Development. “Three years later when they decide to sell it, somebody can buy it using a 5% down payment with CMHC’s help. So the $600,000 unit might now be worth $800,000, but the buyer only needs $40,000 to buy it. Investors get a bad rap but they really do fuel the housing market for a lot of people.”

Assignment flips can net hefty returns, particularly for units on higher floors, but the developer must first sign off on them—which they aren’t likely to do if their building still has units for sale. Crignano says that isn’t usually a problem in Toronto.

“If I have a building completely sold out, they’re not competing with units I have for sale, and on that basis I’d grant permission for them to sell the assignment,” he said. “However, if I have plenty of units left for sale, I’d obviously want to sell my units first before I allow assignments, but the market has been so strong the last two years that most developers are sold out and grant assignment sales to purchasers.”

A partnership is about values, what you want to achieve and why. Simply put, Mizrahi Developments came about with a vision of several goals to change expectations in the industry.
Firstly, it was a desire to enhance the changing streetscapes of Toronto with carefully articulated, mid-to-high-rise buildings that give those who work and live in them as much pleasures as those who pass by their exteriors.

But just as important as what we build is the notion of how we build.

And by that we mean our values as professionals. It may be buildings we’re constructing, for residential, commerce and retail, but we’re aware that they have impact on people’s lives. They become a permanent part of physical identity with an influence on how people feel, live and experiences the city. It is with that understanding of our business as one that’s about far more than merely bricks and mortar that we have put an emphasis on relationships with customers, architects, designers, local residents, city counselors and suppliers as the foundation of our work. We believe that development of the physical landscape of a city can be a good thing, not something accepted out of resignation to change, but welcomed and celebrated for the delight and improvements it brings.

With our customers, our priority is to give peace of mind with the industry’s top certifications. But our commitment to service doesn’t stop when the building is completed. The uniformed, trained concierge, who works 24/7 in our residential buildings, as well as other staff, is under our employ to deliver the best and meet our customers’ needs. We leave nothing to changes. Similarly our relationships with suppliers result in loyalty and a commitment to build on time and one budget.

 

Canadian landlords have endured a difficult 2020, but there is one metropolis that, according to a Rentals.ca report, is brimming with investment opportunity.

“Montreal is expected to be the top major market in Canada next year with rent growth of 6%, rising from $1,665 per month forecast for December 2020 to $1,760 per month,” the report said. “There is clearly no urban exodus in Montreal despite the strong rent growth in 2019, and the above-inflation increase in 2020, average rents are still relatively affordable in comparison to Vancouver and Toronto.”

In the Montreal region, which Rentals.ca called “a bright spot for landlords in Canada,” rents rose by 9% year-over-year to $1,454 for one-bedrooms in November, although rents were down 1.4% from October. Two-bedroom units in the City of Montreal increased by 5.1% year-over-year to reach $1,889 last month, and also rose by 0.4% from October.

However, if 2020 has been any indication, landlords in the Greater Toronto Area aren’t likely to see rents increase in 2021, at least to start the year.

According to the report, the city’s rents declined for 12 straight months in November, as the infusion of supply into Toronto’s long-term rental pool and a scarcity of renters have softened the market.

A one-bedroom unit in the GTA averaged $1,877 last month, plunging by 19% year-over-year and 2.3% month-over-month, but it’s still the highest in Canada. A two-bedroom unit in the region averaged $2,468, falling by 17.2% from November 2019 and by 2.6% from October.

“The average property for rent in Toronto is now $520 cheaper per month in November of this year compared to November of last year,” said the report. “The average rent dropped by a whopping 20% annually to $2,081 per month, lower than Mississauga. On a per-square-foot basis, the average rent declined from $3.60 PSF to $3.12 PSF, a decline of 13%.”

Short-term rental regulations and a dearth of international students, most of whom fled Canada when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and catalyzed lockdowns, has resulted in a proliferation of condo units in the City of Toronto that has rendered condo rentals the weakest segment of the regional real estate market.

“We’ve monitored the market and, pre-COVID, we had 4,500 rental condos units available in Toronto, and in August the number grew to above 10,000 units,” said Alex Balikoev, senior vice president of sales at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “The reasons for that were job losses and a drop in immigration.”

The average rent in Canada, according to Rentals.ca listings, was $1,743 in November, which declined by 9.1% year-over-year and by 2.2% month-over-month.

The average rental price of a one-bedroom unit in Vancouver was $1,865 in November, falling by 5.2% from the same month in 2019, and by 1.9% from a month earlier, while a two-bedroom unit averaged $2,636 last month, which is a 13.8% year-over-year decline and a 2.8% month-over-month drop.

“In November of last year, the average rent in Vancouver for all property types on Rentals.ca increased by 7% annually to $2,507 per month,” said the report. “A year later, the average rent is down 12% year-over-year to $2,216 per month.”

The term “foreign buyer” is often used pejoratively in Canada—it’s become synonymous with speculators who have nary a vested interest in the country apart from using empty homes as appreciation vehicles, to the detriment of the domestic population—and it couldn’t be more misguided.

Turns out, many of these new Canadians bolster the national economy in ways few people can, and it is not without personal risks, either. Richard Leuce, an immigration consultant and owner of Richard’s Business Immigration Corp., specializes in high-net-worth individuals from South Africa, most of whom yearn to replicate their success in a safer environment.

“South Africa is a beautiful, beautiful country—I fell in love with it the minute I landed there—but it’s not very safe, and a lot of times South Africans, who are ready to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, are looking for safety,” Leuce told CREW. “My clients’ intents are to become Canadian citizens. Their first language is either English or Afrikaans, and if that’s the case then English is their second language. They seek to become permanent residents as soon as possible; they’re not just coming to buy properties and leave them vacant.”

Leuce primarily works through the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which requires his clients to create business plans, pass interviews with Canadian immigration officials, and take an exploratory trip to the region of the province where they want to set up shop. But Leuce says it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

“After all of the relevant information is submitted, the province scores the applicants and, if successful, follows up with a performance agreement, which stipulates that the nominee has up to two years to meet all requirements, including investing at least $600,000 and creating high-paying jobs,” he said. “They’re not hiring family members; they have to hire Canadian citizens. They invest money and boost the economy here. They did it in South Africa and they want to do the same thing in Canada. They’re active contributors to the economy.”

Among the many innovative ideas from abroad that Leuce has helped turn into Canadian companies is a plastic recycling firm that hopes to assist Canada achieve its zero plastic waste by 2030 goal. Not all ideas have to be bankrolled by the applicant.

“In a lot of developing economies, you have people with these great, innovative ideas, but who may not have the money,” said Leuce. “For these individuals, the Start-Up Visa program is an excellent avenue. The entrepreneur with the idea enters into a partnership with a Canadian angel investor or venture capital firm already in Canada to bring the idea to fruition using the latter’s money.”

The Canadian government announced in November that it would welcome 1.2 million new immigrants into the country through 2023, 60% of whom Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) described as belonging to the “economic class,” which includes skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs. But the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may prove a spanner in the works, warns Leuce, because processing times have already ballooned and the country’s ambitious goal to settle record numbers of immigrants in each of the next three years might not be attainable.

“The second wave will slow everything down. The door is not closed, but there will be a slowdown and it will take a while until the backlog is cleared. I’m curious to see if, in the spring budget, [IRCC] gets additional funding to hire more officers, or gets the money to pay existing officers overtime, because if the agency doesn’t get an increase in its budget, there’s no way things will move along. The spring budget will be the biggest indicator.”

Yesterday, Altus Group released its seventeenth annual Canadian Property Tax Rate Benchmark Report, a study of the commercial and residential property tax rates in eleven of Canada’s major population centres. The report found that for the third year in a row, eight of the eleven cities studied have commercial tax rates that are at least double that applied to residential properties.

For 2020, the five cities with the highest estimated commercial property taxes per $1,000 of assessed property value are:

  • Montreal – $36.99 per $1,000
  • Quebec City – $35.03 per $1,000
  • Halifax – $34.41 per $1,000
  • Ottawa – $26.64 per $1,000
  • Winnipeg – $23.17 per $1,000

The cities with the three lowest commercial tax rates per $1,000 of assessment were Vancouver ($6.73), Saskatoon ($15.65), and Regina ($17.31).

Vancouver’s rate was the most dynamic compared to 2019, shrinking 27.9 percent year-over-year. According to Terry Bishop, Altus Group’s president of property tax in Canada, the change in the commercial tax rate in Vancouver reflects a key realization on the part of city managers.

“I think they probably knew that they were leaning a little too much on the commercial sector,” Bishop says. “With the economic fallout of COVID coming along, I think they saw an opportunity to provide some relief to businesses. They’re the only city across the country that did anything significant on the property tax abatement side.”

While not on the same scale as Vancouver, Calgary lowered its commercial tax rate by 11.9 percent in 2020. But in Cow Town’s case, the decrease was more the result of the desperate situation faced by many of the city’s businesses, who had been asked to pay higher property taxes in each of the previous three years.

“It was getting to the point where businesses couldn’t afford the taxes that they were paying,” Bishop says. “The city had to bite the bullet and increase residential rates and reduce commercial rates.”

Of the other four markets that saw their commercial tax rates fall, only two, Toronto and Winnipeg, experienced declines of greater than four percent. The biggest year-over-year rise in commercial rate occurred in Saskatoon, where it grew a modest 2.6 percent.

Residential tax rates were largely unchanged, with the national average of residential property taxes per $1,000 of assessment for 2020 coming in at $8.98, a penny less than a year before.

The highest residential property taxes this year can be found in Halifax, where they are $11.96 per $1,000 of assessment, Winnipeg ($11.94), and Ottawa ($10.85). They are lowest in Vancouver ($2.92), Toronto ($5.99) and Calgary ($7.52).

As with commercial properties, Vancouver and Calgary also saw significant movement in their residential rates. Vancouver’s increased 14.2 percent year-over-year, while Calgary’s rose by 13 percent.

The ratio
Taking the commercial and residential data one step further, Altus Group calculated a commercial-residential tax ratio for each city. Bishop says the ratios may be the most important data point the study has to offer, as they speak to the disproportionate share of the property tax burden commercial owners are asked to carry.

“I think it’s more important to watch the trend in the ratios from a fairness and equity point of view than the actual tax rate,” he says.

Because property taxes account for a large portion of the rent paid by most businesses, and because they represent one of the most onerous operating costs for business owners that own their own properties, Altus Group fears that small businesses required to pay an outsized proportion of a community’s property taxes will face serious competitive challenges. If they can’t survive in their current marketplace, they may be enticed to move to a new location where the tax burden is significantly lower.

“It’s important that municipalities are aware of that and don’t lean on them too hard,” Bishop says.

This year, the highest ratios were found in Montreal (4.1), Toronto (3.6), and Quebec City (3.5). The cities with the lowest ratios were Saskatoon (1.7), Regina (1.7), and Winnipeg (1.9).

For the first time, Altus Group also studied the separate impacts municipal and provincial governments play in determining each market’s commercial-residential ratio. In Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax, it was found that the higher-than-average ratios are being driven by municipal taxes, while the high ratios in Toronto and Ottawa are largely the result of provincial education levies.

Bishop admits that reducing property taxes is a tough sell for provinces and municipalities scrambling to make up the tax revenue lost as a result of COVID-19-triggered business closures. But asking businesses to keep paying their current tax rates when so many are on the verge of collapse isn’t the rosiest of alternatives.

“To expect to recover the same amount of taxes from those businesses when their revenues are down significantly,” he says, “is a tall order.”

The right time to buy things is usually when other’s aren’t, which is why I’ve felt that this year was a great time to buy a centrally located condo. Cities aren’t going anywhere. This isn’t their first pandemic. Downtown demand will return as soon as urban life returns and the majority of people are back in their offices next year.

I’ve also been predicting that the run-up in single-family home prices that we have seen this past year here in Toronto will eventually lead to a surge in demand for condos (and perhaps even for larger suites). It’s a question of relative affordability. And so it was interesting to see Shaun Hildebrand of Urbanation predicting the same thing for 2021 in this recent Toronto Star article.

Hildebrand thinks the soaring prices of single-family homes will also push more buyers back to the condo market.

As of November, the average price gap between condos and detached houses was $596,000. The gap between a condo and a semi-detached or townhome was about $217,000. Both of those were at their second-highest levels since the market peaked in late 2016-early 2017, he said.

“This could really start to swing demand towards condos in the second half of the year,” said Hildebrand.

Realosophy data shows condo sales were already up year over year prior to the holidays —

23 per cent the first week of December,

31 per cent the second week and

72 per cent the week of Dec. 14.

That means 727 condos sold that week, compared to 418 in the same week last year.

Urbanation just released its Q3-2020 market update for the Greater Toronto Area and the data is very encouraging for the new condo market. Here are some of the highlights:

  • There were 6,730 new condominium unit sales in Q3. This represents a 30% year-over-year increase.
  • More of this growth happened in the suburbs (905) with 3,834 units sales vs. 2,536 unit sales in the City of Toronto (416).
  • Of the 6,694 units that launched for sale in Q3, about 3/4 of them sold. This is the highest absorption rate since Q4-2017.
  • The average selling price for a new condo launched in Q3 was $1,044 psf (GTA average). This is up 3.5% compared to last year.
  • New launches in the suburbs sold for an average of $915 psf. New launches in the City of Toronto sold for an average of $1,275 psf.

I reckon that many of the people purchasing right now are looking through and to the other side of this current macro environment. They recognize that things will get better and that the Toronto region will continue to thrive. That’s certainly how I’m thinking about it.

in finance – investing, we need to think *exponentially*, not *linearly*.

Money compounds. Growth doesn’t happen at a constant pace; it *accelerates* over time.

Most of us are not programmed to intuitively “get” compounding — over the long run.

It’s about the importance of thinking exponentially, as opposed to linearly, when it comes to finance and investing.

In it, the author provides a quick rule of thumb to help reframe our mind when it comes to compounding. It’s called the “rule of 72” and it works like this.

To calculate the approximate number of years to double your money, simply take 72 and divide it by the annualized rate of return (%).

For example, if you had an annualized rate of return of 10%, this rule of thumb would tell you that you’re going to need 7.2 years to double your money.

If the annualized rate of return were to increase to 18%, it would now only take you 4 years to double your money. Of course, this rule of thumb is an approximation. It only really works within a certain band of returns.

If the annualized rate of return were 100%, this formula would spit out 0.72 years, whereas an annualized rate of return of 100% actually means that you’re doubling your money in the span of one year.

It’s a rule of thumb. The reality is that compound returns are incredibly powerful over the long-run, not only for finance and investing, but for life in general. Worthwhile things take time. If you’ve got the patience and discipline, the long-run curve ends up looking pretty sweet.

It goes without saying that 2020 was an unprecedented year, and that the ripple effect on the housing market was swift and notable. Across the country, home buyers, sellers, and renters re-evaluated their housing priorities as they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, and many local housing markets saw several months of record-breaking sales following a spring of record-breaking declines.

As we look forward to 2021, here are 5 housing market trends that everyone has their eye on going into the new year.

1. 18-Hour Cities Across Canada Will Continue to Drive Housing Demand
A common mantra you hear in real estate is: location is everything. One of the major implications of the pandemic was that it pushed home buyers to reconsider the scope of how location factored into their home purchase.

With remote-working options becoming commonplace across the country – and some companies making them permanent – a growing group of home buyers in dense, major cities like Toronto began prioritizing square footage and green space, where they may have previously put a premium on workplace proximity.

Not only did this result in skyrocketing demand for single-family homes in general, it also spurred many buyers to expand the boundaries of their home search far beyond city-limits. Many looked to 18-hour cities, often defined as “mid-size cities with attractive amenities, higher-than-average population growth, and a lower cost of living and cost of doing business than the biggest urban areas” to find better value.

For example, in Ottawa, home prices rose 19% year-over-year in November, and competition remained fierce among prospective buyers. “With huge buying demand being fueled by out-of-town buyers transitioning to the Ottawa market, we can expect prices to be driven up in the new year,” said Jonathan Amodeo, Broker in Ottawa.

Generally speaking, with increased flexibility to live and work anywhere, we can expect home buyers to continue to look further for affordable, spacious, single-family housing, which in turn is expected to drive demand within these cities and consequently put upward pressure on home prices as has been the trend in 2020.

2. ‘Typical’ Seasonal Real Estate Cycles Will Return And Buyers WIll Face Strong Competition
As most of the country came to a stand-still in March following stay-at-home orders, the economic and healthcare repercussions of the pandemic also brought the spring housing market to a halt; with record-breaking declines in prices and sales.

In response, the real estate sector as a whole pivoted to a virtual-first model, and as conditions improved, real estate boards and associations across the country implemented stringent safety protocols to prioritize the safety of the community at-large. As healthcare conditions eased over the summertime, pent-up demand, and limited inventory resulted in what many described as a “delayed spring market” effect, which in turn led to the record breaking sales experienced throughout the rest of the year.

Based on today’s expectations of an approved COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out in the coming weeks and months, plus an entire real estate industry that now has experience safely working within the framework of COVID-19 as we know it, buyers and sellers can expect for more traditional real estate cycles to reemerge in 2021 – with the market being at its busiest in the spring and the fall.

In fact, a recent report found that housing competition strongly favoured sellers in every single one of 25 major Canadian housing markets; with some of the most competitive conditions existing outside of Canada’s largest housing markets of Toronto and Vancouver – in Canada’s mid-sized cities. We can expect this trend to continue, as more Canadians who are seeking out more square footage and green space are willing to look further for housing.

3. Condo-Dense Markets Could See An Uptick in Rental Demand
Widespread closures across workplaces, universities, and the Canadian border to tourism and immigration alike resulted in rental vacancies rising to 2.8% in condo-dense markets like Toronto this past October (from just 0.7% the year prior), and at the highest levels for the first time in over a decade. Low demand spurred an increase in new listings and a consequent drop in rental prices, particularly across the city centre, and in areas popular for short-term rentals.

If the border opens up, and life begins to trend closer to what it was like pre-pandemic as a result of the vaccine, we can expect demand for rentals to grow again in city centres, particularly in the latter half of the year. For now, “if a renter is looking to get into a beautiful, trendy downtown condo at a prime location, now is a great time to lock it in,” said Andrew Kim, an agent in Toronto.

4. Mortgage Rates Will Remain Affordable
In response to the pandemic, the Bank of Canada kept the overnight lending rate at it’s “effective lower bound” of 0.25% for much of the year, with plans to maintain this rate until “economic slack” from the pandemic is absorbed, which is likely to be until at least 2023. Mortgage rates in turn, remain at an all-time low, with fixed mortgage rates hovering near the 1% mark.

Based on the Bank’s guidance, we can expect the overnight lending rate to remain steady for much of 2021 as the economy reacts to short term spikes in COVID-19 cases, and recovers over the long term as the vaccine is rolled out.

As far as mortgage rates go, there is potential for a slight increase in fixed rates as the bond market recovers in response to vaccine news and rollout. This in turn could impact the rate at which real estate prices rise toward the latter half of the year.

5. The Housing Market in the Prairies Could Get A Boost
The Prairies have been hard-hit by the coupling effect of the pandemic plus the ongoing impact of fluctuations in the energy market on jobs and consumer debt and spending. That being said, housing competition remains fierce in the region, with all major areas in the region experiencing strong seller’s market conditions this fall, e.g. Winnipeg (SNLR of 88%), Saskatoon (SNLR of 82%), Calgary (SNLR of 87%) and Edmonton (SNLR of 76%). Generally speaking, when the SNLR or sales-to-new-listings ratio is over 60%, competition conditions favour sellers over buyers because demand outpaces available supply.

With average home prices under the $500,000 mark across the Prairie region’s largest cities, if the world starts turning again and the economy and immigration into the region begins to recover in response to the vaccine, we can expect that the housing market in the Prairies may start to bounce back later in the year.

Last week, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released its latest resale housing market forecast, which revealed that — despite turbulent spring months — homebuyers are on track to set a record for activity in 2020, with some 544,413 homes projected to change hands by December 31, an 11.1% increase from 2019 levels.

Subsequently, the national average price in 2020 is on track to rise by 13.1% on an annual basis to just over $568,000 — reflecting the current balance of supply and demand, which heavily favours sellers in many local markets.

In Ontario, CREA forecasts that 228,665 homes will change hands by the end of the year, up 9.2% from 2019 levels,. While the average price should rise 17% to $708,377, up from $604,883 in 2019.

CREA’s forecast noted that mortgage interest rates have declined to record lows in 2020, including the Bank of Canada’s benchmark five-year rate, which is used by major banks to qualify applicants under the federal mortgage stress test, which has lead to more buyers being able to qualify for mortgages this year.

With the Bank of Canada committing to keep interest rates low into 2023 and with mortgage interest rates expected to remain near current levels through the new year, CREA forecasts 2021 will still be a strong year for sales.

“On a monthly basis, sales are forecast to ease back to more typical levels throughout 2021,” CREA wrote in the report. However, presuming there’s a more normal spring market in 2021, the year as a whole is expected to see more home sales than 2020.”

On a national level, CREA is predicting 584,000 home sales for 2021, up 7.25% year-over-year. All provinces except Ontario are forecast to see increased sales activity in 2021, as low-interest rates and improving economic fundamentals allow people to get into the markets where homes are available for sale.

For 2021, CREA has predicted that there will be 221,220 home transactions in Ontario, a decline of 3.3% from 2020 levels. However, average home prices are expected to climb 16.3% to land at $823,656.

“Ontario has seen strong demand for several years, particularly outside of Toronto, which has eroded active supply in the province,” CREA said in its report.

“The strength of demand, particularly for larger single-family properties, will drive the average price higher as potential buyers compete for the most desirable properties.”

 

This forecast comes as Ontario’s housing market was down on a year-over-year basis in November, however, this reflected a supply issue rather than a demand issue — particularly in the ground-home segment. This has led to the average home price in the province remaining up year-over-year.

The largest year-over-year gains in November — between 25- 30% — were recorded in Quinte & District, Tillsonburg District, Woodstock-Ingersoll and a number of Ontario cottage country areas.

Year-over-year price increases in the 20-25% range were seen in Barrie, Bancroft and Area, Brantford, Huron Perth, London & St. Thomas, North Bay, Simcoe & District, Southern Georgian Bay, and Ottawa. This was followed by year-over-year price gains in the range of 15-20% in Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph, Cambridge, Grey-Bruce Owen Sound, Kitchener-Waterloo, Northumberland Hills, and Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

Moreover, prices were up in the 10-15% range compared to last November in Oakville-Milton and Mississauga. Across the GTA, the average selling price for all home types was up by 13.3% to $955,615.

With just ten days left in 2020, CREA is far from alone with its predictions around average home prices increasing in the new year. James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca, expects detached home prices will increase between 4 to 7% in 2021, with the strongest growth in the suburbs around major urban centres.

“With Canadians working from home, the demand will continue to be strong for more space. Larger homes outside of the city centre will see the strongest demand,” said Laird.

What’s more, Royal LePage, predicts that the median price of a standard two-storey home in the GTA will rise 7.5% next year, reaching an average price point of $1,185,800. In a significantly less dramatic increase, the median price of a condominium is forecast to increase 0.5% to $600,800.

Meanwhile, the aggregate price of a GTA home (all home types) is expected to increase by 5.75% year-over-year, ultimately reaching $990,300.

Looking ahead, only time will tell how the housing market will truly perform, but for now, let’s hope 2021 holds as much good news as suggested by the forecasted increase in home prices in the region.

While there’s no doubt that downtown condos were left in the dust when suburban single-family home sales and prices took off during Canada’s economic recovery, the chances that urban high-rises will see a significant price drop over the next year is unlikely.

In his response to November housing market data published this month by the Canadian Real Estate Association, BMO Senior Economist Robert Kavcic acknowledged that urban markets “are highly out of favour right now” with homebuyers.

But even as the price gap between condos and single-detached homes is likely to widen in the new year, condo markets in major cities, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, should eventually find their footing, Kavcic wrote in a research note published last week.

“Will we see a deep correction? Probably not. The ‘death of the city’ thesis is probably excessive,” he wrote.

That said, the economist believes there will be some condo “overhang” — in other words, excess supply — to work through before the hard hit downtown markets in Canada’s largest cities can regain their strength. Strong rent price appreciation and a robust short-term rental market that fed investor enthusiasm for urban condo in these cities is also unlikely to return any time soon, despite the positive developments on the vaccine front.

After a barn-burning year for rural and vacation property demand, Kavcic sees these markets remaining “extremely tight” into early 2021, meaning price growth will continue for the time being.

What remains to be seen is how demand will change 2021’s second half on the realistic assumption that vaccine distribution will permit many aspects of city life to resume. Kavcic said that activity may plateau in those farther flung markets that have seen their appeal rise during the pandemic.

Price declines are also in the cards later in the year and into 2022, though the economist believes these markets will retain some of the pandemic-driven boost in property values.

December 15, 2020 – The national average price is forecast to rise by 9.1% in 2021 to $620,400. Average price trends across Canada in 2021 are generally expected to resemble those in 2020. Shortages of supply, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, are expected to result in strong price growth, while Alberta and Saskatchewan are anticipated to see average prices pick up following several years of depreciation.

Ottawa, ON December 15, 2020 – The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has updated its forecast for home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate boards and associations.

Current trends and the outlook for housing market fundamentals suggest activity will remain relatively healthy through 2021, with prices either continuing to climb or remaining steady in all regions.

Economic activity continues to improve slowly following the initial stages of the pandemic. Over the past several years, record levels of international immigration, low interest rates and an increasing share of millennials entering their home buying years have helped make the housing market a significant source of strength for the Canadian economy. The recent government support programs for individuals and businesses have also helped the overall economy through the most severe parts of the pandemic to date.

Mortgage interest rates have declined to record lows in 2020, including the Bank of Canada’s benchmark five-year rate used by Canada’s largest banks to qualify applicants under the B-20 mortgage stress test. With the Bank of Canada committing to keep interest rates low into 2023, mortgage interest rates are expected to remain near current levels through 2021.

Recent national sales trends have improved more than anticipated over the second half of 2020. New listings in most of the country have also recovered. However, while sales activity rebounded to record-high levels, new listings only recovered to about their five-year average in most markets. The relative strength of demand for homes compared with supply has meant sales activity has been eroding active inventory, which was already scarce in many markets pre-pandemic. That said, this has been a trend since 2015.

The increase in demand has impacted every part of the country, including the Prairies and Newfoundland and Labrador. While these regions aren’t experiencing the same intensity of upward price pressures as the rest of the country, compared with previous years, demand is strengthening and prices have indeed started to increase.

Despite the historic setback to the spring market caused by the pandemic, CREA projects national sales to hit a record of 544,413 units in 2020, representing an 11.1% increase from 2019 levels. The strength of the Canadian housing market was broad-based, with every province except Alberta registering a year-over-year increase in sales. British Columbia and Quebec stand out as large contributors to the overall gain.

The national average price in 2020 is on track to rise by 13.1% on an annual basis to just over $568,000. This reflects the current balance of supply and demand, which heavily favours sellers in many local markets.

On a monthly basis, sales are forecast to ease back to more typical levels throughout 2021; however, presuming there’s a more normal spring market in 2021, the year as a whole is expected to see more home sales than 2020. National home sales are forecast to rise by 7.2% to around 584,000 units next year. All provinces except Ontario are forecast to see increased sales activity in 2021, as low interest rates and improving economic fundamentals allow people to get into the markets where homes are available for sale.

Ontario has seen strong demand for several years, particularly outside of Toronto, which has eroded active supply in the province. This shortage is expected to limit sales activity in 2021. The strength of demand, particularly for larger single-family properties, will drive the average price higher as potential buyers compete for the most desirable properties.

A Canadian home price tracker known to be one of the best measures of price appreciation just experienced a record-breaking November increase.

The Teranet-National Bank House Price Index rose 0.9 percent last month over October’s reading, the strongest gain for the month of November in the 22 years that the index has been compiled.

National Bank Senior Economist Marc Pinsonneault said it was the second month in a row that the index had broken a record for a monthly increase at the national level. Hamilton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Victoria and Vancouver all posted monthly increases of over one percent. Toronto missed the one percent mark, but still recorded a “highly respectable” 0.8 percent rise, according to the economist.

From an annual perspective, the national index rose nine percent over November 2019, the highest 12-month increase since early 2018. Ottawa-Gatineau, Halifax, Hamilton and Montreal led the way by this measure, all recording annual increases above or near 15 percent.

The Teranet-National Bank index is known to lag behind other widely used home price tracking tools, including the monthly average home sale prices published by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and local boards.

This is because the index is compiled using a repeat sales methodology that works by tracking the price change between the two most recent sales of the same property. The index uses prices entered into public land registries in the Canadian markets it tracks. These often are slower to respond to market changes because sale price data is not added to land registries as quickly as it’s entered into the MLS systems used by real estate boards.

“The strong rise of prices is consistent with the revival of home sales volume over the last several months reported by the Canadian Real Estate Association. For a third straight month, the number of sale pairs entering into the 11 metropolitan indexes was higher than a year earlier,” wrote Pinsonneault.

In new commentary on the Teranet-National Bank November price figures, Capital Economics’ Stephen Brown said Canadian home price inflation is forecast to rise above 10 percent annually in the first few months of 2021. It will slow following that, but is expected to continue to rise throughout the year.

“A few forecasters reiterated at the start of December that they still expect declines in house prices in 2021, seemingly because they believe the effects of high unemployment will finally be felt,” wrote Brown in commentary published this morning.

“It seems very hard to justify those downbeat views from the recent data, however, with the sales-to-new listing ratio little changed in November and still consistent with very strong house price inflation,” he continued.

The sales-to-new listing ratio is a key indicator of whether the market is in buyer’s or seller’s territory. With CREA’s latest national reading showing the ratio still in record high territory — meaning the market is undersupplied and sellers are calling the shots — continued price increases seem inevitable.

While home sales across the country declined slightly in November from the previous month, they were up a healthy 32 percent over the same time last year.

In other words, it’s the type of stellar performance that’s become standard during 2020’s post-spring lockdown period.

But the strong home sales figures published today by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) represent more than just a continuation of the market’s remarkable performance in the second half of the year.

Canadian home sales are a hair’s breadth away from breaking an all-time record for transactions in a single year.

“Many Canadian housing markets continue to see historically strong levels of activity, so much so that a new annual sales record this year is looking more likely every day,” said CREA Chair Costa Poulopoulos, in a media release.

According to CREA, there have been 511,449 home sales between January and November this year. That’s up 10.5 percent from the same 11-month period in 2019 and already the second-highest January to November sales tally on record.

This year’s total is behind 2016, the current record-holder, by only 0.3 percent. So yes, you read that right, in this bizarre and anxiety-inducing year, Canada’s housing market may very well see its best-ever performance for home sales.

In fact, CREA’s Senior Economist Shaun Cathcart thinks it’s more likely than not to be a record-breaker.

“If I had to sum up the Canadian housing story in 2020, I would say it’s gone from weakness because of COVID to strength despite COVID,” said Cathcart. “It will be a photo finish, but it’s looking like 2020 will be a record year for home sales in Canada despite historically low supply.”

On the pricing side, CREA’s Home Price Index rose 11.6 percent over the previous year. Meantime, the national average home price was up nearly 14 percent to $603,000, though the association said that this is heavily influenced by the country’s most expensive markets, Toronto and Vancouver.

The propulsive price growth is linked to the record-low supply — measured in months of inventory — that Cathcart mentioned. CREA said there were 2.4 months of inventory at the national level by the end of last month, meaning it would take 2.4 months to sell all the homes listed on the market at the current rate of sales. In Ontario, supply is exceptionally tight, with 21 markets across the province posting less than one month of inventory at the end of November.

While downtown condos saw price declines last month, a few suburban condo markets in the Toronto region still recorded healthy price growth.

Oakville, Oshawa and Burlington all posted resale condo price gains above 10 percent in November, while Brampton and Vaughan recorded increases just shy of the double digits.

Condo sales activity was about on par with transaction levels recorded in November 2019 for the three top-performing suburban cities, but demand was strong enough to keep prices rising.

To compile this data, the Livabl team looked at average sale prices for condo apartments sold last month in the 30 cities and towns outside of the City of Toronto that TRREB tracks. Of the areas that recorded 10 or more transactions during both November 2020 and 2019, three experienced price increases over 10 percent compared to the previous year.

Oakville topped the list with its average condo price rising to $661,555, up nearly 16 percent from a year ago. Oshawa posted a nearly 15 percent gain, with an average sale price of $307,400 in November. Rounding out the top three was Burlington, with prices increasing to $554,494, an annual gain of 12 percent.

The two cities that came close to achieving double-digit gains — Brampton and Vaughan — each recorded increases of nearly nine percent, with prices rising to $462,461 and $646,801, respectively.

Of course, the pace of price growth in these suburban condo markets seems relatively sluggish compared to detached homes across the Toronto region. Detached home prices rose over 20 percent in 19 Toronto suburban cities and towns last month.

another year has come and nearly gone, and one thing that we’ve learned this year is the resilience of Ontario’s real estate markets, as they’ve managed to stay hot despite the latest pandemic restrictions rolled out by the provincial government to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In fact, last month, there was a notable annual “uptick” in home sales across the province, with many regions reporting a record-breaking month for sales.

According to TRREB’s October housing market report, resale activity in the GTA showed no signs of slowing down, after having another record-setting month, during which, a total of 10,563 sales were made — a 25.1% jump from the 8,445 sales recorded in the previous October. The record-level sales were paired with record listings, with 17,802 recorded across the region compared to 13,053 in October of last year.

With just weeks left in 2020, we took a closer look at housing competition across 35 Ontario real estate markets by reviewing sales and new listings data for each region for the month of October.

To determine which markets were the most competitive (sellers’ markets) and least competitive (buyer’s markets), we calculated the sales-t0-new-listings ratio (SNLR) for 35 cities throughout the province. To reach this, the number of sales in a city is divided by the number of new listings.

A high percentage of over 60% indicates that many homes were sold compared to homes newly listed (sellers’ market), while a lower percentage under 40% shows fewer homes were sold compared to homes newly listed (buyer’s market).

within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 14 out of 19 cities are currently sellers’ markets, the remaining five are balanced. Outside of the GTA, all 16 cities were in the sellers’ market territory, while no cities in the report were listed as buyer’s markets.

Here in the GTA, 14 of 19 real estate markets strongly favour sellers, with Orangeville (SNLR of 105%), Whitby (SNLR of 89%), Burlington (SNLR of 88%), Milton (SNLR of 87%), and Caledon (SNLR of 85%) leading the ranking with high SNLR percentages over 60%, which indicates that more homes were sold compared to homes newly listed.

However, the remaining five markets in the GTA reviewed remain in a balanced market territory. With 3,514 sales and 7,823 new listings in October, the City of Toronto is among the five housing markets exhibiting balanced market conditions with an SNLR of 45%.

this shows that housing competition has cooled since October 2019, when the SNLR was 66% and favoured sellers. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that these figures are influenced by condo market activity where sales have declined amidst the pandemic while new listings increased by more than double (109%) year-over-year.

What’s more, three of the five markets exhibiting balanced conditions are in York Region: Richmond Hill (SNLR of 54%), Vaughan (SNLR of 59%) and Markham (SNLR of 58%). The remaining market exhibiting balanced conditions is Mississauga, with 943 sales and 1,665 new listings and an SNLR of 57% in October.

“Currently, buyers are most interested in freehold properties with backyards, and it is common to see multiple offers on such listings given limited inventory,” says Claudio Castro, an agent in the York Region.

“Homes listed in the $1 million range are the most competitive, seeing that buyers are able to secure a 4 bedroom, detached property within the $1,100,000 – $1,400,000 range in York Region,” Castro notes that as long as COVID-19 remains a factor, this trend is expected to continue into the new year.

As you look outside of the GTA,  says that buyers will face “stiff competition” in all of the 16 markets included in the analysis, particularly in four cities, where the SNLR is at or over 100% — indicating that demand was much higher than new listings and buyers began to pick up inventory listed before October.

These markets were: Sudbury (SNLR of 100%), Niagara Falls (SNLR of 105%), Thunder Bay (SNLR of 108%), and St. Catherines (SNLR of 112%). With the exception of Sudbury, buyers faced even stiffer competition this year than they did in 2019.

 

 

New townhomes recorded robust sales numbers in several markets across Canada this year, as consumers looked for affordable lower density options amid the pandemic.

Real estate data firm Altus Group published a report this month highlighting strong new townhome sales in Vancouver, where transactions doubled compared to last year’s levels, and the Toronto region, where new townhomes saw the biggest improvement in sales of any property type versus 2019.

Even in Alberta’s weak residential real estate markets, townhome sales were only down slightly in Calgary and Edmonton, the report said.

Altus Group looked at new townhome sales in the first three quarters of 2020 and compared year-to-date activity in the property segment to the past four years. In Vancouver, sales have already surpassed 2019 and 2018 totals just in the first nine months of the year. In Toronto, activity in the first three quarters has already exceeded sales in the previous three years — only 2016 saw better results.

In its report, the firm said that the surge seen in 2020 lines up with growing buyer interest in townhomes that’s been building for several years.

“With housing affordability challenges in the major markets increasingly pricing single-detached housing out of the reach of many buyers, townhouses provide a family sized option with many of the desirable features, such as garages, private front door and amenity spaces, at a much lower price point,” Altus Group said in the report.

It went on to note that new townhomes in suburban regions outside major cities are typically less expensive than two-bedroom condos in more central areas.

Looking ahead, buyer demand for townhomes is expected to keep growing. Altus Group predicted that pandemic-driven factors like low interest rates and flexible remote work arrangements allowing buyers to live farther from their employers would influence demand. The firm also noted that Millennials searching for affordable and family-friendly housing options would continue to support demand.

Average condo prices in the City of Toronto are up about 150%. But…

Land costs are up 160%.

Soft costs are up 118%.

Construction and related costs are up 91%.

Financing costs are up 93%.

Government fees, charges, and taxes are up 413%.

And development charges (a subset of the above) are up 3,244%!

At the same time, the profit margin over costs is down about 45%.

(As a point of comparison, CPI only increased by about 26.5% during this same time period.)

The point here is that condos are so expensive largely because of cost-plus pricing. Government fee increases are also outpacing every other cost bucket.

If you’re developing new housing in Toronto, you have no choice but to accept these rising costs. You have to pay development charges and you have to pay them when you’re told, even if that means swallowing some new massive increase.

So by necessity, end prices get continually pushed as a way to try and absorb these costs. You figure out what your costs are going to be and then you price accordingly. But of course, you also have to ask yourself: Can people actually afford this kind of pricing and can this neighborhood support it?

Sometimes the answer is yes, which is why development continues. But sometimes the answer is no. In this case, the next step is simple: you don’t build.

The Toronto housing market had a lot working against it this November.

The City of Toronto and neighbouring Peel region moved into the “lockdown” zone of the province’s tiered restriction framework, with non-essential businesses closed from November 23rd onward. Prior to that, both regions already were in the highly restrictive “red” zone.

On top of all this, despite the steady stream of strong data on the home sales and pricing front, many commentators appeared certain that the housing market would falter following the summer rebound, as high unemployment and lower incomes would eventually snuff out the momentum.

Instead, the market’s performance has been almost uniformly positive. RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue was one of the commentators who wrote in the summer that the housing rebound would slow by the fall months, with home prices likely to begin declining later in the year. The remarkable home sales and pricing data from November led Hogue to quip “so much for the cooling” this fall in a research note published last week.

“The overall [housing] picture remained amazingly strong despite the re-imposition of tighter social distancing restrictions in the City of Toronto and Peel region in November,” Hogue wrote, noting that changing housing needs and low interest rates “kept the market boiling.”

The economist had previously written that downtown condos are currently the “weak spot” in Canada’s housing picture and that remained true for Toronto last month. Condo prices are now beginning to soften as listings have soared 194 percent, widening the chasm between supply and demand.

But it’s the strength of single-family home sales, especially in the suburban 905 areas of the region, that continue to keep the overall market boiling hot. Detached home sales in the 905 were up 33 percent over a year ago while active listings fell 40 percent.

“Very tight demand-supply conditions apply increasing heat on detached home prices across the entire GTA,” Hogue wrote.

In other words, it’s the complete opposite supply and demand dynamic playing out compared to the sluggish downtown condo market.

Looking ahead, Hogue believes condo prices will continue to decline in the near term while single-family home prices are expected to keep rising “briskly.”

The Toronto housing market is closing 2020 in a way that feels well-suited to the year: some highs, some lows, and not a whole lot of clarity on what’s to come.

According to the newest report from RBC, the entire country saw strength in its housing market throughout November, except for in one area — downtown condos in large urban areas.

It’s easy to imagine, then, that the City of Toronto’s data presents as a combination of “on fire” and “flailing.”

Despite the return to lockdown-status in Toronto and Peel region, the month saw GTA resales rise 24.3% year-over-year, with the MLS Home Price Index (HPI) up 10.6% during the same period.

The 416-region specifically is described as “both hot and lukewarm,” with sales of single-family homes up 24% year-over-year, while condos sales were “flat.”

But the real difference, RBC says, is inventories. Active detached-home listings are sitting some 13% below year-ago levels. Meanwhile, condo listings have skyrocketed 194%. As the report concludes, it’s “no wonder downtown Toronto condo prices are beginning to soften.”

Indeed, TRREB’s November market report, released Thursday, captured the small drop in the average condominium apartment selling price for the ‘416’ area code. Since the onset of the pandemic in March, April is the only other month to have seen a decline in year-over-year condo prices (-4.0%) in the 416 (though October only managed a gain of less than 1%).

At the same time, the month saw market conditions tightened in many single-family market segments, resulting in double-digit year-over-year increases in selling prices for detached houses, semi-detached houses, and townhouses.

The story of the city’s condo market is opposite to that of the detached home market; read: plentiful supply.

“The downturn in rental markets has prompted many condo investors to sell over the past several months,” reads RBC’s report — a statement that, through autumn, has become increasingly clear to those keeping an eye on the downtown real estate scene.

TRREB’s data from the Q3-2020 condominium market and rental market reports revealed the number of condo apartments listed for rent at some point during Q3-2020 was up a massive 113.9% year-over-year. The influx was reportedly a result of many investors and Airbnb owners turning to the longterm rental market in an effort to cover ongoing costs.

And, according to John Pasalis, President at Realosophy Realty, the condo market being in such a state means something to sleep on for would-be investors. As resale prices have been on the decline, albeit “only by a little bit,” rents have decreased by nearly 20% in some cases.

“Certainly, if you’re a savvy investor, you might find some value. There’s no rule necessarily, but it doesn’t seem right to be paying peak prices — 2020 prices — for rents that are at 2018 levels,” he said.

“If you want to be somewhat conservative, you’re either going to wait for further softening in prices — if you think that’s going to happen — or you at least wait for the rental market to start recovering a little bit, because if you’re buying now, as an investor, not only is your rent significantly lower, but your vacancy is higher. It might take you two to three months to rent out your unit.

It makes sense, then, that as those who are interested in investing have been cautioned to watch and wait, those who are already in the downtown condo game have been inclined to attempt to offload their properties. It’s hard to make anything back from a vacant space, after all.

While anyone looking to get in on the condo scene right now — whether renting or buying — has a (relative) pick of the lot, those more interested in single-family homes have increased competition, and prices, to deal with.

TRREB’s latest data showed that market conditions tightened in many single-family market segments in November, resulting in double-digit year-over-year increases in average selling prices for detached houses, semi-detached houses and townhouses.

“Homebuyers continued to take advantage of very low borrowing costs in November, especially those looking to buy some form of single-family home,” said Lisa Patel, TRREB President. “Competition between buyers for ground-oriented homes has been extremely strong in many neighbourhoods throughout the GTA, which has continued to support double-digit annual rates of price growth.”

To use a local metaphor, stabilization then (or a return to some form of normalcy), is like the CN Tower on one of Toronto’s smoggiest summer days — you know it’s there, but it’s difficult to see, and you can’t gauge exactly how far away from it you’re standing.

With regards to the condo experience, any rehabilitation depends on downtown’s healing, according to Pasalis.

“Rents are not going to recover until the downtown core recovers. [At that time,] people are going back to offices, there’s a reason to be living downtown because you walk to the office, the office is nearby, the restaurants are nearby. So, until there’s some return to a normal downtown lifestyle, downtown rents aren’t likely to recover anytime soon,” he said.

And until downtown regains its appeal, it’s hard to imagine what would slow the ever-growing interest in single-family homes, what with their increased space, privacy, and (location-dependent) bang for their buck.

With so many unknowns hanging in the air, conservative advice would be to make no sudden movements… at least not without giving those moves some serious thought. Because, while the timeline for recovery remains uncertain, one thing is clear: downtown is not dead, it’s resting. And come next summer — or even the summer after — you don’t want to be left reminiscing about the waterfront, the Queen West strip or Riverdale Farm as you grapple with suburban regrets.

With a steady stream of positive developments announced in the last month, it’s beginning to look like widespread deployment of one or multiple COVID-19 vaccines will pave the way back to normalcy for Canada’s housing market next year.

Health Canada is expected to approve the use of the Pfizer vaccine in a matter of days. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will receive 249,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of the year. Three other potential vaccine candidates are also under consideration for approval, with millions of doses potentially available for priority recipients by early 2021.

While the arrival of a vaccine isn’t likely to create big shifts in the country’s housing market right away, Matthew Boukall, Vice President of Product Management and Data Solutions at Altus Group, says that its roll out could immediately impact how homebuyers make decisions about where they plan on moving.

“Those that are on the fence about where they want to live, whether they’re considering living in urban areas or moving out to the suburbs, the vaccine will provide some certainty around where they’re going to be working and how much of their day will be spent commuting to a downtown office or working from home,” explained Boukall.

Big cities like Vancouver and Toronto have felt the strongest impacts of the pandemic on their housing markets. Decreased demand for rentals, stalled immigration and a major increase in the number of buyers looking to purchase in the suburbs has left condo sales trailing behind the single-family home market through most of 2020.

November’s market data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board marked a continuation of the divergence between the single-family and condo segments in the urban ‘416’ and suburban ‘905’ regions — detached ‘905’ homes saw a 20 percent price gain, while ‘416’ condo prices dipped by 3 percent annually.

Boukall says a vaccine would clear the way for allowing both international and local students to return to post-secondary campuses and reinvigorate rental demand. It could also jump-start the city’s struggling tourism industry and create more demand for platforms like Airbnb that rely heavily on downtown condos for their short-term rental supply.

The urban exodus trend, which has seen a large number of city dwellers migrate to the suburbs during the pandemic, could slow down as vaccine roll out begins.

“The trend will continue, but it will slow down dramatically,” said Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets, noting that there had already been an uptick observed in urbanites moving to the suburbs before the pandemic started.

“I think, at some point, the city will be a very inviting place. It will be more affordable and, still, people will love to live in the city especially if you can go back to the office,” he added.

Tal said that he anticipates some weakness in the condo market in the coming months. However, even if a vaccine hasn’t been widely deployed, we can expect pent-up demand and price adjustments to lead a robust spring market.

“I think the narrative about people not wanting to live in condos will probably start to die off as we get closer and closer to a vaccine, when people realize that the market is actually an opportunity to enter,” explained Tal.

While some market commentary has possible housing supply challenges in store for 2021, Tal doesn’t believe that the market will be undersupplied in the first half of the year.

Boukall noted that Toronto will see a large number of new housing units delivered next year. This, combined with an increase in listings on the market, will create more supply, he said. Buyers and tenants who were previously priced out of the city are expected to return now that affordability has improved, absorbing excess urban condo inventory.

Tal added that there’s evidence that the end of the condo market adjustment has already started.

“We see demand for rentals and rent inflation stabilizing. This means people are starting to take advantage of a soft market and enter the market,” he said.

This year, no one culd predict what would lie ahead for the housing market during the novel Coronavirus pandemic that spread across the globe like wildfire. For many, Canadians lost their jobs and were trying to live off government-assisted programs while trying to juggle their bills, but for others, they were presented with a great opportunity to dip their toes in the real estate market for the first time or upgrade to a house outside of the expensive city due to being able to work from home. Interest rates have also continued to stay at a historic-low in order to help stabilize the Canadian economy while COVID-19 rages on.

But while some buyers were able to get into a home, many others were left losing bidding wars and give up on their dream home. Some even had to sell their homes in order to stay afloat. So, the question remains: is it a good time to buy a house in Canada? What real estate trends are emerging and why should you take advantage of them?

We’ll break down everything you should know.

Are millennials the reason for the booming real estate market activity?
Last year, it was predicted that millennials would become the main reason for homes flying off the market before the COVID-19 pandemic urged people to stay at home and only go out when necessary to essential stores. In fact, millennial home ownership rates in Canada were higher than in other countries according to a report by RBC. As of March 2019, 40 per cent of homes in Canada were owned by buyers 35 years of age or younger whereas, in the United States, that percentage sat at 34.5. The cities with the youngest homeowners in Canada were Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, even despite the high home prices. But did this trend continue into 2020 despite the global pandemic?

Well, maybe not. Scotiabank’s survey suggested that 38 per cent of Canadians believed that now is as good of a time as any to buy a new home, but only 18 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 agreed that the pandemic accelerated their plans to delve into the home ownership journey. This left one-third of those surveyed waiting for prices to drop before buying a home.

How has the Coronavirus affected the housing market in Canada?
Despite the novel Coronavirus putting everything on hold, there were still real estate records being broken in cities all across the country, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, Greater Vancouver, and Montreal to name a few. As mentioned above, while many feared losing their jobs and steady income to support their family and keep their houses running, many others found the global pandemic a great opportunity to buy their first home or upgrade to homes located outside of the city they no longer needed to travel to for work because of the lower home prices, affordable mortgage rates, and being able to get much more for their money.

Here are some impressive records that were recorded this year due to the Coronavirus that threw us all for an unexpected loop.

Montreal
Many Montrealers are saying goodbye to city living and buying homes in cottage country. In both July and August of this year, Montreal saw a surge in home sales and broke records for two months in a row in a seller’s market. This means there has been way more demand for homes than what is even on the market. In a report from the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB), residential sales increased by 39 per cent in August compared to the same time last year with a total of 4,878 sales (with single-family homes taking the lead with 2,601 sales). This was the highest number recorded in August in the last 20 years. Single-family home prices also increased by 24 per cent (with a median price of $427,500), but what was surprising was seeing $1 million-dollar homes on the market double compared to August 2019.

Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
The housing market in Toronto has reached new heights too after the global pandemic took its toll on office workers and real estate investors. As stated in a November report by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), home sales in the GTA were up more than they ever have been for four consecutive months. In October alone, TRREB members reported 10,563 home sales compared to 8,445 in October 2019. The average price for all types of homes combined reached $968,318, an increase of 13.7 per cent from the same time last year. The demand for single-family housing in the GTA has drastically increased, so bidding wars are being taken to a whole new level. Supply is low and first-time buyers are getting outbid.

The condo market in Toronto has seen records being broken too. As the Toronto residential housing market has been doing really well, condos haven’t necessarily seen the same light, particularly in the downtown core. Sellers are even seeing their condo listings sit for months compared to just a few days this time last year. The reason? The demand for renting has drastically gone down because students haven’t physically been returning to school, immigration has come to a halt, and travel is a no-go for those offering an Airbnb. In fact, condo sales saw a year-over-year decrease of 8.5 per cent.

Greater Vancouver
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reported that in September of this year, 3,643 residential homes sold compared to 2,333 in September 2019. The benchmark price for all properties is currently $1,045,100; a six per cent increase since October 2019. In Fraser Valley, sales were the second-highest they’ve been in July for 10 years with an increase of 25.5 per cent despite the single-family home and townhome supply being low.

But the condo market?

Well, unlike the GTA, the Greater Vancouver area saw a 36.9 per cent increase in condo sales this year in September. Prices have remained high year-over-year because of the demand for buying condos in the busy, downtown hubs. The current median price of a condo in Vancouver is $683,500. However, those who own investment properties in Greater Vancouver have definitely noticed a drop in rent prices due to the lack of students, immigrants, and tenants losing their jobs or being laid off. In fact, in August, rent had dropped by 9.4 per cent compared to August 2019, according to Rentals.ca.

Top six things you should know before buying a house in these record-breaking housing market times

This may seem obvious, but buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make in your life. It may also be one of the most stressful times of your life, especially if you’re a first-time buyer and new to the world of real estate. But that shouldn’t scare you away. Buying a home is exciting, exhilarating, and something to be incredibly proud of. That being said, there are still some things you should make yourself aware of before buying.

1. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low

The main factor driving Canadians to accelerate their plans to buy a house? The historic-low interest rates.

Obviously, 2020 has been an uncertain time for all of us and the unemployment rates have drastically increased. In order to stimulate the economy and make it easy for people to borrow money, low-interest rates became the new normal and they may continue to stay this low for the next three years according to the Bank of Canada. There are a few reasons why people want to take advantage of this:

  • This could mean substantial savings for monthly mortgage payments
  • Those refinancing their mortgage will notice a huge difference
  • May be easier for people to recover their debts
  • Buyers can make larger purchases
  • Banks are able to lend to even more borrowers

However, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you won’t be affected by the rate change. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate and mortgage payments can change.

2. You need to become familiar with local real estate trends

If you’re interested in buying a house or an investment property, your best bet is getting familiar with local housing trends and, of course, relying on professional help from a real estate agent who knows the market better than anyone. Not only can they tell you what you’ll expect to pay in certain neighbourhoods, but they can keep you up to date on all information and facts you need to know so you’re as comfortable as possible with your purchase with it be for personal use or investment purposes. If you’re looking for an investment property, it’s also a good idea to rely on a real estate agent who knows what the rental market is like in the area, what you can expect to charge for rent, and what type of renters you should attract. Becoming familiar with the local housing market will also help you set your expectations seeing as bidding wars are becoming quite the fuss. Which brings us to our next point.

3. Prepare for a bidding war (even if it doesn’t end up happening)

Bidding wars and getting worse for buyers amid the global pandemic, leaving buyers feeling devastated they didn’t land their dream home. Why is this becoming such a popular (and hated) trend? Because of the inventory problem. There are more buyers looking for homes than there actually are on the market, leaving buyers’ agents having to pull every trick they know from their hats.

Bidding wars can be frustrating for everyone involved. Ultimately, when it comes to winning a bidding war, knowing how much you can actually afford to spend is crucial because you may need to increase your original offer. You may also want to consider having fewer conditions on your offer to stand out from the others.

4. Ensure that your income is steady before rushing into the housing market

As mentioned above, many Canadians across the country have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, or they’ve had to endure a pay-cut. If you’re someone who has been handed down this financial burden, it may not be the best time for you to buy a home for personal or investment purposes. Plus, when you apply for a mortgage loan, banks will favour those who can prove they have a steady source of income so they can make their monthly mortgage payments on time. You’ll also need funds for a down payment and closing costs, otherwise, if you need to borrow a down payment on top of a mortgage, it will need to come from a different lender than that of your mortgage loan in Canada.

5. Shop around for the right mortgage for you

Shopping around for a mortgage online is more easily accessible than ever before since pretty much everything is moving to the digital world due to the Coronavirus affecting in-person transactions. But finding the right mortgage for your specific needs can be tough to do on your own which is why many buyers lean on a mortgage broker for help. A mortgage broker’s role is a bit different than your agents. Rather than connecting you with the right house, a mortgage broker connects you with the right mortgage term and lender. They’re not just connected to one lender, but various lenders who offer different rates that are better suited for you.

6. Determine if your goals are short-term or long-term

There are many good reasons why people want to get into the real estate market, but when to actually buy a house depending on your goals can vary. So, what are your real estate goals? Do you want to buy your dream home for your family? Do you want to buy a house for investment purposes?

Signs it may be a good time to buy a house for short-term investment purposes to maximize revenue can be:

  • You’re financially stable/comfortable enough to put a down payment on a second home (plus you have a good credit score)
  • You’re able to access a good interest rate and mortgage rate
  • If you don’t have enough for a down payment upfront, you have enough equity to tap into in your first home
  • You’ve done your research to determine when it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market – a buyer’s market will mean that there are more properties for sale than there are buyers’ interested, so bidding wars may not be as common, but lower prices will!
  • The investment property you’re interested in is in prime rental spots for positive cashflow

Signs it may be a good time to buy a home for long-term living purposes may be:

  • You have enough saved for a down payment and closing costs
  • You were able to sell your current home
  • Your credit score is good
  • The interest rates are low
  • You’re ready to commit for the long-run and are financially stable to do so
  • The housing market is in good condition and your home will actually appreciate
  • Again, you’ve done your research – the neighborhood is what you’re looking for, the price is right, and the housing market is stable

So … is it a good time for you to buy a house?

Well, ultimately, it depends on a few factors. Whether you’re a first-time buyer, downsizing, or an experienced real estate investor, some of the most important things you will want to consider are:

  • The current interest rates being offered by various lenders
  • What your mortgage rate will be
  • Where you’re looking to buy
  • The current home prices (and if you are in good financial standing with your bank)
  • The current state of the housing market
  • If it’s a buyer or seller’s market

Because of the Coronavirus, many sellers have been nervous to sell, but even while the pandemic has put everything on hold, it seems like many people have been eager to get into the market. This has made some Canadian cities see record-breaking sales, particularly from July to October 2020. Some cities haven’t seen such high sales in years, but even more impressive has been the interest rate prices which have actually hit historic lows.

So, if you are financially set and ready to move into your new dream home or look for your first home, now may be the right time, but just remember that you may come across bidding wars due to the demand for homes being greater than what is actually available.

TORONTO — HSBC says it will offer rates below one per cent for some mortgages, which rate comparison website RateSpy.com says is a record low for Canada.

The bank is advertising a 0.99 per cent rate on its website for new five-year variable closed term mortgages, with the annual percentage rate, or APR, based on a $200,000 mortgage.

The deal applies to high-ratio residential mortgages, which means the homebuyer has a down payment of less than 20 per cent of the purchase price.

Rates.ca and RateSpy editor Robert McLister says that’s an important point, because the low down payment means the homebuyer will also have to pay for default insurance.

The rate is also variable based on changes in HSBC’s prime rate, which now sits at 1.46 per cent, so the rate could rise over the next few years as the economy mends and the Bank of Canada raises the borrowing rate.

Mortgage rates are currently low, after the Bank of Canada dropped its overnight rate amid the COVID-19 economic downturn.

 

Canada’s pandemic-weary economy is poised to “take off like a rocket” in the latter part of 2021, according to CIBC World Markets deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal.

Delivering his much-anticipated annual economic update during the opening session of the virtual Real Estate Forum in Toronto, Tal had a message of hope for the more than 1,800 attendees. With a vaccine now on the horizon and two-thirds of Canada’s economy already chugging along in close to high gear, he said the country is poised for a strong recovery.

“Clearly we are seeing the light and this light is not a train, it is a real light,” he said, noting, however, that the next few months could still be quite difficult. “We have to go through the winter. The winter will be tough, we all know that.

“The second half of 2021 will be on fire, I believe. This is the time to position yourself to take advantage of this type of rally; economic activity we haven’t seen in a very very long time.

“Basically my point is short-term bad. Medium-term better.”

Tal built his argument on a combination of many factors.

Many factors point to strong recovery
In addition to the pending arrival of a vaccine, or vaccines, is the experience factor. Canadians have had eight months to learn how to live with the COVID-19 pandemic and that has allowed most of the economy to remain open so far during the second wave.

“We know how to deal with this environment more productively relative to March. Confidence, clearly, seeing the light means many of you will start taking (financial) risks, now compared to the summer of next year.”

He said while impacted areas of the economy such as retail, service and travel have been hit very hard, the damage is limited.

“The damage is very deep, but it’s also very narrow,” he noted. “Two-thirds of the economy is already in a full swing recovery.”

As well, because of the nature of the damage, when the pandemic is under control “it is much easier to open a new restaurant than it is to open a new manufacturing facility.”

Canadian government leads in spending
The Canadian government is also leading the world in its spending, compared to the GDP decline, to buoy the economy. While labour income is down about two per cent, government transfers have increased by 50 per cent, he said.

Tal estimated this and other factors have created a massive pool of money sitting in bank accounts waiting to be spent – about $90 billion in private households and $80 billion for businesses.

“Together, $170 billion,” he said. “Money that is there, and all those households are dying to spend this money . . . that is the biggest stimulus you can get.

“This economy will take off like a rocket in the second half of 2021. We have so much pent-up demand and we have the ability to finance it vis-a-vis excess cash that is sitting and doing nothing.”

Canada must be “player” in U.S. recovery
Tal also noted the results of the U.S. election will factor into Canada’s recovery.

He said Canada must position itself to share in the benefits of a massive stimulus expected to be injected into infrastructure projects by the incoming Democrats, which will be a key to its own economic recovery.

“(Incoming president Joe) Biden is talking about buy America. We have to convince him actually to buy North America.”

Although he said the Keystone pipeline could be in jeopardy, Biden is expected to take a harder line on fracking, which could mitigate any potential impacts to Alberta’s oil patch.

Biden is also likely to create a more united front to battle China on trade issues — a front likely to include Canada and Europe – rather than a solo battle. Tal said Canada is going to be forced to choose a side in what he calls a trade Cold War.

“When you are in a Cold War, you have to choose a side. We know where we are,” he said, noting the Liberal government’s attempts to foster more trade with China and other countries have either fallen flat or had limited success. “Our reliance on the U.S. will rise.”

One drawback of having the Democrats in power, however, is that the U.S. will once again open its borders (once the pandemic is under control) to immigration. That means Canada will need to compete for the brightest and best, he said.

Tal believes office sector will be fine
In terms of direct real estate and commercial real estate impacts, Tal said he expects a new normal that doesn’t look radically different from pre-pandemic days.

“I believe (the pandemic is) a condition,” he explained. “I believe 2008 was a condition, I believe 9/11 was a condition, but we adjusted to make it feel like an event.

“I believe we will be back in the office. Clearly we will be working more from home, and if it’s -20 outside and snowing maybe that day I will be working from home. But (what do) I think (of) the predictions that office space is dead? Wrong. Simply wrong. We will be back in the office.”

He said good retail will also survive and prosper, noting that as soon as lockdowns ended, people were eager to return to stores, restaurants and other such venues despite a host of pandemic-related restrictions and concerns.

Yes, e-commerce will grow, but he expects bricks-and-mortar retail to retain an important role.

“People said over the first six months of the crisis, (e-commerce) gained 10 years in market share, which is true. But in the last five months we lost five years. It is exaggerated.

“Quality will be the dividing line. High-quality, good experience will benefit and do extremely well.”

Observing these trends has led him to conclude that while much is changing, much will remain the same.

“Clearly the economy is being transformed but when the fog clears, everything will look very, very familiar,” he predicted.

“Governments are all trying to support the economy. We are all buying time. This crisis has an end game, this end game is a vaccine. It’s coming and between now and then, we are all buying time.”

The new condo market’s performance in October was slightly more reminiscent of spring 2020 than a typical busy fall season, as sales sank 32 percent from the previous year.

The new Toronto region data, published today by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), arrived as several GTA regions, including the city itself, entered their first week of a lockdown that’s sure to further impact home sales.

While October’s sales decline was nowhere near as dramatic as April’s 80 percent collapse, it was emblematic of the new condo market’s struggles in the face of heightened restrictions, a sluggish condo resale market and investor uncertainty.

But just like the spring season, new condo prices remained robust, with the benchmark price hitting $990,880, a nearly 19 percent increase from a year ago.

Altus Group, BILD’s data provider, noted that there were a large number of new condo launches in October, but acknowledged sales volume was lower than past fall seasons, which is usually the busiest time of the year outside of the spring months.

Altus Group’s Ryan Wyse pointed to new pandemic-induced procedures around new home sales that have led to challenges around condo launches and the pace of sales that’s possible with the new restrictions in place.

“Virtual tours and signings and by-appointment sales offices have allowed the market to continue operating during the pandemic. However, sales launches have changed — instead of crowds at opening, we are seeing a shift to appointments over a longer period of time,” said Wyse.

The major bright spot in the BILD and Altus Group October data was new single-family home sales, which saw sales jump 44 percent and prices rise 12.7 percent to $1,211,141.

Much like the resale market, new single-family home sales have outperformed their new condo counterparts during the recovery period that followed the spring shutdown. While single-family sales activity in October did not match the triple-digit increases seen in August and September, this cooling likely reflects pent-up demand from the spring running its course and giving way to conditions that are more typical of a busy market.

There’s an element of seasonality as well, with this past August in particular being unusually busy for new home sales. October 2019 was already a relatively busy month, so the increases seen last month were less likely to be as pronounced when compared to gains seen in the typically quieter late summer period.

BILD President David Wilkes took a broader view of the state of the new home market, noting that sales in 2020 so far are higher than the same January to October period in 2019.

“When we look at the overall numbers so far in this very unusual year, it’s clear that the demand for the homes our industry builds is not going anywhere,” said Wilkes.

“In spite of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, year-to-date new home sales in the GTA are up 11 per cent compared to the same period last year and two per cent above the 10-year average, demonstrating not only the resilience of the housing market in the GTA, but also the role that our sector will play in economic recovery.”

Against a tumultuous backdrop, the Canadian housing market put on a remarkable display of resilience in 2020.

Now, as we enter the final stretch of this bizarre and challenging year, one of the country’s largest brokerages is forecasting more healthy home price growth and strong buyer demand for 2021.

RE/MAX Canada published its Housing Market Outlook Report on Tuesday, addressing a wide range of real estate topics, from the pandemic-driven suburban home buying surge to the much-better-than-expected performance of the country’s housing market despite 2020’s abundant economic turmoil.

RE/MAX brokers and agents surveyed for the report said a lack of housing supply hitting the market will continue, leading to challenges for homebuyers and putting more upward pressure on property prices.

This upward pressure is expected to result in national home price gains in the four to six percent range for 2021, driven by “move-over” buyers who are relocating from their cities and provinces and “move-up” buyers looking for more space.

“We’ve seen a lot of anecdotal evidence since the summer that households are considering significant lifestyle changes by relocating to less-dense cities and neighbourhoods,” said Christopher Alexander, Executive Vice President at RE/MAX Canada.

“This has sparked unprecedented sales this year in suburban and rural parts of Canada and we expect this trend to continue in 2021,” he added.

There was certainly no shortage of pessimistic takes on the country’s housing market in the early days of the pandemic. With housing markets frozen due to lockdowns and subsequent restrictions, it was difficult to be optimistic as sales plummeted through the spring and job losses piled up.

Yet, according to a survey of Canadians commissioned by RE/MAX for the report, the pandemic directly influenced only six percent of Canadians to sell their homes this year. It’s a far cry from the anticipated market upheaval caused by large numbers of homeowners who, unable to make mortgage payments, would be forced to sell, leading to a tsunami of listings hitting all at once and driving property prices down.

Instead, the survey found that 40 percent of Canadian homeowners realized their current home needed renovations during the pandemic while 29 percent said they decided they needed more space.

As for the outlook for 2021, 52 percent of Canadians were confident that the housing market would “remain steady” and still viewed real estate as a strong investment option.

Back in March and April, there was a belief that big and dense cities were going to pose a serious problem in the fight against COVID-19.

The narrative was that the benefits of urban density suddenly flip to glaring negatives during a pandemic. Elevators are a problem. Public transit is a problem. Busy streets and public spaces are a problem. Instead of density, you want dispersion. There was also some speculation that COVID-19 cases would be somewhat correlated with colder climates.

The data that we are seeing today suggests the opposite. Note the above chart by Axios. On a per capita basis, COVID-19 cases are now the lowest — and below the national average — in large US cities with populations greater than 1 million people. Where cases are the highest, again on a per capita basis, is in rural areas. Non-metro areas less than 10,000 people. The county with the highest rate also isn’t the coldest of places. It’s Childress County, Texas, where the rate is about 1,265.3 cases per 100,000 people.

I have a lot of questions about the most important factors affecting transmission rates. Is mask wearing, for example, more important than average temperatures? What is the impact of socio-economic status? I am seeing maps that, unfortunately, suggest this plays a meaningful role. What is really driving these so-called “hot spots?” But what seems clear to me is that density is not necessarily destiny during this pandemic.

Chart: Axios

Home building activity across Ontario picked up in October, driven by significant growth in low-rise home construction.

Housing starts for single-detached homes and semi-detached homes rose 14.2 percent and 29.4 percent, respectively, last month, according to data published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Housing starts measure how many homes began construction during a given period and are viewed as a key factor in determining market health.

TD Economist Rishi Sondhi said that the strong performance suggests that home builders are “reacting to the outperformance in detached home sales observed during the pandemic.”

Detached home prices rose over 20 percent in 14 Toronto region suburbs in October on the back of high buyer demand for less expensive properties with more space outside of city cores. October was the fourth straight month that saw sales exceeding 10,000 total transactions in the region, primarily driven by single-family homes.

Home building across the province has remained resilient through 2020, with housing starts from January to October up over 15 percent compared to the same 10-month period last year.

“Since the restart in May it has been business as usual for the construction sector,” wrote Central 1 Credit Union Economist Edgard Navarrete.

“The only thing impeding the development of new housing is the shortage of skilled labour,” he added.

Looking ahead, Navarrete said that construction activity could decline through the final two months of the year as tighter virus control restrictions are implemented and homebuyer confidence slides as a result of increased economic uncertainty.

A surge in Canadians’ disposable incomes and a decline in their spending habits has resulted in approximately $170 billion of surplus of cash, $90 billion of which is tied up in households, according to a CIBC report.

The COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus for reduced consumer spending, but with the addition of the government’s pandemic emergency programs, which bolstered incomes, the amount of money Canadians saved skyrocketed. The report noted that the excess cash—the other $80 billion is held by businesses—which is about 4% of consumer spending, is a record.

“That spike in disposable incomes coincided with a notable decline in spending, which resulted in the savings rate surging from 3.6% to 28.2% as of June,” read the report. “Since then, government support has become increasingly more tailored to those who need it the most, while the re-openings have seen a nascent recovery in consumer spending. Using US data for the third quarter as a guidepost, the Canadian savings rate likely fell to 13% in Q3—still miles above the 3.6% level seen prior to the pandemic. With the second wave of infection upon us, that rate is likely to remain elevated during the winter.”

The report’s findings are all the more bizarre considering the economy is still reeling from pandemic-induced business shutdowns this past spring, and yet Canadians have never been more flush. But upon closer examination, low-income households accounted for the overwhelming majority of job losses in Canada, and their consumption habits didn’t much diminish as they continued buying essentials. However, the majority of the surplus money belongs to mid- and high-income households, which curtailed their non-essential outlays.

“We do not have current data on spending by level of income for Canadians, but utilizing high-frequency US data, we learn that spending amongst high-income households is currently 10% below its January level—notably weaker than the 3% drop seen amongst low-income households,” said the report. “With the happy days of summer over, it is reasonable to assume that mid- and high-income households will, in fact, reduce consumption of nonessentials again.”

The report also predicted that consumption growth will decelerate while incomes will stay elevated because of both the Canada Recovery Benefit program and Employment Insurance, which will cost $17.9 billion and $13.5 billion, respectively, through the next two years, and because of new job creation.

Strangely the Greater Toronto Real Estate Market has been spotty but active and there are options and opportunities as there are in any market.

The number of listings has increased and we have had a flip-flop as the 905 activity surges over that in 416.

“The trend here is that the pandemic has made the age-old desire to live in close proximity to the Central Business District quite irrelevant (for the time being.)”

Though we’re no longer set to be the home of one of the most technologically advanced neighbourhoods in the world, Toronto is still proving itself to be a huge force in the tech sector, and a hot spot for those in the industry.

The city’s scene has now surpassed that of even San Francisco as far as growth, and is still expanding rapidly despite the pandemic, as indicated by new numbers on our tech worker pool.

According to new rankings from CBRE, which scores U.S. and Canadian cities on their tech talent, Toronto tops the list in Canada for 2020 with a ranking of 87.6, adding a staggering 36.5 per cent more workers in that industry betweeen 2014 and 2019, making for about 250,000 innovative minds — 8.8 per cent of the city’s total workforce.

Even compared to major U.S. hubs, Toronto gained a significant edge as far as new graduates in the field, far outpacing all other Canadian cities with a ranking of 64.34 and coming fourth overall as far as tech talent between the two countries, just after the San Fran Bay Area, Washington and Seattle.

 

With billions being invested into new startups in the city each year, it’s no surprise that people in the biz are flocking here, especially as tech companies are far less affected by the health crisis than other types of businesses.

Some — like Shopify, which has a burgeoning Toronto presence — have even benefitted from the uptick in things like online shopping and social media use.

“Through COVID-19, tech companies have generally fared well. Early on, ecommerce and social platforms experienced a boom as shelter-in-place measures went into effect, forcing everyone to rely on the tech around them to work and live,” the new report reads.

“Success also extended to more specialized players in the realms of cybersecurity, IT infrastructure, gaming, and work-from-home enablers.”

As people continue to work from home and rely on online options amid lockdowns, it’s safe to assume that Toronto’s tech sector will keep on flourishing as the city remains one of the top contenders in the industry.

The biggest risk to Canada’s housing market in the near-term is new lockdowns in big cities that have seen COVID-19 infections surge in recent weeks.

According to an economist with Capital Economics, restrictions that may be rolled out in the coming days would put a dent in the robust sales activity recorded since summer, but would leave home prices mostly unaffected.

“The key near-term risk to the housing market is the prospect of “circuit-breaker” lockdowns in the major cities,” wrote Stephen Brown in a research note published today.

“New restrictions for Toronto [are] due to be announced later on Friday and, while the rumours so far suggest these will remain targeted to certain high-risk activities, we would not be surprised if this is the last step before all non-essential businesses are closed,” he added.

So far, Canada’s housing market has “shrugged off” worsening COVID-19 outbreaks. Brown said that a small monthly decline in home sales recorded in October could be tied back to lower inventory of homes for sale rather than pandemic fears. At the national level, the supply of unsold homes dropped to a record low of two and a half months, meaning it would take two and a half months for all homes currently listed on the market to sell at the current rate of sales.

With new restrictions aligning with the late year period and holiday season, when home sales typically slow down anyway, Brown writes that these measures “wouldn’t do much” to home prices.

The economist acknowledged that downtown condos are a weak spot for the market, but from a national perspective, they are too small to significantly shift home prices at the country-wide level.

Far more important to Brown is the potential impact of an effective vaccine on the housing market in 2021. Pfizer and Moderna have both reported the efficacy of their vaccines is at or near 95 percent. With Canada having already ordered substantial amounts of both, Brown asks if the distribution of those vaccines could reverse the rising home price trends we’ve seen this year.

It may seem like an unusual question considering the promise of a return to normalcy that the widespread distribution of these vaccines hold. But Brown writes that the pandemic was “an unexpected boon for the housing market” and COVID-19-driven policy moves by Canada’s central bank have caused mortgage rates to drop to rock bottom levels.

If mortgage rates were to begin to rise again on the back of an improving economic picture as the pandemic recedes, this could dissuade some potential buyers from entering the market.

A widely watched Canadian home price index just posted its highest gain seen for the month of October in 22 years.

The Teranet-National Bank Home Price Index rose 1.3 percent last month over September and 8.1 percent from the previous year. Ottawa-Gatineau, Hamilton and Montreal were the local markets that saw both the strongest monthly and annual price gains.

Victoria, Vancouver and Halifax also saw price increases healthily above one percent in October. Meantime, Toronto, Quebec City, Edmonton and Winnipeg all saw increases at one percent or lower.

The Teranet-National Bank index is known to lag behind other widely used home price tracking tools, including the monthly average home sale prices published by the Canadian Real Estate Association and local boards.

This is because the index is compiled using a repeat sales methodology that works by tracking the price change between the two most recent sales of the same property. The index uses prices entered into public land registries in the Canadian markets it tracks. These often are slower to respond to market changes because sale price data is not added to land registries as quickly as it’s entered into the MLS systems used by real estate boards.

National Bank Senior Economist Marc Pinsonneault said that a surge in the number of sales entered into the index was a sign the Canadian housing market is continuing to firm up after the pandemic caused the market to stall through the spring.

Because of the lagging nature of the index, the worst of the pandemic’s market impact was more clearly captured in the summer, rather than in the spring data.

Pinsonneault noted that sales entered into the index in October were up 48 percent over the same time last year.

“This development echoes the revival of home sales reported by the Canadian Real Estate Association beginning in July, recovering ground lost in the severe slowdowns induced by COVID-19 in previous months,” he said.

It appears Toronto has been dethroned as the most expensive city in the country for average monthly rents for a one-bedroom after North York surpassed Canada’s largest city in October.

On Friday, Rentals.ca and Bullpen Research & Consulting released their latest National Rent Report, which revealed that year-over-year, the average rent for all property types — which includes single-family housing, townhouses, rental apartments, condominium apartments, and basement apartments — listed on Rentals.ca in the country is down by 8.1% in October — but an uptick was recorded in the average rent for all Canadian properties at .7% month-over-month to $1,782, after four months of almost no change.

“We continue to see an increase in listings nationally, which tells us that supply is outpacing demand. This market imbalance suggests soft rental market conditions will continue for the rest of the year,” said Matt Danison, CEO of Rentals.ca.

What’s more, the latest data has shown that a number of Canada’s largest real estate markets are now experiencing declining rental rates, and in turn, secondary markets are seeing their average rents increase, as more tenants work from home and continue to look for larger, but less expensive units in smaller communities.

In October, average Toronto rents for all property types continued to nosedive with one-bedroom units falling 17% year-over-year and declining every month since January, while two-bedroom units down 14% annually and declining month-by-month since July.

According to the report, North York overtook Toronto for the highest average monthly rent for a one-bedroom home after increasing 7% month-over-month to an average of $1,945.

However, Toronto still finished second on the list for average monthly rent for a one-bedroom home in October at $1,922 and for average monthly rent for a two-bedroom at $2,531.

The October report also looked at how average rents for select municipalities — and former municipalities — have changed over the past year. In October of last year, Oakville, Vancouver, North York, Toronto and Mississauga all saw rent levels increase by 5% to 14% annually for all property types. In October 2020, all of those areas experienced declines of 5% to 17%.

According to the report, this data backs up the “Urban Exodus” theory in Ontario — which is when people move to rural areas from large towns and cities — with average rents declining by 8% in North York, 15% in Etobicoke, 17% in Toronto, and 20% in East York, while cities such as Kitchener, Hamilton, and London are still seeing double-digit rent growth during the pandemic, with annual increases of 14%, 15%, and 17% respectively.

What’s more, in October of last year, it cost more than $200 more to lease the average property in Toronto than in North York, while during the same time this year, rent in North York is higher than Toronto by approximately $25 per month on average.

When looking at the monthly changes for condo and rental apartments, North York has the most expensive one-bedroom units at $1,953 per month, topping both Toronto and Vancouver, as a number of new purpose-built apartments are starting pre-leasing programs, pulling the average up.

However, it is important to note that comparing North York and Toronto can be difficult because the make-up of listings has shifted dramatically. According to the report, both areas have seen declines in listings for the more expensive single-family segment, but North York has seen a decline in condo listings year over year, while listings for condo apartments on Rentals.ca in Toronto has increased by 45% annually.

“The rising rents in several smaller municipalities, as well as the significant increase in web traffic on Rentals.ca in Ontario, suggests many prospective tenants are widening their search area when looking for a rental property,” said Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research & Consulting.

 

 

Toronto is a city of soon-to-be skyscrapers. According to the 2020 North American Crane Index, we have the highest number of active tower cranes out of every other city in the continent, with 120 in the downtown core alone. And in a matter of years, those cranes will be replaced by some of the tallest condos in the country.

Here are some new skyscrapers about to transform the Toronto skyline.

SkyTower, 95 storeys
Hariri Pontarini’s monster condo (pictured above) is slated for completion in 2024. It’s one of three towers making up the Pinnacle project at One Yonge, and will be the tallest building in Toronto, after the CN Tower. If you’ve got a budget as lofty as this development, you’ll be able to afford one of their $800,000 units.

Mirvish+Gehry, 91 and 81 storeys
The Princess of Wales Theatre will soon get two garganguan companions, courtesy of two new mixed-use, high-ceilinged towers in the Entertainment District. Billowy “canopies” will protrude out of these tower podiums and over Duncan Street.

1200 Bay Street , 87 storeys
Swiss-based architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron and Canadian group Quadrangle have been appointed by developers Kroonenberg Groep and ProWinko to transform the corner of Bay and Bloor into this mix-used tower with floor-to-ceiling operable windows and a sky lounge.

The One, 85 storeys
If you’ve passed by Bloor and Yonge lately, you’ve undoubtedly caught sight of the scifi-looking construction site of Mizrahi Developments’ The One. Construction was delayed for several months but above-ground work has finally resumed. It will be Canada’s first supertall skyscraper when it’s done in 2022.

YSL Residences, 85 storeys
The southeast corner of Yonge and Gerrard has seen massive changes over the years, in large part to make way for two towers, dubbed Yonge Street Living (YSL). Both skyscrapers will be connected by a sky-bridge.

372 Yonge, 74 storeys
The Aura Tower is still the tallest residential building in Canada right now at 79 storeys, but only slightly shorter will be this new project from Dialog, which will sit directly across the street. It will also hold a new venue called Club Bluenote, named after the iconic rhythm and blues club which used to exist on the property in the 1960s.

50 Bloor Street West, 70 storeys
Rising up from Yorkville’s Holt Renfrew will be this condo with office space and retail on the bottoms floors. There will be 600 residential units included in the build. A trio of KingSett towers ranging from 50 to 69 storeys located around the corner are also on the way.

200 Queens Quay West, 71 and 41 storeys
The waterfront will soon be even less visible from uptown thanks to this pair of towers from Lifetime Developments. Originally slated to be affordable housing, this parking lot will instead be a mix of condos with some affordable housing sprinkled in.

Concord Canada House, 69 and 59 storeys
Concord Adex’s headquarters will soon be replaced by this mixed-used condo project. Both towers will jut out of a 10-storey podium and contain more than 1,300 new condo units.

A 25-acre expanse of properties located between St. Clair Avenue East, Kennedy Road and the Scarborough GO Train station could make way for a master-planned community.

In late October, an Official Plan Amendment (OPA), draft plan of subdivision and rezoning application was submitted to city planners to construct a mixed-use community with 6,619 residential units at 3585 Saint Clair Avenue East. The site would span multiple lots, and incorporate new retail, park and residential uses. The architect, Giannone Petricone Associates, is also behind other master-planned projects in the Greater Toronto Area, including 250 The East Mall Condos and Agincourt Mall Redevelopment.

The development lands are located on the south side of St. Clair Avenue East within an area known as the Scarborough Junction Triangle, according to the planning rationale by Bousfields Inc. Consisting of 12 industrial and commercial-type properties, the site is split into two parcels, bordered by Kennedy Road to the west, St. Clair Avenue East to the north and the Metrolinx GO Transit rail corridor to the southeast.

This is not the first time that development applications have been proposed for this area. In 1998, an OPA was filed for a mixed-residential and commercial project on an 19.7-acre portion of the site. Rezoning applications were later filed and then appealed in 2006. The application went through revisions from 2006 to 2012, and a Settlement Approval was granted in April 2019, explains the planning rationale.

The Scarborough Junction Master Plan seeks to create three large sites within the triangle that contain new streets, buildings and park space. The recent development application focuses on Site A, with Sites B and C used as a reference but not formally included in the application.

Redeveloping the subject Site A would create a 201,715-square-foot public park with 10 development blocks containing buildings ranging from 12 to 48 storeys in height.

 

Seventeen high-rise buildings with mid-rise base structures are proposed for Site A. Of the 6,619 proposed residential suites, the breakdown consists of 379 studio, 4,509 one-bedroom, 1,058 two-bedroom and 673 three-bedroom units. According to the project’s data sheet, the residential units would include both condominium and rental uses.

Approximately 317,621 square feet of total residential amenity space would be provided for indoor and outdoor use. A total of 3,666 parking spaces are proposed for Site A, located in a series of underground garages. The application also includes 7,336 bicycle parking spaces for long- and short-term use.

In the southern part of Site A in Block J, a 201,715-square-foot public park would be constructed adjacent to the railway corridor as a central focal point of the master-planned community. Landscaped pathways, event spaces, sport courts, lawn space and a children’s playground with play structures are being considered for the park area.

Landscaping features, seating areas and patio spaces are also proposed in various sections of Site A, such as the 7,588-square-foot Station Plaza and 36,769-square-foot Retail Square. According to architectural drawings, space for a grocery store, daycare, retail and community rooms are proposed.

In the neighbourhood, Merge Condos continues sales while registration is underway at Nahid on Kennedy.

Detached homes have been rightfully stealing the headlines with remarkable sales volume and sky-high price growth, but there are still some areas in the Toronto region that are seeing better than average condo price increases.

While they, for the most part, don’t scale the heights of their detached home counterparts, condos in six Toronto suburbs saw average prices rise over 10 percent in October, according to the latest data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB).

The Livabl team looked at the average sale prices for condo apartments sold last month in the 30 cities and towns outside of the City of Toronto that TRREB tracks. Of the areas that recorded 10 or more sales during that time, six saw price increases over 10 percent compared to the previous year.

Oshawa and nearby Clarington saw condo prices rise nearly 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively. These were also the least expensive condo markets that saw significant transaction volume during that time. The average price of an Oshawa condo rose to $323,563 while Clarington saw its average price increase to $417,053.

Rounding out the six, Whitby, Markham, Brampton and Pickering all saw condo price increases above 10 percent.

Despite recording the highest condo sales volume outside of Toronto-proper, Mississauga’s average condo price only rose 2.3 percent from the previous year to $536,435. Sales volume in a single year, of course, does not tell the whole story. As the TRREB figures show, Mississauga’s condo sales volume in October actually fell slightly compared to a year ago.

Conversely, condo sales all climbed over October 2019 in the suburban markets that saw 10 percent-plus price increases.

Because of its outsized population, TRREB divides Toronto into three sub-regions — West, Central and East. Toronto Central saw the highest transaction volume, but the average price dropped just shy of 1 percent to $740,578.

Toronto West and East fared better, with average prices rising 8 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively. Due to their lower sales volumes, however, they had less of an impact on Toronto-proper’s overall average condo price, which rose only 0.8 percent from the previous year to $668,161.

Just like clockwork, another month ended with Toronto’s housing market breaking a record for home sales, with October logging 10,563 transactions across the region.

The October total was up more than 25 percent over the previous year and represents the fourth consecutive record-breaking month for Toronto home sales. It was also the fourth straight month that sales exceeded the 10,000 transaction mark, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board data published today (TRREB).

The pandemic-induced spring freeze that saw sales plummet may feel like a distant memory, but COVID-19 is still clearly impacting market activity and buyer preferences. Single-family homes continued to fly off the shelf in October, while activity in the condo segment remained muted by comparison.

TRREB said that sales growth in the detached segment “far outstripped” the rise in new listings. Meantime, the condo segment saw new listings double compared to the previous year while recording a modest 2.2 percent increase in sales.

“Competition between buyers of single-family homes, and particularly detached houses, remained strong last month and continued to support double-digit annual rates of price growth in many GTA neighborhoods,” said TRREB President Lisa Patel.

“In contrast, condo buyers have benefitted from much more choice compared to last year. Pre-COVID polling had already pointed to an increase in investor selling in 2020. The pandemic only added to this trend with a stall in economic growth and a halt to tourism impacting cashflows for many investors,” Patel continued.

The board’s benchmark price rose nearly 11 percent over October 2019, while the average selling price of a Toronto region home increased 13.7 percent to $968,318. Like sales activity, price growth diverged when observing the detached and condo market segments. The average Toronto region detached home price rose 14.8 percent to $1,204,844 as the average condo price recorded an annual increase under 1 percent to $622,122.

October’s record-breaking sales volume ensured year-to-date home sales for 2020 remained above 2019’s total for the same period.

“Year-to-date home sales through October were above last year’s level. The economic recovery in some sectors coupled with low borrowing costs has kept home purchases top-of-mind for many GTA residents,” said TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer.

“With this being said, we have not accounted for all of the pent-up demand that resulted from the spring downturn. Expect record or near-record home sales for the remainder of 2020,” he added.

The federal government’s new immigration targets aimed at making up for this year’s newcomer shortfall will provide support to local housing markets across the country, especially in major urban centres.

On October 30th, Canada’s government revealed its three-year plan to welcome 1.2 million immigrants to the country between 2021 and 2023. If the targets are met, the immigration boost will compensate for 2020’s drastically reduced numbers that came as a result of application and travel constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new immigration targets, which represent approximately one percent of Canada’s population, would bring an additional 50,000 immigrants per year on top of the previously established targets.

Whether renting or buying, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board’s (TRREB) Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer explained that the Greater Toronto Area’s housing market benefits from new immigrants, where cultural and labour diversity attracts newcomers worldwide.

“Growth in the housing market is predicated on population growth, and from Canada’s perspective and certainly drilling down into the GTA, immigration is a key driver of population growth,” Mercer told Livabl. “The GTA, I would argue, is Canada’s single greatest beneficiary of that immigration.”

While only 60 percent of 2020’s 341,000 newcomer target is expected to be met, CIBC Capital Markets’ Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal explained that there’s a few offsetting factors at play — a significant portion of new immigrants are already in the country, the number of returning citizens to Canada is increasing, and the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’ has been reduced.

“There are many forces that are compensating for the fact that new immigrants [are down], but clearly it is a factor that is mostly impacting the rental market at this point because most of them are renting,” said Tal.

Canada’s rental markets, particularly in large cities, have seen rental prices slashed and more supply hitting the market, mostly due to far fewer international students and immigrants arriving this year amidst the global pandemic. However, Mercer said that a boost in immigration over the next three years could absorb rental inventory quickly, tightening the market back up and increasing average rents again.

Only 18 percent of newcomers, on average, purchase a condo, according to a 2019 market study commissioned by Royal LePage. However, Mercer explains that condo markets could also experience a higher rate of inventory absorption from immigrants with new condo supply coming online.

“It stands to reason that if you’re moving from rental into homeownership, for a lot of newcomers as well, the condominium market may be the first thought,” said Mercer.

On average, a newcomer purchases real estate three years after moving to Canada. Tal suggests that today’s purchasing newcomers are not necessarily impacted by the virus. Instead, any delays to immigrants buying real estate will be felt three years from now instead of next year, but a lot can still change in that time.

“The same goes for two years ago, or even a year ago. The impact will be felt, if you wish, three years from now on average for when people start buying,” said Tal. “But by then, we will see some sort of compensation from that coming from the increase [in immigration] in the coming few years.”

Tal points to suburbs outside of big city markets as hotspots for newcomer homebuying activity. He says that more immigrants have been looking to suburban communities and rural areas for housing, where there is greater affordability. However, Tal explains that the shift in buyer preferences that has ignited so many suburban housing markets is not a long-term sustainable trend.

“I think in the short-term it will lead to more [buying in] suburban markets, but I think we should not exaggerate this trend,” said Tal. “I think that two or three years from now, when we are on the other side of this crisis, I think that people will go back to what we’ve seen before.”

The events of 2020 have shaken up Toronto’s real estate market something fierce, driving rent prices down by record amounts as new condo listings flood the market. But some things never change, it would seem — like the ridiculously high price people will pay for one-bedroom shoeboxes in the sky.

Here are some one-bedroom condos that are currently on the market for at least $1 million, if you’d rather live in 700-square-feet of glass and concrete near the SkyDome than a four-bedroom house in Guelph.

$1,075,000 in Liberty Village
Hear me about before you rage-click that “x” over the thought of a seven-figure one bedroom in LibVille: This 1,034-square-foot loft in the Toy Factory building (as pictured above) boasts everything from 12 foot ceilings and custom closets to a full Scavolini kitchen. A den with built-in Murphy bed pretty much makes it a two-bedroom anyway.

$1,014,900 at Bathurst and Lake Shore
This one bed, one bath on the 42nd floor of the newly-completed Lakeshore residential tower (pictured above) has lake views and sits atop an historic (and frankly very cool) new grocery store. It’s quite petite, however, for the price tag: Only 700-799 square feet.

$1,074,900 at King and Sumach
Okay, here’s a place that actually looks like a million bucks. It may not be large enough for a maximalist couple to comfortably co-exist, but the design, decor, appliances and fixtures are all pure luxury. If impressing people or living among beauty are priorities, look no further.

$1,049,000 in the heart of Yorkville
Now this is more along the lines of something you might pay a milli for, at least in terms of location and space — just steps from Bloor on Cumberland with 1,149 square feet to play with. Plus, look at those bay windows.

$1,049,000 in St. Lawrence Market
A little blah and a lot dated for seven figures, this nearly 1400-square-foot unit in a boutique, nine storey building, located within one of Toronto’s most-coveted hoods does have some great things going for it — like a large legit sunroom with a park view

$1,089,000 in Baby Point
This unit within an “elegant boutique-style building” on Old Mill road can boast more privacy than most other condos in Toronto, with just two units per floor and lots of space: 1,200 square feet indoors plus a 420-square-foot terrace overlooking the Humber River. Still… seven figures for that kitchen? I don’t know.

$1,050,000 in Willowdale
Don’t let the bedroom count on this nearly two level, 1600-square-foot unit off of Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch fool you: It contains two ultra-cool full-sized offices and is probably one of the more unique pads you’ll see on this list. If a see-through kitchen half-wall excites you, regard.

$1,149,800 near Ryerson
First, some context: The Merchandise Lofts are one of the coolest old hard-loft style condo buildings in the downtown core, and units don’t come up for sale here very often. This 1,255 square foot loft is spacious and bright with two baths and very owner has access to a private basketball court and sick, event-worthy rooftop patio.

$1,090,000 at King East and Sherbourne
Another St. Lawrence Market gem, but modernly-designed in a boutique, “pet-friendly, sun-drenched” building just steps to the Harbourfront. With 1,242 square feet of indoor space and 650-square foot vista terrace facing southwest, this two-level could well be worth seven figures despite having only one bedroom.

The federal government intends to settle 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years in a bid to catalyze economic recovery, and if there’s one sector of the economy that will benefit, it’s real estate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stifled Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) ability to accept and process applications, resulting in a shortfall that’s left segments of Toronto’s once-searing condo market reeling. However, with 60% of these new immigrants touted as belonging to the “economic class,” which includes skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs, the country’s largest condo market should see an immediate surge in activity.

“To compensate for the shortfall and ensure Canada has the workers it needs to fill crucial labour market gaps and remain competitive on the world stage, the 2021 to 2023 levels plan aims to continue welcoming immigrants at a rate of about 1% of the population of Canada, including 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023,” said an IRCC statement. “The previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.”

A third of Canadian business owners are immigrants, the statement added.

Davelle Morrison, a broker with Bosley Real Estate, noted that activity in Toronto’s rental market has been hampered by the dearth of newcomers to the city, although she says domestic investors have done their part to buoy the condo market.

“The real estate condo rental market is down quite a bit, as is the resale condo market, and I’d attribute those things to there being no immigration and no travel, which has affected Airbnb and other short-term rental operators. The lack of travel has depressed the rental and resale condo markets,” said Morrison.

“The other thing that’s interesting is, despite not having immigration, a lot of preconstruction condo projects in downtown Toronto have still sold incredibly well, even though they’re only appealing to domestic investors and not foreign investors. They have still fared quite well, even without immigrants.”

Canada welcomed 321,120 new immigrants to the country in 2019—a 116-year high that’s slated to be broken in 2021. Investors capable of carrying condos a little longer will doubtless benefit from the marked rise in demand that should cause market rents to surge.

“If the government’s plan is to allow more immigrants into the country over the next few years, then I’d say that’s great for both the condo rental and resale markets,” said Morrison.

he temperatures may have cooled down, but the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) real estate market continues to heat up, with home sales up over 25% compared to October 2019, marking the fourth month in a row of year-over-year growth, according to the latest data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB).

According to TRREB’s October housing market report, resale activity in the GTA is showing no signs of slowing down, after having another record-setting month, during which, a total of 10,563 sales were made — a 25.1% jump from the 8,445 sales recorded in the previous October.

The record-level sales were paired with record listings, with 17,802 recorded across the region compared to 13,053 in October of last year. However, despite the overall growth in listings, TRREB said the number of listings “diverged” in some markets, such as the detached home segment, where the pace of annual sales growth greatly outpaced listings. On the other hand, the condominium segment experienced over double the listings seen in October 2019, while sales only increased by 2.2% in the same period.

“Competition between buyers of single-family homes, and particularly detached houses, remained strong last month and continued to support double-digit annual rates of price growth in many GTA neighbourhoods,” said TRREB President Lisa Patel.

“In contrast, condo buyers have benefitted from much more choice compared to last year. Pre-COVID polling had already pointed to an increase in investor selling in 2020. The pandemic only added to this trend with a stall in economic growth and a halt to tourism impacting cashflows for many investors.”

Home prices have been steadily inflating over the past several months, and last month was no different. The average selling price for all combined home types rose 13.7% year-over-year, up to $968,318 from $851,877 in October 2019.

“Year-to-date home sales through October were above last year’s level. The economic recovery in some sectors coupled with low borrowing costs has kept home purchases top-of-mind for many GTA residents. With this being said, we have not accounted for all of the pent-up demand that resulted from the spring downturn. Expect record or near-record home sales for the remainder of 2020,” reads a statement from Jason Mercer, TRREB’s Chief Market Analyst.

Looking ahead, TRREB is remaining positive, with CEO John DiMichele stating that “beyond COVID-19, it is clear that the high demand for housing will continue.”

“The federal government has set immigration targets above 400,000 people for each of the next three years. The GTA will undoubtedly continue to benefit from this population growth. All of these people will need a place to live, whether in the ownership or rental markets.”

In October, the feds announced they are increasing the country’s immigration target between 2021 to 2023 to make up for this year’s pandemic-induced shortfall.

Canada’s Immigration Minister, Marco Mendicino, said the country will welcome more than 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years, with up to 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022, and 421,000 in 2023 — an increase of 50,000 each year compared with the previous targets. The previous plan had set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.

Zain Jafrey, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, agreed with DiMichele and said the upcoming increase in immigration matched with low housing inventory and low-interest rates will continue to push prices post COVID. “An increase in population throughout the GTA will continue to increase demand for properties as people will require a place to live and will very well push prices in both the rental and ownership markets. The current pent-up demand will become greater due to the increased competition for limited properties.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada closed its borders to the majority of immigration hoping to ease the spread of the virus. “Once lifted, this new influx of immigrants and the pent-up immigration being held off by COVID-19 will pick up where strong demand — due to lowered interest rates — taper off,” said Broker Matthew Adam Cracower, who specializes in Yorkville real estate.

“The resiliency of the Toronto and GTA market proved itself during the pandemic and this shows how strong the bounce-back will be once COVID-19 is eliminated.”

Shaun Denis, CEO and broker for Umber Realty, believes that in addition to immigration, there are still a number of factors supporting the housing market in recent months — including low-interest rates, pent-up demand, government support. “As we project a strong positive net migration in the coming years, we expect overall demand will continue to rise into 2021. It is important to note that the lingering effects of COVID-19 will cause disproportionate demand between property classes in the city,” added Denis.

Dorian Rodrigues of PSR Brokerage also believes the current demand will continue into the new year, but partially because “there are many people who are still trying to plan their living situation based on their work scenario.”

“Many buyers have been trying to move from condo life to a house and or move out of the city for more outdoor space. The interest rates also have been low for a number of years now and obviously having them stay low will provide more opportunities to buyers moving up in the market, which we have been seeing a lot.”

While these brokers all echo similar sentiments, some economists have a different point of view.

Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC, recently said he believes “the housing market will slow down,” and subsequently, the economy, too, despite the current overall confidence in the Canadian housing market.

“Even the governor of the Bank of Canada is telling us, listen, don’t expect any growth basically over the next six months. The party’s over. You can’t have a o% increase in the economy with the housing market continuing to boom,” said Tal.

Tal also added that another factor influencing his forecast is that the damage to the labour market will be “much more significant in terms of the impact of the economy and the impact on the economy.” “Normally you would see more higher-wage jobs disappearing or at least you would have less job security there. And that’s very, very important,” explained Tal. “So, I believe that this optimism is not actually going to last for too long.”

Tal said that if you ask any real estate developer or investor in the condo space, they’ll tell you the market isn’t actually that “hot.” As such, Tal says all the focus is now on the low-rise segment of the market where there is no supply.

“The demand is there because of the nature of the crisis and this means that we soon will reach, I believe, a price resistance, even in this segment of the market and it will start softening.”

Canadians are out in droves this fall in pursuit of a vacation home or cottage as the country hunkers down for a long winter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, both buyers and sellers need to keep tax implications in mind as the rules change when multiple properties are involved, experts say.

Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Private Wealth Management, says that a couple is generally allowed one principal residence for tax purposes. When someone with multiple homes – including a vacation home – goes to sell, most people are eager to claim any tax exemptions they can, right away, to save money.

But deciding whether to pay taxes on the capital gains of your home sale is more complicated than it appears, Golombek says.

In 2016, tax rules changed with regard to what is known as the principal residence exemption. The exemption can save sellers money by offering a tax-exempt capital gain on the sale of property designated as someone’s “principal residence.”

This exemption is “the biggest thing to keep in mind when you have a second property,” says Mariska Loeppky, IG Wealth Management’s director of tax and estate planning.

The seller must first decide whether they expect the sale of their cottage or their city home to yield a bigger gain. The more money you gain on a home sale, the better off you are claiming it a tax exemption.

“But that’s not enough,” says Golombek. “Because you also have to look at the number of years after that you’re expected to hold the other property, and its potential for future appreciation. Because if you now choose to use the exemption on the sale of your vacation property, it’s not available for all the years that you owned both properties.”

A vacation home can often qualify for the exemption – as long as it meets certain conditions, such as being inhabited by the owners at least a little each year, and not being regularly rented out as an income property. But unlike decades past, Canada Revenue Agency no longer takes for granted that – if no tax is paid on the capital gain – the tax saving provision is being used.

Now, sellers must be diligent to report it.

“What’s new (as of 2016) is the requirement to actually tell the government that you’re claiming exemption,” says Golombek. “They’re really cracking down on people who are selling residences – if they qualify for the exemption, making sure that you tell them that you’re actually using it.”

Many people with two homes may be encountering the change for the first time when they file 2020 taxes.

Sales of properties in the Lakelands region of Ontario grew more than 40 per cent from a year ago in September, setting a new monthly record led by waterfront properties. A record number of properties were also listed for sale in the region that includes Parry Sound, Muskoka, Haliburton and Orillia. In Kawartha Lakes, sales also hit a record in September (although listings declined), while in British Columbia, the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board saw September residential sales rise 78 per cent from last year.

Plus, Loeppky says, a recent renovation boom could also impact the tax situation when it comes to selling a vacation home. An online survey of 2,500 Canadian adults by Rates.ca in early September indicated that more than 16 per cent of respondents were planning or had done a renovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the home goes up for sale, there are also tax implications, says Loeppky. That means homeowners should be keeping receipts for the sale and major renovations on both properties, whether they expect to claim it for a tax exemption or not.

For example, Loeppky says, you may have purchased a house, always expecting that it would be your principal residence for tax purposes. A few years later, you purchase a cottage, which shoots up in value in a hot market.

You’ll likely want to switch gears and try to use the principal residence exemption to ease the tax bill when you sell the cottage. But to do so, she says, you need to show which home makes the bigger gain on paper – so you must keep track of what you paid for the cottage and all the receipts from adding that sunroom years ago.

“It fluctuates with market conditions and over time … You never know what the future holds. Right? And that’s ultimately what it comes down to,” she says.

“In your mind, it’s completely tax free. But then something happens and you end up claiming it for the other property.”

Real estate investors are increasingly trying to get out of closing on their newly built condos in the Toronto region, as rents plummet and banks toughen borrowing qualifications for rental properties.

Selling the right to buy the new condo, also known as assignment sales, has soared during the past few months of the coronavirus pandemic, according to realtors.

It is a sign of weakness in the condo market beset by a glut of new units, declining rents and a dwindling number of renters.

“We are seeing a massive wave of assignments of people who don’t want to close in this market,” said Simeon Papailias, senior partner with REC Canada, which brokers hundreds of preconstruction sales every year.

Since the pandemic started early this year, the rental vacancy rate in the Greater Toronto Area has reached its highest level in more than a decade and the average rental price is 9-per-cent lower than the previous year, according to industry research group Urbanation Inc.

Demand for rentals has declined, with border restrictions slowing immigration, tourism and the influx of foreign students. At the same time, the number of available rental units has spiked. A record 23,000 new condos units will be completed in the Toronto region this year, and another 22,434 are due next year, according to Urbanation. It estimates that 50 per cent were bought as rental units.

Condo resales and their average selling price have increased over the previous year. As well, preconstruction sales on condo projects are still robust. But the number of new condo listings and new rental-unit listings are rapidly increasing. If that persists, realtors predict selling prices will start to decline.

As well, many Airbnb operators turned their properties into long-term rentals or are trying to sell them because tourism disappeared. In addition, many condo tenants gave up their places when they lost work or because they found space outside of the city.

Now, real estate investors who are due to close on their new condos worry that they won’t be able to cover their mortgage payments with rent.

“Guys who are closing in the short term are absolutely shook and affected by the pandemic and what it has done to the rental market. That is what is pushing them to assign,” said Mr. Papailias, who estimates that assignments now account for between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of his preconstruction sales. This compared with a range of 10 per cent to 15 per cent before the pandemic.

Unlike condo resales, which is tracked by local boards, there is no database for condo assignments and realtors are typically not allowed to list them. Over all, assignments account for a small fraction of the residential property market.

Assignment sales are only allowed when the condo building is almost completed, and the sale must be approved by the condo developer. The original buyer would have made a down payment for the purchase and sales agreement on the preconstruction condo before it was built about three or four years ago. For condos due to close this year, the original purchase was made around 2016 or 2017, when the economy was strong and demand for downtown city living was high.

With COVID-19 cases rising and some pandemic restrictions back in place, people are losing income and the economic recovery is uncertain. Banks don’t want investors defaulting on their mortgage payments and are trying to ensure that investors have cash and employment income to draw upon if a tenant stops paying rent. Since the pandemic began, lenders have become stricter with their qualifications, including in some cases requiring bigger down payments and not accepting down payments that were borrowed.

“The financing has gotten a lot more difficult,” said Matt Elkind, senior broker with Connect Realty, an expert in preconstruction sales. “The banks’ appetite to lend to investors is down significantly. An individual, six months ago, would have qualified without problem. They’re not now,” he said.

Mr. Elkind said one of his clients did not qualify for a bank mortgage because she received federal aid when her business lost revenue from the pandemic. Some banks are asking prospective borrowers for a 35-per-cent down payment to qualify for the mortgage, whereas in the past, 20 per cent would suffice.

Lenders are also recognizing less of the rental income as part of the borrower’s total income. For example, before the pandemic, a lender would count 80 per cent of the prospective rental income as part of the borrower’s total income. Now, the same lender will only recognize 50 per cent of that income, according to real estate experts.

“For people whose only income is rental, it is hard to qualify,” said Bernadette Laxamana, mortgage broker and president of Karista Mortgage in B.C.

Banks typically have the cheapest mortgages, with interest rates at record lows. (The popular five-year fixed rate is below 2 per cent.) If buyers don’t qualify at a bank, they are forced to seek alternative lenders, which typically charge higher interest rates.

“They are having to look at options where the money is much more expensive. That is where people are having problems,” Mr. Elkind said.

Because the prices of condos have increased since 2016, investors are able to sell their contracts at a higher price, according to realtors, though they said it was not an ideal time to sell, especially as housing demand is expected to soar with Ottawa boosting immigration targets for the next three years.

“Life changes, your situation changes and you have the option to sell. Is this the best time to sell it? No it is not,” said Hunny Gawri, managing partner of My Investment Brokers, which works on all types of preconstruction projects.

The Liberal government plans to bring in more than 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years, despite hurdles created by the global pandemic.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino unveiled what he called an “ambitious” three-year immigration plan today that set targets for bringing skilled workers, family members and refugees into Canada.

Canada aims to bring 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.

The numbers — which represent an increase of about 50,000 for each year — aim to compensate for the shortfall this year due to the pandemic and represent about one per cent of Canada’s population.

Last year’s plan promised to bring in more than one million immigrants over a three-year period, but the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting travel restrictions have slowed down the process. Mendicino said the government remains committed to welcoming newcomers as a means to keep Canada’s economy afloat.

At a news conference in Ottawa today, Mendicino said immigrants drive the population and economic growth that pays for vital programs such as health care.

“Put simply, we need more workers, and immigration is the way to get there,” he said.

WATCH: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino on immigration targets:

 

Mendicino said he’s confident the government can meet the targets despite the global health crisis, by working around travel restrictions while adhering to safety measures such as mandatory quarantines.

He said the government will aim to attract workers to fill labour gaps in regions facing sector shortages.

“With nearly 60 per cent of all new admissions in the economic class, our plan will continue to focus on Canada’s economic growth,” he said.

The breakdown of next year’s plan includes:

  • 232,000 immigrants in the economic class.
  • 103,500 in the family class.
  • 59,500 refugees and protected persons.
  • 5,500 on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Traditionally, Ottawa’s goal in immigration policy has been to attract top talent in a competitive global market while reuniting families and offering refuge to people displaced by disaster, conflict and persecution.

In its last three-year plan, the federal government sought to bring in 341,000 immigrants this year, 351,000 next year and another 361,000 in 2022.

The government did not offer a precise figure on how many immigrants have arrived in Canada so far this year, but says it’s on track to meet half of its 341,000 target by year’s end.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho called the numbers “pure fantasy” and said the government has no plan to bring in large numbers of immigrants safely despite border restrictions and embassy and office closures around the world.

“There’s just no way that’s going to happen. And I was really hoping to hear an actual plan of how those issues were going to be resolved today. And there was not barely any mention of it at all,” she said.

She said rapid testing for COVID-19 would be a critical step in helping bring people in during the pandemic, but the government has failed to make the necessary progress.

She said the Trudeau government must offer a concrete plan for bringing people safely into the country during a pandemic and for integrating them into Canadian society.

“The number can be whatever it’s going to be, but unless they bring forward a plan for how they’re going to change course and get better at processing immigration applications, it’s really all for nothing.”

NDP MP Jenny Kwan said the government must take steps to accelerate processing after the pandemic slowed the process and created a growing backlog of applications.

“With over half a year of applications whose processing came to a complete stop, there will be no shortage of requests to be processed next year,” she said, adding that the immigration department must have a significant boost in resources to deal with the backlog.

“Without these investments, applicants are to expect significant increases in processing times for years to come, which were already long before the pandemic.”

She said Canada also should give permanent residence status to people who want it and are already in the country, such as temporary foreign workers and international students with job offers.

“Canada can, in fact, take a true humanitarian approach by regularizing all those immigrants and refugees and undocumented people,” she said.

Focus on labour gaps, says C of C
Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies and inclusive growth for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the government must focus squarely on matching economic migrants to worker shortages in various sectors and regions of the country.

Despite changes in the labour market and a major spike in the unemployment rate since the onset of the pandemic, gaps in the market remain, Nord said — and immigration will continue to play a large role in filling persistent labour shortages.

“We’re in this rather strange situation where we do have higher unemployment rates than we’ve seen for a number of years. Before the crisis there were record low unemployment rates. Now, they’re tipping towards the other end,” she said.

“But we still have a situation where there are still job vacancies and jobs that need to be filled across the country. Immigration can play an important role in diversity and economic growth, but also in filling labour market gaps, for sure.”

The government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth recommended that Canada boost its annual immigration levels to 450,000 by 2021 to stimulate the economy and tackle the twin labour market problems of an aging population and a low birth rate.

From Oakville and Milton in Halton Region to Oshawa and Clarington in Durham Region, there were 14 Toronto suburban cities and towns that saw detached home prices rise over 20 percent in October.

For the fourth consecutive month, the Toronto region’s housing market broke a sales record, again surging past 10,000 transactions for a 25 percent sales increase in October compared to the same month last year.

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), which published the data yesterday, noted that sales in the detached home market segment drove the biggest gains, with new listings unable to keep pace with demand.

As buyer preferences have shifted to suburban detached homes, prices have been rising rapidly as suburban markets tighten up in the face of the demand influx. In just one example of how markets have quickly changed, detached home prices rose by more than 20 percent in 10 Toronto suburbs in September. Now, in October, there are 14 suburbs that saw home price growth surpass the 20 percent-mark.

Of the 30 suburban cities and towns tracked by TRREB, Adjala-Tosorontio in Simcoe County and Uxbridge in Durham Region saw by far the largest increases in detached home prices in October. Prices in Adjala-Tosorontio rose nearly 60 percent to $1,039,993 while Uxbridge recorded a close to 52 percent increase to $1,249,676.

Six more areas saw detached home prices rise over 25 percent. They were Scugog, Caledon, Clarington, Halton Hills, New Tecumseth and East Gwillimbury.

Rounding out the 14, another six markets saw prices rise between 20 percent and 25 percent. They were Oakville, Oshawa, Vaughan, Newmarket, Milton and Pickering.

Ten of those 14 markets recorded average sold prices above $1 million. In October 2019, only three of those same markets had average sold prices over the million dollar mark.

TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer said earlier this week that the board expects near-record home sales figures for the remainder of 2020 with pent-up demand from the spring still buoying market activity. With buyers still scooping up detached homes at a rapid pace, expect prices to keep accelerating too.

Construction crews were busy completing work on 6,816 condo units across the Toronto region this summer.

The third quarter total represented a huge leap over last year, rising 124 percent above the 3,038 units completed in 2019’s third quarter, according to new data from research firm Urbanation.

The surge in condo completions over the summer pushed the total completed through the first nine months of this year to 17,596 units, 47 percent higher than through the same period in 2019.

What’s most impressive, according to Urbanation, is despite this substantial rise in completions, there are still 78,156 units under construction in the Toronto region. The firm said that it expects 5,411 units to be completed in the final quarter of the year, bringing the annual total to a record-breaking 23,007 units.

A similar completion total is expected for 2021, with 70 percent of completed units located in Toronto-proper.

The city’s pipeline of new construction condos has been burgeoning for several consecutive quarters now, but the record-breaking completion numbers are somewhat ill-timed from a demand perspective.

Condo resale listings have risen considerably through the summer and fall while the city’s rental market is also seeing a sharp increase in units listed, forcing investor-owners to slash prices in order to woo renters.

In the same report, Urbanation said that new condo sales remained strong in the third quarter, but sales levels diverged when the suburban 905 area surrounding the city and the Toronto-proper 416 area were compared. New condo sales rose 106 percent in the 905 in the third quarter, while the 416 saw sales decline by 16 percent.

Among the seismic shifts the pandemic has spurred across the Canadian economy, few are as profound as those that have rocked Canadian real estate. The battle to control the spread of COVID-19 has not only altered how and where Canadians work, but also led many to question where and how they want to live. Rural and suburban areas that once lagged desirable city addresses are now roaring hot as homebuyers wearied by lockdowns seek bigger yards and larger living spaces. Tight downtown condo markets that previously commanded expensive rents are now thick with supply. And the flow of immigrants that typically fuel demand for housing of all types has slowed to a trickle. In just months, the landscape of Canadian real estate has been shaken to its core. Whether the changes are permanent or transitory is an open question, but one thing is certain, 2020 has been a year like no other for Canadian housing markets. Here we look at seven ways COVID-19 has affected housing.

Peak home resale activity shifted from spring to summer

Lockdown orders sent a shock through the housing market in March, suspending open houses and flat-lining sales during what is typically a high season for the market. Spring activity wasn’t lost though. As social distancing restrictions were relaxed in the summer, the market sprang back to life. This led to record-high activity over the July-September period. Pent-up demand was largely exhausted by September and we expect a return to more normal levels later this fall.

Rental markets cooled in some of Canada’s largest and least affordable cities

Following years of steady increases, rent is now declining in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, especially in higher density, downtown locations. Underlying the shift: is a surge in rental supply as the short-term rental business dries up and new purpose-built rental and condo units are completed. It all comes at a time when many renters have come under heavy financial pressure. Renters tend to earn less than homeowners, and it’s been lower-income and younger Canadians who suffered the most job losses during the pandemic. Demand near post-secondary institutions has softened too, due to the switch to online study and the closing of our border that kept many foreign students abroad.

Condo investors are looking to sell

As rents soften and vacancies rise, condo listings are spiking in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver—albeit from low levels. New, stricter regulations in Toronto are adding to the impulse to sell – at a time when new condo completions are bringing more units to the Toronto and Vancouver.

City-dwellers are pulling up stakes on a quest for larger living spaces—often in cottage country

Big-city living has lost some of its luster with social distancing measures severely restricting cultural life and socializing opportunities. Working and studying from home is now a reality for many, further eroding the attachment to big cities. Meantime, affordability issues are driving many Canadians further afield into smaller towns and cottage country, where larger living spaces are available. Clearly COVID-19 has lit a fire under cottage country real estate.

A silver lining? The pandemic made it ‘more affordable’ to own a home

With the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate cut to close to zero and sharp declines in bond yields mortgage rates have been pushed to their lowest levels on record. This slightly reduced mortgage payments on a home priced at market value despite prices continuing to rise at an accelerating pace in most of Canada. Generous government income support programs for households most affected by COVID-19 also made it easier to carry mortgage payments. Overall, Canadian households received more money ($56 billion) from government aid programs such as CERB and other transfers in the second quarter than they lost in wages and salaries due to the pandemic ($23 billion). On net, household disposable income spiked 11% in Canada. This substantially increased buyers’ purchasing power.

A key pillar of Canadian housing demand has been shaken: immigration

COVID-19 has severely disrupted the flow of immigrants moving to Canada—a major source of housing demand. In the second quarter of 2020, the number of new permanent residents plummeted 64% and more non-permanent residents left our country than came to it. The impact was dramatic: total net migration collapsed 94%. With the border poised to remain closed to all but essential travelers, and most post-secondary students continuing to study at home until immunization from COVID-19 reaches high levels in Canada and abroad – immigration is unlikely to rebound soon. To date, weak in-migration has had minimal impact on Canada’s overall housing market. But if sustained, we expect it will temper rental demand in larger markets as immigrants tend to rent in their first 5-10 years after landing into our country. This could have negative repercussions for condos and longer term, an extended period of weak in-migration could deplete future cohorts of first-time homebuyers.

The pandemic put many homeowners on the defensive

The sheer economic shock of COVID-19—with unemployment soaring to unprecedented highs—directly impacted many Canadians and put many others on the defensive. Almost 780,000 people opted to defer mortgage payments since the start of the pandemic, representing 16% of mortgages in bank portfolios. By the end of August, the vast majority of mortgage holders whose deferral period has expired had resumed regular payments. However, it remains unclear how many will ultimately be able to continue as outlook for jobs remains bleak for many Canadians. This poses a risk for the housing market, especially in areas where the economy is shakiest. Financial strains could potentially unleash a wave of properties for sale.

Robert Hogue is a member of the Macroeconomic and Regional Analysis Group, with RBC Economics. He is responsible for providing analysis and forecasts for the Canadian housing market and for the provincial economies. His publications include Housing Trends and Affordability, Provincial Outlook and provincial budget commentaries.

Disclaimer (RBC)

Even the most bullish housing observers would have had a tough time anticipating just how quickly Canada would bounce back from the pandemic shock that froze up market activity in the late winter and spring.

But, after what RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue calls a “spectacular rally,” the market has fully recovered and then some. National home sales hit an all-time high for September, climbing over August and up 46 percent over 2019’s total for the same month.

What comes next, however, is still shrouded in uncertainty.

In commentary published earlier this month, Hogue said that while the summer housing rally had been extended into September, the market has likely expended all the pent-up demand that had accumulated from earlier in the year at the height of the pandemic shutdowns.

The economist wrote that the market is set to cool off without the pent-up demand to keep it aloft. Tight supply relative to current demand for housing will also have an impact on sales numbers through the fall.

In what will be long remembered as a bizarre year for Canada’s housing market, it’s far from unusual for home sales to slow as the year winds down. But Hogue believes the next few months should at least offer some clues as to where the market is heading in 2021.

“We’ll see whether low interest rates and changing housing needs can keep demand boiling hot, or whether the exhaustion of pent-up demand and plummeting immigration will cool things down,” Hogue wrote.

“We’ll also learn how many current homeowners will be in trouble once mortgage payment deferrals expire and are forced to sell,” he added.

RBC has maintained a relatively positive outlook on the country’s housing market through the pandemic. Hogue said that answers to these questions, as well as a better view into how the second wave of COVID-19 plays out, should provide a better understanding of the risks as we move into the second calendar year of a pandemic-affected housing market.

It was another record-breaking month for the Canadian housing market. September sales rose 45.6 percent over the previous year with no obvious signs of slowing after several months of remarkable levels of buyer activity.

Sales rose in almost all Canadian housing markets in September, amounting to a nationwide total high that was enough to beat the previous record for the month by a margin of 20,000 transactions, according to data published today by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

September records were broken on the pricing side as well, with the national average sale price increasing by 17.5 percent over the previous year to $604,000. This marked the first time that the national average exceeded $600,000. CREA noted that the soaring average sale price is heavily influenced by robust activity in the country’s two most expensive markets — Toronto and Vancouver.

CREA Senior Economist Shaun Cathcart wrote that the usual suspects were driving the record-breaking levels of activity in the country’s housing markets, with pent-up demand, government income support, rock bottom low interest rates and job losses being concentrated on lower wage workers all cited.

“But I think another wildcard factor to consider, which has no historical precedent, is the value of one’s home during this time. Home has been our workplace, our kids’ schools, the gym, the park and more. Personal space is more important than ever,” Cathcart said in a media release.

Commenting on yet another release of record-breaking housing market data, TD Economist Rishi Sondhi noted that increases in the supply of homes for sale and a pandemic-driven slowdown in population growth that was less severe than anticipated likely played a role.

“Also, instead of travelling during the traditional July and August vacation periods, people stayed home on account of the pandemic. This gave them more opportunities for buying and selling, which they likely took advantage of,” Sondhi wrote.

The past three months have been a remarkable show of strength during an economically tumultuous period, but many market experts believe that this pace cannot be sustained over the long term.

BMO Senior Economist Robert Kavcic wrote in response to the CREA data that while the bank doesn’t “subscribe to the deeply bearish view on Canada’s housing market,” there are enough headwinds building that the market should cool down in the months ahead.

Wuhan, the city at the center of the coronavirus pandemic, had the most tourists of any Chinese city during a public holiday in October. Wuhan is overcoming its pandemic past and benefiting from its hero-city status to become a top travel destination

 

 

Buyers flocking to the 905 also want an urban experience, making condos in the growing urban centre of Mississauga the perfect choice.

Mississauga real estate is on a tear, reflecting the considerable efforts the city has put into its livability factor, transforming it from commuter suburb to urban centre, without the stress of downtown Toronto living.

Of course, prices are rising in tandem with popularity, so many who want a less frenetic lifestyle outside of downtown Toronto are considering a condo in this neighbouring city.

The Great Migration

There has been a steady stream of people moving to the 905-region as of late. Figures from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) in August showed the region outperformed the 416-area in both sales and the number of new listings.

Summer activity was explained, by many in the industry, as pent-up demand being released, as those who sat on the sidelines in the spring due to the pandemic went on a buying spree. But September figures kept the trend going, with the number of sales across all housing categories up by 42.3% in the GTA from the same time last year. And the 905 continued to outperform the 416 in September.

Affordability is one of the key factors driving buyers into the 905 area. The average price for all housing types in the 905 is $931,834, according to the latest TRREB figures. For the 416, the average price was $1,022,051. There is also more choice for buyers: there were 11,731 new listings of all housing types in the 905 in September, compared with 8,689 in the 416.

In the sales figures especially, it’s clear that buyers are voting with their feet (or moving vans). There were 7,528 sales of all housing types in the 905 in September, versus some 3,555 in the 416.

Urban Living Outside Toronto

While the 905 area encompasses a wide region, for those who want a more urban experience with close proximity to Toronto, Mississauga is a particularly coveted location.

The city’s Downtown Strategy aims for a growing, walkable downtown, where people can live, work and play.

“One of things we find … is that people moving to Mississauga want to be in the suburb but also want access to Toronto,” says Asha Singh, president of the Mississauga Real Estate Board (MREB). There are also the people who want to “feel like they are living in a city.”

Mississauga is a diverse cultural community, Singh says, with city-sponsored cultural events, many restaurants, and live-performance venues (the latter of which are waiting patiently for those days to return).

For those who enjoy the outdoors, Mississauga is filled with green space, Singh says, and for cyclists, there are “more than 400 km of on-road bike lanes.” There are golf courses and parks along the Credit River where people can actually see salmon run, she adds.

Though there is quick access to major highways such as the 401 and the 403, transit is also well served with the GO train, Miway buses, and the Light Rapid Transit line still being built out. For families, there are many excellent schools, libraries and play fields, she says. With Sheridan College and the University of Toronto’s Mississauga Campus, higher education is also accessible throughout the community.

With denser, mixed-use planning, as well as an emphasis on public transit, Mississauga is growing into an urban landscape.

Condo Life and the Perla Project

While the migration to the 905 region encompasses buyers looking for all housing types, condos remain the most affordable option when it comes to enjoying urban living. They also offer several advantages: maintenance is taken care of and buildings offer many amenities, for instance.

But size is often an issue, especially now, when space to work from home is an important consideration. Some of the condos in downtown Toronto could only be called “tiny,” coming in at under 500 square feet. In other words, not exactly the size you need to live (and love) your new COVID life that includes working at least some, if not all, your days from home.

Though the shift in demand for real estate in the 905 region started before the pandemic, according to Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, more people took a hard look at how much space they needed while spending more time at home.

“With COVID, people want to be in the suburbs, where they can get in the car or go for a walk,” says Singh.

Perla, a new development at Eglinton Avenue East and Hurontario Street, is offering the best of all worlds: urban, approachable condo living, but in much larger than average units that include massive balconies so working from, and enjoying time in, one’s space is easily attainable.

The Pinnacle International project offers 2- and 3-bedroom units from 960 square feet to more than 2,000 square feet. That’s a lot of living space. The development also includes extensive amenities, such as a 24-hour concierge, an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, fully-equipped exercise and yoga rooms, and a party room with kitchenette for better times to come.

While the East Tower is still under construction, occupancies in the West Tower are well under way, with all units including one parking spot and one locker. And with pricing in Mississauga more affordable than in Toronto, condos in the 905 are moving fast, Singh says. “As soon as they come on, they are bought.”

Perla is set in 15-acres of parkland, is just steps to the future LRT, and brings with it the amenities of an urban centre while still being set in the suburban calm of the red-hot 905-region.

To learn more about Perla and how you can register click here.

Bank is assuming no widespread lockdowns are coming back, and that there will be a vaccine by 2022

The Bank of Canada says it has no plans to change its benchmark interest rate until inflation gets back to two per cent and stays there, something it says isn’t likely to happen until 2023.

The central bank said Wednesday it has decided to keep its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25 per cent. The news was expected by economists, as although the economy is showing signs of recovering from the impact of COVID-19, things are still a long way from normal, so cheap lending will be needed for a long while yet.

The bank outlined a fairly bleak assessment of the worst case scenario when it laid out its last Monetary Report in July. But the roughly eight months since COVID-19 began in Canada have given the bank a clearer picture of how things are shaking out, even if the picture isn’t always rosy.

“With more than six months since the onset of the pandemic, the Bank has gained a better understanding of how containment measures and support programs affect the Canadian and global economies,” the bank said.

“This, along with more information on medical developments related to COVID-19, allows the bank to now make a reasonable set of assumptions to underpin a base-case forecast.”

Rocked by COVID-19, the central bank says it expects Canada’s economy will shrink by 5.7 per cent this year, but grow by 4.2 per cent next year, and 3.7 per cent in 2022. Inflation, meanwhile, is expected to be 0.6 per cent this year,
1.0 per cent next year, and 1.7 per cent in 2022.

 

Those growth and inflation projections, however, are based on two leaps of faith: that there won’t be a second — or third — widespread lockdown in Canada, and that a vaccine or some sort of effective treatment will be widely available by the middle of 2022 at the latest.

“The breadth and intensity of re-imposed containment measures, including impacts on schools and the availability of child care, could lead to setbacks,” the bank said in the quarterly Monetary Policy Report that accompanied the rate decision.

Impact on mortgages

The bank’s outlook and rate decisions have real world impact on Canadian borrowers and savers. Fixed-rate mortgages are priced based on what’s happening in the bond market, but the central bank’s rate has a direct impact on variable rate mortgages.

So telegraphing that rates are going to stay low for long presents something of a conundrums for borrowers, says James Laird, Co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial.

“There is no wrong answer right now,” Laird said.

“Canadians who derive value from certainty should choose a fixed rate. For Canadians who are open to a little more risk, considering a variable rate is certainly appropriate, since the Bank is committed to keeping rates where they are for at least another two years.”

Economist Sri Thanabalasingam with TD Bank says the bank made it clear on Wednesday that the road to a full recovery will be slow.

“There’s a long way to go for the Canadian economy to emerge out of this crisis, ” Thanabalasingam said.

“The path forward is filled with uncertainty, most of which could set the recovery back a step or two, [so] the bank is set to continue to provide monetary support for many years to come.”

 

Source: CBC News

From Canada Day to the summer wind down at the end of September, buyers fanned out across Toronto’s ‘905’ suburbs and scooped up 3,834 new condo units.

The surge in buyer activity over 2020’s third quarter meant that new condo sales in the 905 region jumped 106 percent when compared to the same period a year ago, according to data released today by research firm Urbanation.

The boost in condo sales in the city’s suburbs roughly matched buyer enthusiasm for new and resale single-family homes outside the City of Toronto’s boundaries in a phenomenon that RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue recently called the “pandexodus” from the city.

Buyers were less enthused about purchasing new condos in the City of Toronto during the third quarter, with sales declining 16 percent from the previous year to 2,536 units.

“The third quarter showed impressive demand for new condominiums in the GTA amid the pandemic, with the suburban markets leading the way,” said Urbanation President Shaun Hildebrand.

“This regional shift in activity is expected to continue as buyers gravitate to less expensive markets while the downtown area faces supply challenges in the near term,” he continued.

The heightened activity in the 905 region was more than enough to offset the weakness seen in the city-proper, leading overall new condo sales to rise 30 percent over the previous year across the entire Greater Toronto Area.

It was not, however, enough to lift year-to-date new condo sales past where they stood three quarters into 2019. There were 13,454 new condos sold between January and September 2020, down 22 percent from the same period last year.

On the pricing front, Urbanation said the average selling price for condos launched in the third quarter was $1,044 per square foot, up 3.5 percent over a year ago. New condos launched in the 905 region had an average price per square foot of $915, while City of Toronto condos came in at $1,275.

The stark price disparity between the two regions illustrates Hildebrand’s point of buyers gravitating to less expensive markets as one of the main reasons for the 905 sales surge.

Toronto’s renters sprung into action over the third quarter of 2020, signing a record number of new rental condo leases for the three-month period as listings surged.

And, with so much choice for renters in the market, investor-owners were forced to drop prices for their condo rentals, according to third quarter data published recently by market research firm Urbanation.

Average monthly rents for Toronto region condos fell by 9.4 percent annually to $2,249 during the third quarter. This marks the lowest rent level observed by Urbanation since the first quarter of 2018.

As more supply entered the market, condo renters signed a record 13,140 leases for units across the Toronto region, up 39 percent from the same quarter last year. While that’s an exceptionally high number of leases signed, it still pales in comparison to the 23,288 condo rentals that hit the market during that same period.

By the end of the quarter, Urbanation said there were 9,154 active condo rental listings on the market, four-and-a-half times the number available during the same point in 2019.

In a media release accompanying the rental data, Urbanation President Shaun Hildebrand said that weakness in Toronto-proper, especially the downtown condo market, had weighed down the overall market.

“The GTA rental market showed some improvement in the third quarter within more suburban areas, while experiencing weakened conditions in the downtown areas as renters reevaluated the costs of living in the central core as most offices, post-secondary schools and entertainment venues remained closed,” said Hildebrand.

“While it was encouraging to see the large increase in lease activity in the third quarter as renters took advantage of recent discounts, the market will continue to face challenges heading into 2021 from restrained demand caused by COVID-19 and elevated supply levels,” he added.

Canadian home prices posted across-the-board monthly gains in September, led by the Ottawa-Gatineau and Quebec City markets, for the second-strongest September on record, data showed on Tuesday.

The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which tracks data collected from public land registries to measure changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed prices rose 1.1 per cent in September from August.

In addition to the 11 major markets included in the index, Teranet also tracks 20 other cities across the country. All 31 posted gains for the month, the first across-the-board monthly gain since tracking of the current bundle began in 2009.

Prices were up 2.3 per cent in the capital region of Ottawa-Gatineau and 2.2 per cent in Quebec City, with Montreal and Hamilton both up 1.9 per cent in September from August.

On a year-over-year basis, the index was up 6.7 per cent in September, rising at a faster pace than the previous month. The 12-month gain was also lead by Ottawa-Gatineau, up 14.3 per cent, followed by Halifax at 12.2 per cent.

Calgary prices were down 2.6 per cent on the year, while Edmonton prices were 0.8 per cent lower.

Price gains in Hamilton and in six of the seven other Golden Horseshoe cities around Toronto were higher than in the Greater Toronto Area itself, reinforcing the view that many urbanites are fleeing to satellite cities for more space amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In this blog I will try to explain as much as possible (and the topic is extensive) about the process and key factors when buying a preconstruction condominium. The below applies to Ontario, and more specifically the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Selecting the Location

Arguably the most important factor when buying real estate, especially if one of the goals is capital appreciation, is the location. Quality location is not always easy to determine, one needs to look at the current surroundings, future plans and developments of the area, and the possibility of gentrification. Less than desirable areas now may look much different in 10 years after a number of condo projects have been completed. Proximity to public transit can not be understated, ease of access to public transit has a large impact on the value of the surrounding area. Additional examples of questions surrounding the location are: how long it will take to get downtown, is the building currently in development next to the condominium a new arts center or homeless shelter, etc. You also need to look at all the negative factors of the surrounding area (e.g. high crime rates) to decide whether the project is worth investing in.

Choosing the Right Developer

Not all developers are the same, the quality they put out differ, and in worse case scenarios they never get the construction off the ground. I have written a blog regarding already, there have been many around the GTA in the recent years (Cosmos, Kennedy Gardens, to name a few). If you happen to be the unlucky one to invest in one of those, especially if this is your first venture into preconstructions, it could cause a major setback in any future ventures down the road.

Build quality is also very important, poor quality construction will result in a cheap look and more repairs. A quick google search will give you a good idea of which builders are better than the others.

The bottom line is, do your due diligence and select a builder that a has a long history of successfully completing projects in Canada.

Purpose of the Purchase

There are pretty much two options, you either buy it as an investment or for your own enjoyment. In both cases, cost will be a main factor. The developer will charge different amounts for exactly the same unit depending on the location of the unit within the building. Other factors that affect price include:

· Proximity to the elevator, garbage chute, and facilities: units next to these will be noisier and experience more hallway traffic.

· View: no need for a detailed explanation here, a great view will demand a premium price.

· Floor premium: generally, the higher the floor the higher the cost, the odds of having a good view on the 25th floor are better than on the 5th floor, also the noise from the street will be more noticeable on the lower floors.

· Layout: not all units will have perfect layouts, the developers are limited by the footprint, while some units will be very good, others may have long hallways with wasted space. For small units where space is at the premium this is a very important factor to consider.

· Ceiling height: 8 foot ceilings feels and look quite different than 9 or 10 footers, some projects have consistent floor heights, others differentiate starting at certain floors.

It’s clear that units on higher floors with great views away from the garbage chute will be more expensive than second floor unit with facilities next to it, so which one should you buy? Are you buying it for yourself or as an investment? If as an investment, your main concern should be the return on investment and less expensive units will most likely make more sense for you. You maybe able to get a bit of a premium when renting higher floor units but it’s likely offset by the higher cost of purchase. If you are buying for yourself the cost is still very important, but so is the ability to enjoy your own property.

Cost per Square Foot vs. Total Cost

When buying a house, you never hear about cost per square foot. When purchasing a condo, both total and per square foot costs are important factors needed to be considered. Let’s use an example of two units that are the same size (500 square feet): one is $1,000 per square foot, the other is $1,100. The more expensive unit has a great layout with no wasted space, the less expensive unit has a long hallway and essentially 80 square feet that cannot be properly utilized. In this scenario, the more expensive unit is actually cheaper when calculating the usable space. The cost per usable space of the less expensive unit is now $1,190. Since the layout is better, buying the $550,000 unit maybe a better deal than buying $500,000 unit.

Using the very same example there is an argument to be made that the $500,000 unit is still the better buy. This is especially true when the unit is purchased as a long-term investment. The owner may not be able to charge much premium for renting the $550,000 unit, and even so, the small rent difference would be offset by the mortgage payments, property taxes, etc.

Calculating Cashflow

What is cashflow? In simple terms it is the difference between cash coming in and cash going out. The cash flow can be positive (more coming in than going out), neutral, or negative. If the condo is owner occupied the cashflow will obviously be negative (make sure you can afford to carry the costs). If you are an investor in the GTA, the bad news for you is that with the current prices, putting 20% down, you will not be able to generate positive or neutral cashflow and therefore will be negative (how much will depend on the project and unit). To calculate the cashflow you will deduct all payments related to the condo (mortgage, condo fees, insurance, property taxes, repairs, etc.). Before investing in the condo make sure you are able to carry the negative cashflow for an extended period of time. Keep in mind that both rental income and expenses will go up, but one may outpace another (expect increase in condo fees, the developers are known for underestimating the amount).

Calculating Rental Income

There is a difference between calculating cashflow and rental income, you may be in a negative cashflow position yet still be generating a profit which will further negatively affect your cashflow since taxes will be paid. The biggest factor here are mortgage payments. For example, you are in a negative cashflow position of $500 each month, your monthly mortgage payment is $1,200, of this amount $800 goes towards the principal repayment, and $400 is mortgage interest expense. In this scenario, you are generating a negative cashflow of $500 per month while still creating a monthly taxable profit of $300.

Costs to Purchase

There are costs associated with a purchase of any real estate such as land transfer tax and legal fees. In addition, you will pay fees associated with the acquisition of a brand new unit from the builder and it is very important you familiarize yourself with what you can expect as the amount can be significant. Since every condo builder is required to be registered under Tarion Warranty you will need to pay Tarion fees (up to $2,034, the amount is based on the purchase price).

The most important fees to get familiar with are development charges, I can’t emphasize enough the fact that you need to ensure the fees are capped and you need to know exactly how much you will be paying. What are development charges? Basically, the municipality is charging exuberant fees to the builder for allowing them to build the project, the fees tend to go up each year, and with the municipalities being strapped for cash, the trend to increase the fees is going to continue, in some cases they may double from one year to another. If the fees are not capped in your contract you may end up paying a much higher amount than you would expect, either way expect anywhere between $5,000 to $30,000 or even more in development fees depending on the project and your unit.

You may also be responsible for utility hook up fees (expect a few thousand for this).

Assignments

This topic probably deserves a blog on its own, therefore I will just touch on the basics.

Assignment is simply the ability to buy or sell a unit that the developer already sold to a buyer.

Building a condo takes many years, some investors already have an assignment (selling before the unit is completed) on their mind, for others simply circumstances change, they need cash, the value went up and they want profit now.

To carry on with the assignment there needs to be a clause in your contract with the developer allowing assignments (the developers charge assignment fee, some projects don’t permit the assignments), since the unit is not yet completed the purchaser is not buying a unit, but the right to own the unit when it’s completed.

The seller is called the assignor, the buyer is called assignee, the assignee better be prepared to have plenty of cash on hand as they should be able to pay for the deposit the assignor paid to the developer and the profit on the unit. The assignee will also need to pay for Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), development charges, etc.

Not all assignments are sold at a profit, if you know what you are doing you can score a great deal, it all depends how desperate the assignor is to unload the unit.

Assignments are harder to find as they are not advertised on MLS.

10 Day Cooling Off Period

The cooling off period is pretty unique among the real estate transactions, unlike resale or non-condo residential preconstruction which doesn’t allow for a cooling off period, brand new condominiums purchased from the builder by law do allow the cooling off period. What this means is you can change your mind and get the deposit back during a period of 10 days (keep in mind it’s 10 days, not 10 business days).

The 10 day period starts from the time you receive copy of signed purchase and sale agreement or the disclosure statement, which ever comes first.

You have the right to cancel the agreement within 10 days of any material change to the disclosure statement.

During the 10 day period you should have your lawyer review the agreement. Additionally, talk to your mortgage broker regarding pre-approval.

HST Rebate

HST rebate rules apply to all preconstruction residential real estate. The sale of the unit is a taxable sale (meaning the seller is charging the consumer sales tax), no different than buying a car from a dealer, or a computer from Staples. The difference is there are rebates, both federal and provincial, available for the purchase of new real estate. The federal portion of the rebate is available up to a purchase price of $450,000. Sadly, the vast majority of the new condos purchased around GTA will be more than the threshold, thankfully, the province of Ontario doesn’t put any cap on the maximum price purchase and you will qualify for the rebate if you purchase the condo as principal residence, or as an investment property and have a 1 year residential lease signed in place.

In majority of cases the advertised price includes the amount of HST and is discounted by the amount of the rebate. The maximum rebate available for the provincial part of HST is $24K if you are purchasing a principal residence the rebate will be assigned to the builder, if you are buying it as an investment you will need to pay additional $24K to the builder and apply for $24K rebate from CRA. It usually takes a couple of months to get the refund from CRA.

Why Preconstruction Instead of Resale

Number of factors come into play when choosing preconstruction over resale. The buyer may not be ready or willing to own the unit now but is forward thinking and expects to be ready to own a condo in few years. The deposit structure also plays a significant role, instead of dishing out the full amount of the deposit, the builder will often have a deposit schedule spread out over number of months or even years.

Interim Occupancy Period and Fees

Occupancy period is when the developer allows you to move into the unit before the title is transferred. It takes a long time to complete the project, the lower floor units are completed earlier than higher floor units therefore the occupancy period will likely be longer for lower floor units than higher floor units. During that period, you will not be making mortgage payments, but you will be paying occupancy fees to the developer until you take the ownership. The occupancy fees are governed by Ontario Condominium Act, and the structure of the payments is designed to allow the builder to break even abd not to make a profit.

During the occupancy period the elevators will be in service, on the other hand amenities such as gym and swimming pool will not be open, you will also experience noise and all other inconveniences associated with construction.

Design Options

Around one year before occupancy you will be invited to pick your design options, this is not the time to upgrade or downgrade, this was done at the time of signing the contract, but it is the time to select the finishes matching your taste. As a side note if you are buying the unit as an investment, hopefully you have selected no upgrades when signing the contract, as there is no financial benefit of upgrades if you are renting out the unit.

Title Transfer

Title transfer usually occurs approximately 3 to 12 months after your occupancy period begins, the condo corporation can be formed, you will make the final and full payments for the unit, arrange the mortgage, pay all the closing costs etc.

Tarion Warranty

Tarion warranty is another topic deserving a blog on it’s own, instead of copying what can be found on the Tarion website please have a look here at what you need to know in more details, the main topics are below:

· Tarion offers defects warranty as well as deposit protection warranty

· All condo builders must be Tarion registered

· Defects warranty expires in the following periods: 1, 2 and 7 years, the longer the warranty, the less it covers.

· The warranties are for within units and common elements.

· PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) happens before you receive the keys to your unit.

· 1-year warranty claims can be done during first and last 30 days of the year, 2 and 7 year warranty claims can be made anytime.

Condo Fees

Condo fees are another significant factor when making purchase decisions. When buying resale, the history of the monthly fees is already established, and by analysing the status certificate and the reserve fund you can predict with a good amount of certainty what will happen in the near future. With preconstruction condos it gets more complicated. The developer may advertise low initial monthly fees to attract the buyers, and there is a likelihood of increases a few years down the road, in general here is what you need to take into consideration:

· Small boutique condos with limited number of units will have higher monthly fees than large projects

· The more amenities the more the fees

· Luxury buildings will be more expensive to maintain than more down to earth projects.

There is good news for new condo owners. Back in the day older condos were not mandated to have a periodic reserve studies done. The current requirements mandated under the Condominium Act regulate the matter in a very strict manner; the studies have to be done every 3 years, and the minimum balance in the fund has to be maintained. This requirement hopefully reduces the amount of unexpected condo fee increases and special assessments.

Plan B

Here is a story I hear all the time, in 2014 I bought a condo for $300K, the title transferred in 2018, the value at that time was $500K, and I rented for a year to get the HST rebate. Another unit sold on assignment for $150K profit. Great, guess what, this will not happen all the time, and will certainly not continue forever. It is always wise to have a Plan B if the market turns south. Be prepared to hold onto the investment if your initial goal was a quick flip. Patience is one of the most important virtues when investing in the real estate. The cost of buying and selling real estate is very high, it will hurt you even more if you happen to be forced to sell when you don’t want to.

Developer’s Unit Allocation

By the time the official opening for the public happens, up to 80% of the units may already have been sold. This means that if you waited, did not want to use an agent, or simply missed the news, you will have no chance of getting the better units, and the prices may have already gone up.

The typical unit allocation, in chronological order, is as follows:

· Family and friends: no, not like Lowe’s family and friends where everyone is related, it is a narrow and close circle. Unless you are family or a friend, you are not getting first pick on a unit.

· Platinum VIP agents: each developer deals with a very small group of preferred agents, those agents will be allocated a certain number of units which in turn will be sold to their best clients (e.g. investors with deep pockets). If you are a rookie investor and this is your first purchase, you may not be able to get a unit in this phase either.

· VIP agents: this is where you have a good chance of getting some decent units, the agent may offer you some extra incentives for representing you.

· All other agents: by this time 50-70% of the units have already sold, but still some good units are available and possible extra incentives from the agent representing you.

· Pre-registrants.

· Grand opening to the public: this would have been you unless you have read this blog, waiting outside for hours to find out that 80-90% of the units have already been sold.

With each phase the choice gets smaller and the price may get higher. Your goal should be to get in early and scoop the best unit available. There is an outside chance that you may get a decent deal (the price will not be reduced but you may get free upgrades) when there are a few units left lingering around and the developer wants to close the sales office, but in general, don’t wait.

Worksheets

I have been asked this numerous times, what needs to be done to get the unit with an agent, and what are worksheets. Worksheets, in the most simplest of terms, is an information sheet your agent will submit on your behalf to the builder and will include your choice (usually 3 to 5) of preferred units along with personal information such as your name, current address, SIN along with proof of identity. Usually a worksheet submission date is set by the developer. By that time you need to be familiar with the project, units, pricing, layouts etc. The worksheet submission does not constitute an offer, you are not committed to buy until you sign a purchase and sale agreement, and even then, there is a 10 day cooling off period.

Hopefully within a few days you will receive the answer from your agent advising you the unit has been allocated to you, and you can then proceed with a purchase.

After reading this blog, my hope is that you have gained a basic understanding of the process of buying preconstruction condominiums. It does not cover every detail but should at the very least help you understand the basics and avoid some mistakes first-time condo buyers can make.

Despite a remarkable surge in new listings, the average resale condo price in the Toronto region rose 8.3 percent to $633,484 in the third quarter.

The third quarter data, published today by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Association (TRREB), showed that condo sales rose in the July to September period by 10.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

There were 7,072 sales recorded across the Toronto region, up substantially from the 3,459 sales logged during the previous quarter, which included figures from the market’s pandemic-induced freeze through April and May.

Despite the strong bounce in sales, activity was significantly outpaced by new listings hitting the market. There were 17,613 new listings in the third quarter, up 84.6 percent over the same period last year. TRREB reported that active listings at the end of the quarter were more than double the number recorded at the end of the third quarter in 2019.

TRREB President Lisa Patel said it was a strong showing for the condo market, but the low-rise market had performed better during the same period.

“The condominium apartment segment experienced the second best third quarter on record in terms of sales and the best third quarter on record in terms of the average selling price,” said Patel.

“However, while the pace of year-over-year condo sales and price growth remained strong, it was lower than that reported for low-rise home types,” she continued.

Patel noted that condo investors opting to sell their units had an impact on supply. A weakened rental market, especially in downtown Toronto, and new by-laws around short-term rentals were major motivating factors for investors’ decisions to sell.

The increase in supply has yet to lead to any measurable price plateaus or declines in the condo market. Beyond the 8.3 percent rise in the average condo selling price recorded across the Toronto region, the City of Toronto saw a comparable annual increase to $680,963 in the third quarter.

“While condo buyers certainly benefited from more choice in the third quarter compared to the past few years, there was still enough competition between buyers to support average selling prices substantially above last year’s levels,” said TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer.

“It is important to note that one quarter does not make a trend, either on the demand or supply sides of the market. How the relationship unfolds between condo sales and listings over the next three to six months will dictate the longer-term direction for selling prices,” Mercer added.

source: livabl

It can be challenging to navigate the new home buying process.

We are here to help – and have compiled a few tips on purchasing a pre-construction home or condo.

1. Research your builder
The Ontario Builder Directory (OBD) is an online resource that can help you confirm if your builder is licensed to build new homes in Ontario.

You can also use the directory to learn more about the builder – for example, how many homes they have built, what their claims history is and, in the case of condos, what projects are underway or have been completed.
A feature recently added to the OBD is Conviction Search, which allows you to see whether a particular company or individual has been associated with any illegal building convictions during the past 10 years.

2. Understand your purchase agreement before you sign
Your purchase agreement is one of the most important documents in your new home buying process.

This purchase agreement is a legal and binding contract between you and the vendor, so it is important that you have a lawyer review it, before you sign.

Your lawyer can also help you understand the Tarion Addendum attached to your purchase agreement, which includes closing dates and potential delays, closing fees and other possible costs. Your lawyer can also explain when your Agreement may be terminated and, if that happens, how your deposit will be protected under the Addendum.

3. Learn about your warranty coverage
Under the Ontario new home warranty and protection plan, all new homes have a warranty for, among other things, workmanship, materials, Ontario Building Code violations, water penetration and defects in your home’s structure and systems. The warranty coverage is broken into one-year, two-year and seven-year warranties and it is important to understand what types of defects and conditions are covered during each warranty period.

4. Prepare for your Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI)
Before you take possession, you will have an opportunity to walk through your new home with your builder to make sure that nothing is missing, damaged or incomplete.

Review Tarion’s PDI Checklist before your walk-through, so you’ll know what to look for. The PDI Checklist is a general guide so you should add your own checkpoints based on your property and its unique details.

5. Extra tips for condo buyers
Buying a pre-construction condo is slightly different from purchasing a new house. Ask your real estate lawyer to inform you about your rights and responsibilities, including the following:

a. Cooling off period
If you are purchasing a new condo, you have an initial 10 days under the Condominium Act to cancel a sales agreement. During this time, make sure to review your purchase agreement and the disclosure statement.

b. Interim Occupancy
You might move into a new condo before the condo project is completed and registered. This is called interim occupancy. Make sure to ask your real estate lawyer about the following:

  • Condominium ownership
  • Monthly payment of interim occupancy fees
  • Duration of interim occupancy
  • Other rights and responsibilities during the interim occupancy period.
  • Following these tips will help take some of the worry out of the purchase of your new home or condo. Please share this with family and friends who are in the market to buy a new home in Ontario.

The goal of this blog is to provide you with general information about the warranty process by sharing real experiences from new homeowners. The blog should not be relied upon as legal advice. For privacy reasons, we will not address or resolve current cases in a public forum, so any comments or questions that are posted on this site that describe individual cases cannot be discussed. If you have a question about your warranty or Tarion generally, we would be pleased to discuss your issue, in the context of your particular circumstances and in confidence. We exercise reasonable care to avoid offensive, illegal or defamatory content from being posted, as well as comments that are intended solely for self-promotion or considered to be spam.

While the City of Toronto is working to improve its complex system of underground pipes, sewers and catchbasins, these improvements alone cannot completely protect a home from basement flooding.

During heavy rain, the sewers can become overloaded. It is essential that homeowners take steps to help protect their home from basement flooding.

There are a number of reasons why basements flood, including:

  • When stormwater or ground water seeps into the home (drainage failure) due to:
  • A crack or leak in your home’s foundation, basement walls, or basement windows or door
  • Poor lot grading or drainage
  • Failure of the weeping tile system (foundation drains)
  • Failure of a sump pump (in some homes) used to pump weeping tile water
  • Overflowing eavestroughs
  • Leaking or plugged downspouts
  • A sewer back-up caused by a blocked or overwhelmed sewer pipe.
  • Blockages are typically caused by items that are incorrectly flushed or poured down the drain. Tree roots and broken or cracked sewer pipes can also cause blockages.
  • Overwhelmed sewer pipes can happen during extreme rain. If the sewers fill beyond capacity, the water will travel backward in the sewer pipe and into the home.

What to do if Your Basement is Flooded

If your basement is flooded, it is necessary that you take appropriate action to protect your home, your health and safety. The City also offers a Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy of up to $3,400 per property.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Basement Flooding

Every home is at risk of basement flooding, even if it has not happened before. Water in your basement is most likely to occur during a heavy rainfall, or when snow and ice is melting.

You can take steps to help reduce or prevent it from happening.

What the City is Doing to Prevent Basement Flooding

Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program
The City offers owners of single-family, duplex and triplex residential homes a subsidy of up to $3,400 per property to install flood protection devices.

Basement Flooding Protection Program
The City is taking steps to stop the overloading of the sewer system and reduce basement flooding.

Mandatory Downspout Disconnection
Disconnecting downspouts from the sewer system is mandatory. It can reduce the risk of basement flooding and releasing polluted rainwater into our local waterways.

Preventative Maintenance
The City regularly inspects, cleans and maintains the sewer system to ensure it is in good working order.

The Toronto region’s housing market moved back into seller’s territory in September with new listings declining and home sales continuing at a rapid pace.

Resale listings had been on the upswing for four consecutive months, but fell by nearly 16 percent overall in September. This caused the important market barometer — the sales-to-new-listings ratio — to reach 65.8 percent in the region, indicating the reemergence of a seller’s market. In August, the Toronto housing market had been in ‘balanced’ territory, with a sales-to-new-listings ratio of 52.6 percent.

As Diana Petramala and Victoria Colantonio, researchers at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research (CUR), pointed out, the increase to the ratio means sellers now hold more of the bargaining power in the Toronto region’s market.

“As such, the MLS average sales price [in the GTA] was up 14 percent year-over-year. The price of all types of housing rose at this rate, with the exception of condos,” they wrote in a research brief published last week.

The researchers were alluding to the fact that the overall shift to seller’s market conditions was driven primarily by skyrocketing demand for detached homes and other ground-related property types brought on by the pandemic. Condos are the one segment where buyers likely still hold the upper hand, especially in the City of Toronto and its downtown core.

Active listings for condos in the City of Toronto reached a record high in September, with enough listings currently available to satisfy three and a half months worth of buyer demand, Petramala and Colantonio wrote.

This helps explain how the Toronto region’s suburban areas saw a relatively modest 21 percent increase in new listings in September, while the City of Toronto, where condos figure more heavily into the market composition, saw a 50 percent increase.

“[T]he condo market has lost favour among homebuyers. While prices are still rising in the condo market, they could change direction if listings continue to rise as they have been in the last seven months,” the CUR researchers wrote.

Some have speculated that investor-owners attempting to offload their former Airbnb units or long-term rentals on the resale market are behind the new condo listings surge, but Capital Economics’ Stephen Brown said in commentary published last week that other factors are likely at play.

“[W]e suspect the far bigger factor is that there has been a huge shift in demand among owner-occupiers. Specifically, due to health concerns and increased working from home, many people are trying to sell apartments and purchase more spacious single-family homes,” wrote Brown.

Petramala and Colantonio expressed a similar view, writing that low mortgage rates and Millennials are driving demand for ground-related housing outside of the city-proper.

Last week was the Vancouver Real Estate Forum. Benjamin Tal (chief economist at CIBC) opened things up, as he usually does, and he was pretty candid about what might be coming this winter. Here is an excerpt from a recent Globe and Mail article summarizing the event:

“It’s reasonable to assume that the next six months will not be very pretty,” said Mr. Tal. “The honeymoon of the summer is basically over. Now we enter the winter months, and I think the next few months will be much more difficult. We will have a situation where we will clearly see a second wave, and it’s already starting. This second wave will overlap with the flu season, so everybody will be very confused. The fear factor will rise, and that’s something we have to take into account when we look at the trajectory of the economy.”

Indeed, today kind of feels like the official start of the second wave. Here in Toronto, indoor dining, gyms, and a bunch of other things were just shut down for the next 28 days.

But I think the more important takeaway from the article is this one here: the fundamentals around Canadian real estate remain incredibly strong. Another excerpt:

“Let’s visit the market in 2023: I suggest the market will show the same trend we have seen in as 2019. This is a pause, but the fundamentals of the real estate market in Canada are so strong that the demand factor will continue to be there and supply will be limited. I suggest that after a two- to three-year period of some sort of softness, despite the V-shaped recovery that we are seeing, I see continuation of the trend.”

As I’ve said before on the blog, it’s easy to get caught up in shorter-term and ephemeral headlines. But if one can look through some of that to the other side of this health crisis, I think we would all be in a position to make better decisions.

As a general rule, I don’t like making long-term real estate decisions based on what is expected to take place in the next 6 months.

Google continues to expand its footprint on Canadian soil with the expansion of three massive new offices, two of which will be in Ontario and a third in Quebec.

Our fine city will be home to one of the province’s new spaces, setting up shop on King Street East, while the other two offices will open in Waterloo and Montreal.

This comes nineteen years after Google opened the doors to its first office in Toronto, which only had one salesperson at the time. Today, the tech giant employs over 1,500 people across its current Canadian offices, including engineers, sales leaders, and AI researchers.

When the three new offices are finished being built in 2022, Google says its Canadian offices will accommodate up to 5,000 employees.

The new Toronto digs will be located at 65 King East, occupying 400,000-sq.ft of office space across 18 floors in the city’s newest, “next-generation” office development.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that 100% of the office floors of 65 King East are now leased to Google: one of the most prominent, influential and well-recognized companies in the world,” said Dean Cutting, a partner of Carttera, a Canadian real estate investment fund manager and developer.

“Our vision for 65 King East has always been to combine innovative office architecture and an employee-centric workplace design with a dynamic, forward-thinking organization. Google truly recognizes how 65 King East promotes sustainability, employee wellness, collaboration, productivity and health,” said Cutting.

“The fact that Google made a long-term commitment to our project is a testament that we are leading the future of innovative office design. We look forward to a long-term collaborative relationship with Google for many years to come.”

With proximity to the TTC and Union Station, the King East office building will also feature over 18,000-sq.ft of outdoor terraces, 196 bike stalls, and 10,675-sq.ft of retail space, while also incorporating smart building technologies and sustainability. With Wired Score Gold already accomplished, 65 King East has been designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, according to Carterra.

September was another banner month for the Toronto region’s housing market and no property type was hotter than detached homes in the suburban areas surrounding the city.

Of the 30 suburban regions tracked by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, 10 saw detached home prices climb by over 20 percent last month compared to September 2019.

Scugog, Adjala-Tosorontio, Uxbridge, Bradford-West Gwillimbury and Clarington made up the top five Toronto region suburbs that saw the largest percentage increases in their detached home segments.

At the top of the list, the average detached home in Scugog, a township northeast of Toronto, skyrocketed 37.2 percent to $870,078 in September. Detached homes in Adjala-Tosorontio also saw a 30.5 percent price increase from the previous year, rising to $895,480. The suburbs that rounded out the top five all recorded price increases in the 25 percent range over September 2019.

The other suburbs that saw 20-percent-plus price increases for detached homes were Georgina, Innisfil, Milton, Whitchurch-Stouffville and Whitby.

“Low mortgage rates, in combination with Millennial demand, is driving demand for ground-related housing. As homebuyers search for affordable ground-related housing, they are looking beyond the 416 boundaries,” wrote Diana Petramala and Victoria Colantonio, researchers at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research (CUR).

In a recent research note titled “September TRREB data show 905 region leaving the 416 area in the dust,” Petramala and Colantonio wrote that the strength seen in last month’s sales and price figures went beyond pent-up demand accumulated through the March to May period.

The CUR researchers pointed out that new listings were actually rising faster in the 416, or City of Toronto, despite sales activity being more concentrated in the suburban 905 areas. But with the pace of sales more than offsetting the weakness in the city’s core condo market, the overall regional market was firmly in seller’s territory, with home seller’s holding more bargaining power, Petramala and Colantonio said.

This means there’s insufficient supply in the form of new and active listings to meet buyer demand, pushing home prices higher in suburban areas that are now more coveted than ever.

Here’s some data from the Pew Research Center looking at the percentage of young people (18- to 29-year olds) in the US that live with at least one parent. It it based on an analysis of monthly Census Bureau data and is obviously interesting/relevant given that this pandemic seems to have precipitated a number of people moving back home. As of July of this year, 52% of young adults were thought to be living with at least one parent, which is up from 47% back in February.

At first I was surprised to see these numbers as high as they are. But it’s really the 18-24 age bracket that is driving this number up, which makes sense given that a chunk of this demographic is probably in school, not working, and now unable to do much on a campus. Among 25- to 29-year olds, the range is significantly lower, with just over a quarter (26% -> 28%) living with their parent(s).

What I’m curious about now, after seeing this chart, is what is driving some of these regional, ethnic, and gender differences? Why are young midwesterners seemingly less likely to live with a parent compared to those in the northeast? Is it cultural? Economic? Or something else? And is the above an indication that maybe women are more independent than men?

Home sales in major markets across the country delivered more impressive increases in September as activity continued to rebound from the lows seen in April and May.

Market data published over the last week by local real estate boards saw trends first observed in the early summer remain fairly uniform across the country, especially the ongoing divergence of low-rise home sales and prices and activity seen in the condo segment.

Commenting on the latest set of data to emerge from Canada’s major housing markets in the pandemic era, RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue noted that demand for single-detached and other low-rise homes appeared “universally stronger” when compared to condos.

“The pandemic is altering the housing needs of many current owners, which simultaneously shifts demand from condo apartments to single-detached homes and other low-rise categories, and boosts the supply of smaller condos in core urban areas. These trends have put single-family home prices on accelerating trajectories,” Hogue wrote.

Average condo prices have remained on a much less impressive upward trajectory during the course of the pandemic thus far, but Hogue doesn’t believe this will last. With buyers looking elsewhere and new listings steadily rising, the economist said that condo prices will lose ground in 2021 in some of the country’s major urban markets.

Zeroing in on Toronto, Hogue pointed to September’s 90 percent year-over-year increase in new condo listings as a sign that demand-supply conditions were softening for the segment. Meantime, the Toronto region’s MLS Home Price Index hit a three-year high growth rate of 11.6 percent over September 2019’s reading, with the “heat,” as Hogue put it, concentrated in the market’s low-rise segments.

Detached home prices also accelerated in Vancouver, up 7.8 percent in September on an annual basis compared to the 6.9 percent increase recorded in August. Home sales increased 77 percent over the previous year, while new listings rose 18 percent.

The divergence of supply and demand in the detached and condo segments was not as pronounced as what was observed in Toronto, but Hogue believes it will still impact prices for both housing types. New condo listings rose faster than sales, with the former recording a 44 percent increase over the previous year and the latter logging a 37 percent rise. This meant condo prices rose a calmer 4.5 percent annually.

“We expect prices to heat up even more in [the detached home] segment in the near term. We expect more plentiful inventories will do the opposite for condo prices,” Hogue wrote.

The Toronto real estate market continued its brisk pace in September setting a new record for the number of sales for the month at 11,083, according to the latest market statistics from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB).

Although 2019 was a good year for Toronto real estate, and despite a major slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all losses appear to have been recouped as the first nine months of 2020 are now up approximately one per cent when compared to the same period in 2019.

“Improving economic conditions and extremely low borrowing costs sustained record-level sales in September, as we continued to account for the substantial amount of pent-up demand that resulted from the spring downturn,” said Lisa Patel, president of TRREB. “Further improvements in the economy, including job growth, would support strong home sales moving forward. However, it will be important to monitor the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, the related government policy response, and the impact on jobs and consumer confidence.”

Market activity in September also resulted in considerable price appreciation especially in the low-rise sector of the market with average selling price for all home types up 14 per cent from last September. Condo prices continued to grow, but at a slower pace.

Other important indicators show that active listings continue to rise and now sit at more than 18,000 throughout the region, up from 16,662 in August. Month-to-month average price of detached and semi-detached homes dropped from August to September, while prices for townhomes and condos increased.

“On a GTA-wide basis, market conditions tightened in September relative to last year, with sales increasing at a faster pace than new listings,” said Jason Mercer, TRREB’s chief market analyst. “With competition between buyers increasing noticeably, double-digit year-over-year price growth was commonplace throughout the region in September, resulting in the overall average selling price reaching a new record.”

Toronto home prices increases were eclipsed by other regions almost across the entire board with Halton and Durham regions showing the highest rate of price growth. The average price growth in the entire 905 region was 16.9 per cent while the city of Toronto was under 10 per cent.

Summer may have drawn to a close but the Toronto real estate market remained hot well into the start of the new season, with September being a record-breaking month for home sales in Canada’s largest city.

According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), it was the best September on record for home sales in the Toronto-area, with 42.3% more sales closing last month than in September of last year.

Important to note, even amid a global pandemic that saw the economy come to a near halt and COVID-19 lockdowns prevented home showings, sales through the first nine months of 2020 still managed to be up by 1% compared to the same period in 2019.

TRREB says 11,083 existing homes were sold in the Toronto-area in September, at an average price of $960,772 — up by 14% year-over-year.

TRREB President, Lisa Patel, says improved economic conditions and “extremely” low borrowing costs helped sustain September’s record-breaking levels, as did built-up demand left over from the disrupted spring season.

“Further improvements in the economy, including job growth, would support strong home sales moving forward. However, it will be important to monitor the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, the related government policy response, and the impact on jobs and consumer confidence,” said Ms. Patel.

Year-over-year sales growth in September continued to be driven by ground-oriented market segments, including detached and semi-detached houses and townhouses. Annual growth rates were also higher for sales reported in the GTA regions surrounding the City of Toronto.

Here in Toronto, the number of new listings (8,689) and the number of sales (3,555) at the end of September were both up on a year-over-year basis. While new listings were up strongly for all home types, growth in sales of new condominium apartments (1,549) outstripped growth in the city’s other market segments.

But it’s not just sales and listings that soared in September, as the average selling price of all home categories in the 416 — low-rise market segments and condos included — rose last month to $1,022,051, up $9,545 from August’s average.

The September numbers also showed that those looking to enter the housing market are turning to buy more ground-level homes, as detached houses in Toronto sold for $1,487,122 on average, a 9.4% increase compared to last September. What’s more, the 1,161 detached house transactions in Toronto last month represented a 28.1% year-over-year increase, while the 421 semi-detached home sales showed a 48.8% increase from last September.

While condo sales rose 7% year-over-year in Toronto in September, the 905 regions saw the biggest jump in condo transactions with a 32.1% increase. Condo prices also rose more notably in the 905-area, up 8% to $537,354 compared to 7.7% and $686,191 in Toronto.

“On a GTA-wide basis, market conditions tightened in September relative to last year, with sales increasing at a faster pace than new listings,” said Jason Mercer, TRREB’s Chief Market Analyst. “With competition between buyers increasing noticeably, double-digit year-over-year price growth was commonplace throughout the region in September, resulting in the overall average selling price reaching a new record.”

TRREB CEO John DiMichele says the housing market recovery experienced throughout the summer benefitted the broader economy as well.

“Home sales reported through TRREB’s MLS System result in billions of dollars in spin-off expenditures, support for tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in taxes paid to all levels of government. The demand for housing and the related economic impacts will continue in the post-COVID period as population growth resumes. Policymakers will need to continue their efforts to bring more housing supply on line to meet this longer-term demand,” added DiMichele.

Toronto’s housing market continued on a tear in September, breaking the record for homes sold in the month and exceeding 11,000 total transactions for the second time in three months.

The 11,083 homes that changed hands in the region last month also meant that September was the third consecutive month that the Toronto market broke a sales volume record since the pandemic recovery began.

The sales total was up 42.3 percent over the previous year and the performance was enough to push 2020’s home sales to date past the same nine-month period in 2019. According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), which released the data today, sales through the first nine months of 2020 were up one percent compared to the previous year.

It’s a headline figure that surely would have surprised many watching the market in April and May, when sales were down 67 percent and 53.7 percent on an annual basis, respectively.

Despite the swift market recovery, TRREB President Lisa Patel was careful not to provide an overly optimistic outlook for the remainder of the year as the pandemic wears on and cases of COVID-19 rise in the region.

“Improving economic conditions and extremely low borrowing costs sustained record-level sales in September, as we continued to account for the substantial amount of pent-up demand that resulted from the spring downturn,” said Patel.

“Further improvements in the economy, including job growth, would support strong home sales moving forward. However, it will be important to monitor the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, the related government policy response, and the impact on jobs and consumer confidence,” she continued.

As has been the case since the market recovery began, the detached, semi-detached and townhome segments were the primary drivers of annual sales growth. While the condo segment has seen solid year-over-year growth, the 14.6 percent annual increase lags far behind the 54.7 percent increase seen in the GTA detached home segment.

On the pricing front, the MLS index price for the Toronto region was up 11.6 percent over September 2019. The average sale price across all property types was $960,772, up 14 percent over the previous year and a new record for the region. Like sales volume, it was the low-rise segment that was responsible for the majority of the price growth momentum.

“On a GTA-wide basis, market conditions tightened in September relative to last year, with sales increasing at a faster pace than new listings,” said TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer.

“With competition between buyers increasing noticeably, double-digit year-over-year price growth was commonplace throughout the region in September, resulting in the overall average selling price reaching a new record,” he added.

Fact: living in Toronto is expensive. Exactly how expensive depends on where you live in the city and what you live in — obviously. But new data from shows just how much prices for apartments and single-family homes have fluctuated over the past five years and it’s safe to say, prices have definitely gone up.

In a new report, looked at whether home prices have grown or contracted in 15 Canadian markets compared to 5 years ago by reviewing benchmark prices for apartments and single-family houses with data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) from August 2020 and August 2015.

In analysis, benchmark apartment prices rose over 50% in 7 of 15 markets over the past 5 years — the majority of which were in Southern Ontario. However, Fraser Valley, BC saw the highest 5-year increase overall, with prices rising 104%. What’s more, 7 out of 15 markets included in the analysis also noted a 50% or higher increase in the benchmark price for single-family houses, with the Niagara Region leading the pack.

On a local level, prices in Toronto have seen substantial increases, with apartment prices rising 78%, bringing the average price in 2020 to $592,900. Prices for single-family homes in the area rose by 51% to reach an average of $999,200.

Across the region, Niagara led price growth in the area for apartments, with the benchmark price growing 87% to $354,400. This was followed by Toronto, then Hamilton-Burlington, where the price rose 74% to $471,100, and finally Guelph, where there was a 73% increase in the benchmark apartment price bringing the 2020 average to $379,000.

As for single-family homes in the analysis, the Niagara Region experienced the highest growth — the price almost doubled — with an impressive 95% increase in 5 years to reach $490,500 in 2020. This was followed by Hamilton-Burlington with a 71% increase, Guelph with 63%, Fraser Valley with 62%, Ottawa with 53%, and Victoria with 50%.

Furthermore, the analysis revealed that Prairie markets (Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg) are some of the few regions where the benchmark apartment and single-family house is more affordable today than it was 5 years ago.

analysis follows national home sales and listings continuing to climb in August, as some of the pressure from pent-up demand was released this summer when pandemic restrictions eased. In turn, buyers continued returning to the market with refocused housing priorities — with a growing number beginning to look to suburban and rural markets in search of more space relative to what’s available in denser urban cities.

However, despite the surge in demand, the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) recently reiterated their forecast that home prices are likely to dip by as much as 18% in the coming months — citing pandemic-induced unemployment and slower in-bound migration weighing on demand, particularly in metropolitan cities like Toronto and Vancouver. In turn, RE/MAX called CMHC’s prediction “fear-mongering.”

If one thing’s for certain, the Toronto luxury real estate market has remained resilient in the face of the global pandemic.

And while Ontario braces itself for the already-in-motion second wave of the novel coronavirus, according to Royal LePage, there are currently interesting buying opportunities in the Toronto and Greater Toronto Area (GTA) luxury condo market, as buyers seek larger homes to live and work in the pandemic.

This week, Royal LePage released its Luxury Property Report, which includes insights regarding luxury properties — which are defined as having a value above three times the median price of a house or condominium in its region — specifically for the Toronto and GTA region.

According to the report, from March 15 to September 9, the price of a luxury condo in Toronto dipped by 1.6% year-over-year to $1,870,000, while in the GTA, the price fell by 3.6% year-over-year to $1,830,000.

Luxury houses in the city, on the other hand, saw gains of 5.4% to a median price of $3,187,500. In the GTA, luxury house prices increased by 5.9% to $ 3,177,500.

Cailey Heaps, managing director and sales representative, Royal LePage Real Estate Services, says demand for luxury properties in Toronto has been driven by low inventory, low-interest rates, and a “renewed focus on lifestyle to accommodate for our new normal.”

Heaps added that buyers seeking luxury property are focused on lifestyle when looking for their perfect home.

“With travel off the table for the near future and many working from home, features such as a home office, outdoor space, a pool and walkability are becoming increasingly important in their search criteria,” said Heaps.

“Appropriately priced homes in the established Central Toronto neighbourhoods such as Rosedale, Leaside, and Lawrence Park often sell in a matter of days. Multiple offer situations still occur but to a lesser degree than in the pre-COVID landscape, giving buyers an opportunity to purchase in a slightly less competitive market.”

While the luxury condominium market has faced some challenges over the recent months, Heaps says the new rules with respect to short-term rentals, higher inventory, and the increased risk that comes with communal spaces or common areas have meant that condos did not perform as well as the freehold market. However, she says buyers will find more selection compared to the inventory of luxury houses.

Heaps noted that while all luxury buyer demographics are still active, boomers are quieter this year than previous years. However, many cautious boomers selling their luxury home have the opportunity to stay at their cottage or a secondary property as an additional option during the pandemic.

Looking towards the remainder of the year, Heaps noted that current demand is slowing, which is typical of fourth-quarter activity.

On a national level, the median price of a luxury house increased 1% year-over-year to $2,500,000, while the median price of a luxury condominium remained constant at $1,250,000.

Royal LePage says recent steep increases in overall Canadian home prices have pushed more properties over the national lower price threshold, increasing the overall quantity of Canadian homes defined as luxury properties.

In light of the past six months of COVID-19-triggered uncertainty, home sales in Canada have been shockingly brisk as a combination of FOMO and low interest rates keep drawing buyers into the market. The feeding frenzy won’t last – plenty of organizations are expecting a major correction in the coming months – but waiting until it passes may not be the best course of action according to one mortgage insider.

In his recent dealings with clients seeking preapprovals, Alex Leduc, who does double duty as both Mortguage’s principal broker and its CEO, came to notice what could be a chilling trend for Canadians with variable incomes. Faced with earning a significantly lower income in 2020 because of pandemic-related busines disruption, this particular cohort of prospective buyers – hourly wage earners, the self-employed, anyone whose income depends heavily on bonuses or commissions – could see their buying power plummet – until 2023.

“It’s not necessarily just homebuyers,” Leduc says. “It would be anybody who is buying, or even potentially switching mortgages, who has a variable form of income that would be effected.”

When lenders evaluate borrowers with variable incomes, Leduc explains, they look at notices of assessment, T4s, and T1s for the two most recent years and calculate the average between them. The lesser of the two-year average and the most current year’s income becomes a person’s qualifying income. Anyone buying in 2020 will use 2018 and 2019’s records – no problem there – but buyers who wait until 2021 will be evaluated using 2020 income levels. For a significant portion of the population that experienced a disruption in income this year, that means less buying power.

“As of now, lenders are not going to use your 2020 NOA or T4 because you don’t have it yet. But once you have it, you have to use it,” Leduc says.

In a recent blog post, Leduc provided an example that highlights the potential problem: A buyer earned $96,000 in 2018 and 2019, meaning her two-year average qualifying income this year is also $96,000. But if her 2020 income falls to $80,000, much lower than the two-year 2019-20 average of $88,000, that becomes her qualifying income for 2021. Leduc calculates that this borrower would see a 16 percent reduction, equivalent to around $74,000, in purchasing power.

Because lenders require two years’ worth of records, the problem will persist until borrowers get their hands on 2022’s financial docs. In 2022, borrowers will still be hampered by their 2020 earnings. It won’t be until 2023, when 2021’s and 2022’s earnings are taken into consideration, when these buyers might see their buying power return to today’s levels.

“It really does have a significant impact,” Leduc says.

With 2020 being the nightmare it is, some may wonder if lenders will adjust their metrics and attribute any loss in income to the pandemic rather than to borrowers themselves. Leduc doesn’t currently see much of an appetite for such changes among lenders.

“Some lenders are pretty cut-throat about it. A lot of them don’t sway from policy,” he says. “No one’s come out and said, ‘We’re going to make policy changes or exceptions to this.’ It’s really business as usual.”

He does, however, see a scenario where, if an abundance of Canadians see their buying power evaporate next year, lenders feel pressured to change their income calculations. If that happens, he says, they could decide, when looking at 2019-20 or 2020-21 earnings, to use whichever is higher to determine qualifying income. They could also potentially look at the past three years and use the two highest incomes to calculate an average.

Leduc insists that he’s not trying to generate panic. Plenty of Canadians with variable earnings will still be able to qualify next year and the year after. That’s why it’s important for them to sit down with their mortgage brokers now and start running a few possible scenarios. Leduc says he is working with his clients to ensure they understand the situation and can set reasonable expectations.

With a potential price correction on the way, buyers may feel safe waiting, thinking that even if their income for 2020 falls, a mini housing crash may help compensate for a shortfall in qualifying income.

That’s not a strategy Leduc encourages. Pointing to the example of the buyer whose purchasing power fell 16 percent, he says, “Even if we had price decreases, I don’t think it would be to the extent of 16 percent within a year. That would be pretty aggressive, I think.”

The last few weeks of summer was an “unusually” busy time for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) new home market, as over 4,500 new homes were sold, according to the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

On Monday, BILD announced that a total of 4,539 new homes sold last month, up 217% from August of last year and 119% above the 10-year average, according to Altus Group, BILD’s official source for new home market intelligence. This also marked the highest number of new home sales for August since Altus Group started tracking in 2000.

During the same time, sales of single-family homes, which include detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses (excluding stacked townhouses), with 1,930 units sold, were up 355% from last August and 139% above the 10-year average.

What’s more, condominium apartments, including units in low, medium and high-rise buildings, stacked townhouses and loft units, accounted for 2,609 new home sales, were up 159% from August 2019 and 106% above the 10-year average.

When breaking it down by municipality, Toronto had the highest number of new condominium apartment sales, with 1,423 transactions in August. Halton followed behind with 483, while York had 365 sales, York had 365, and Durham had 163.

“With the record sales activity and unusual number of project launches we saw in August, it is becoming clear that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed consumers’ housing purchase decisions as well as builders’ project openings,” said Ryan Wyse, Altus Group’s Manager, Analytics, Data Solutions.

“After the normally busy spring months were severely affected by the pandemic and related government-imposed restrictions, we saw much stronger activity than normal during the summer.”

The total number of new homes remaining in inventory in August was 14,331 units, which includes units in preconstruction projects, in projects currently under construction, and in completed buildings.

What’s more, BILD says while the benchmark price for both single-family homes and condominium apartments dipped slightly in August compared to the previous month, it was still up year-over-year. The benchmark price for new condo apartments in August was $972,859, up 15.7% over the last 12 months, while the benchmark price for new single-family homes was $1,169,823, up 8% over the last 12 months.

David Wilkes, BILD President and CEO says while the GTA housing market had a “strong” summer, with the resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the coming months are full of uncertainty. “What is certain is that residential and non-residential construction has played a key role in kick-starting the economy in our region and in Canada, and will continue to do so.”

Wilkes added that BILD is working with all levels of government to remove barriers to building and economic recovery.

Population growth — so, immigration — is a crucial demand driver for the real estate industry, and for the growth of the overall Canadian economy. Last year, Canadian immigration averaged about 28,400 people per month, according to a recent equity research report (on the apartment sector) by TD Bank. The total number for 2019 was 341,175 people.

Not surprisingly, this number fell off in March of this year with the closing of our borders. In March, immigration declined to 18,560 per month and bottomed out in April with only 4,135 immigrants being admitted to the country. This has no doubt been a factor in some of the rent softening that we have seen in the multi-family space.

 

 

While it’s unlikely that Canada will meet its 2020 target of 320,000 to 370,000 new immigrants, it’s important to note that we have seen a fairly swift recovery (see above). In June of this year, the number rebounded to 19,175 new immigrants. And I’m certain that most of this cohort still went straight toward our biggest cities.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Canada’s three-year goal (2020-2022) remains 1 million new immigrants. TD is of the opinion that this target is still attainable, as this “short-term immigration headwind” is likely to flip into a tailwind once our borders become more porous and we get to the other side of this pandemic.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that you could bucket this immigration blip into (1) short-term dislocation. It is not a (3) long-term structural change. Canada remains one of the greatest countries in the world. We will continue to attract smart and ambitious people from all around the world, and most will want to settle in our urban centers.

All of this, of course, will be good for the real estate industry and will be vital to the strength of the Canadian economy as a whole.

Chart: TD Securities

Hotter than the weather in August!!!

Here’s a glimpse of Toronto’s record breaking market.

Whether they take place during a pandemic-fuelled recession or during a period of sustained economic expansion, record-shattering home sales in Canada always seem to be accompanied by the same phenomenon: talk of the country’s “inevitable” housing crash.

Questioning the logic of homebuyers who engage in wild bidding wars in the midst of historic job losses is hardly unreasonable, but saying that behaviour will trigger a catastrophic fall in home prices, like the 18 percent decline projected as a potential outcome by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in May, is a train of thought Nick Kyprianou, president of RiverRock Mortgage Investment Corporation, is encouraging Canadians to abandon.

Talk of a crash in home prices has been persistent since CMHC first floated its dire 18 percent figure, even though neither CMHC nor any other housing authority, lender or brokerage has provided any evidence or metrics that tie current market activity or the economic slide caused by COVID-19 to plummeting home prices. And yet, the spectre of an 18 percent decline persists, hanging over the market like the reaper’s scythe, just waiting to harvest the souls and credit ratings of unfortunate Canadians.

Kyprianou is another market-watcher who can’t fathom the CMHC’s projection. His theory is that, in determining its absolute, institution-destroying, worst-case scenario as part of its annual report to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, CMHC may have concluded that its own breaking point would come if home prices shrank by 18 percent.

“I think [CMHC CEO Evan Siddall] just spouted off the worst-case scenario,” Kyprianou says. “Well, the chance of the worst-case scenario is so remote, everything has to line-up perfectly – multiple times – for it to happen.”

Using five key metrics to compare the current economic situation to that which proceeded the last true housing crash in Ontario (1989-1995), Kyprianou says today’s consumers can remain confident that home values will largely maintain their strength, even as COVID-19 continues to cast its shadow over the Canadian economy.

1. Interest rates
“Interest rates are your biggest factor,” Kyprianou says “If interest rates keep going up, that’s the biggest burden on housing because your dollar just doesn’t go as far.”

Interest rates almost doubled during Ontario’s last crash, rising from from eight to fifteen percent, putting pressure not only on buyers but the province’s builders as well. That is simply not going to happen this time around. The Bank of Canada estimated that it may not raise its key interest rate target before 2022.

2. Unemployment
There is no question that Canada’s employment situation is a worry. Unemployment was 10.2 percent in August 2020, almost double the rate seen in August 2019. But Kyprianou says there’s more to the story than just the headline.

In the early 1990s, when unemployment was hovering around 11 percent, most of the jobs being lost belonged to high earners – middle management, skilled tradespeople, factory workers – who saw their employers close up shop and move their operations to countries like Mexico during the first rocky years of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“When these jobs are evaporating and the bulk of the unemployed are the higher income earners, that is going to have an effect on housing,” Kyprianou says, adding that most of the labour disruption caused by COVID-19 has been proven to involve low-wage earners who are predominantly renters, not prospective home buyers.

“That’s a big dynamic change,” he says. “You just can’t look at what the unemployment number is. You have to drill down through it and look at who is unemployed.”

3. Equity
Much of the concern expressed by CMHC’s Siddall over Canadian debt levels and high-ratio mortgages is the risk of borrowers being dragged underwater if falling home prices leave them in a negative equity position. Fair enough. But Kyprianou, quoting statistics provided by Canadian Mortgage Professionals, says the vast majority of Canadians have far more than five percent equity in their homes.

In its most recent Annual State of the Residential Mortgage Market in Canada report, CMP found that 88 percent of Canadian homeowners have equity ratios of 25 percent or higher. Among the 6 million homeowners with mortgages, 81 percent have equity ratios of 25 percent or more.

Kyprianou says there is also the concept of emotional equity to consider. Defaulting on a mortgage is seen as an embarrassing failure most homeowners will do all they can to avoid. He saw many of them get resourceful during the last recession – taking on boarders, getting a second job, asking their families for assistance – as a means of making their monthly mortgage payments. He expects the same level of effort from today’s borrowers.

“You gotta make it work,” he says.

4. Taxes
In the early 90s, sky-high personal and corporate tax rates were deemed responsible for driving companies and individual professionals into the waiting arms of the United States. The resulting brain drain eventually led to lower tax rates in Canada, but the damage was done.

With unemployment high and business confidence muted, it is highly unlikely that taxes will see any kind of significant spike over the near-term. Canadians are likely to be up in arms when their CERB payments are taken into account come tax time next year, and the billions in government aid used to prop up the economy for six months will eventually need to be recouped, but it’s safe to say the feds won’t threaten the nation’s economic recovery – or their polling numbers – by implementing any significant new taxes.

5. Immigration
In the 1989-1995 downturn, the problem wasn’t a lack of new Canadians, it was an inability to keep them. The brain drain days are over, but by limiting international immigration, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the works. With just over 100,000 permanent residents being welcomed into the country in the first six-months of 2020, Canada has little chance of hitting its immigration target of 341,000 for the year.

Immigration has been a significant driver of all things good in Canada over the past several years – population growth, innovation, economic expansion, home sales – but Kyprianou doesn’t see a fall in immigration numbers having too negative an impact on home prices, largely because immigrants don’t tend to buy properties for the first two years after arriving in Canada.

“If the pandemic affects immigration for three years, it’s not going to be a problem,” he says. “If it’s just a year, year-and-a-half, it’s not going to be a problem.”

Canada’s reputation for being a stable presence in a chaotic world has also been strengthened by the country’s handling of the pandemic (and the humiliating failure of our neighbours to the south to do the same). Once recovered from COVID-19, the country should still offer the same opportunity for new arrivals to find not only a safe environment to raise their families, but high-paying jobs in growing industries like tech and financial services.

The only sub-market where Kyprianou sees prices softening is high-rise condos. But with so many investors having purchased rapidly appreciating pre-construction properties over the past five years, even those who may be forced to sell, like unlucky Airbnb operators, are unlikely to face a loss. If the average price per square foot in Toronto, for example, falls from its current level of approximately $1,100 to $900, anyone who purchased at $500 per square foot in 2015 will still be making a hefty profit.

“It’s not like there’s going to be a bloodbath,” Kyprianou says. “They just don’t make as much money if they have to sell.”

The Canadian real estate market is recovering much faster than anyone predicted. The average price of a Canadian resale home in June was $539,000, up from 6.5% the year before, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Home sales in June rebounded by a further 63% compared to May, which is also 150% above where they were in April when the housing market went into a deep freeze because of the coronavirus pandemic.

These numbers are heavily influenced by sales in Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), two of Canada’s most active and expensive housing markets. July was a record-breaking month for Toronto real estate sales, as more than 11,000 homes changed hands. The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board says average home prices were also up 16.9% with low-rise homes, with properties outside the downtown core being most popular.

At the start of the pandemic, economists expected the recovery of the housing market to take about 18 months, but remarkably, within three months, it went from a complete shutdown to normal volumes again.

“The supply and demand imbalance remains and is driving prices higher,” said Will Granleese, director at Antrim Investments. “There is still a shortage of supply of real estate in major cities. The federal government is pursuing its high immigration policy, with 350,000 to 400,000 new immigrants a year and all those people are still coming. As a result, we are seeing a shortage of space.”

Granleese believes this quick recovery is a temporary supply and demand shock, fueled by record-low interest rates. While new listings are increasing as more time passes, demand never waned throughout the pandemic creating a buildup that pushed prices upward. As we move into the fall and the economy continues to reopen, there are several factors that could contribute to a leveling out in pricing.

“There will be more houses for sale, combined with the fact that many of the government assistance programs like CERB and bank deferral programs are ending. There will be people that will simply need to sell. The rapid rise right now is temporary,” he said.

Rental trends
What has been slightly less surprising is the decline in rental rates seen across cities like Toronto and Vancouver. In both cities, rents hit another record month of declines with Toronto one and two-bedroom prices down 8.3% and 5.3%, respectively compared to July last year, according to PadMapper. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s one-bedroom rent fell 5.9% and two-bedroom rent dropped 10.3% year-over-year. As work and leisure travel completely halted due to the pandemic, and a lot of short-term rental properties were left sitting empty, rental supply began to flood the market. Granleese says once universities reopen, some of that demand will return, but in the meantime, if some of these condos can’t be rented, there may be some buying opportunity heading into 2021.

“Signs are pointing toward a slight softening in the condo market,” says Granleese, as realtors are reporting an increased interest in more square footage. “Young families may choose to move out of the urban core, but I think that demand will eventually return for short-term rentals, foreign students, and young people still working in the core. I don’t see people turning the lights off in downtown condos.”

Going forward
Drastic changes are more likely on the commercial side, with retail and office space under a lot of pressure to transform, according to Granleese. Rather than major structural changes, he says residential developers may choose to market properties differently, turning nooks or small closets into home office spaces.

With rates sitting at where they are and concern around instability of the commercial real estate sector, another potential outcome is the residential real estate market becoming more attractive from an investment standpoint. Granleese says the residential market may be viewed as a safe haven.

“Our rates are lower than they’ve been in years,” said Granleese. “When the pandemic hit, there were a lot of lenders that restricted their guidelines and loan to values dropped dramatically. At Antrim Investments, that didn’t happen; we took a more bank-like approach and we were comfortable with the market.”

As for permanent or longer-lasting changes to the housing market, he says it’s just too early to tell.

“What I can say is we’re going to continue to see borrowers do everything they can to make their mortgage payments, and we’re going to continue to see low levels of mortgage default in Canada, because housing has never been more important.”

A series of commercial lots located east of Bayview and Finch avenues could be the future site of a 12-storey W-shaped condo development.

Last week, a Zoning Bylaw Amendment application was submitted to Toronto city planners to construct the angular condominium building at 630-696 Finch Avenue East. The builders behind the project, Tridel and BAZIS, have developed several residential projects across the Greater Toronto Area, including Exhibit Residences, 1 Yorkville and Tridel at The Well.

The 0.95-hectare development site sits on the northern side of Finch Avenue East, equidistant from Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street. The irregularly shaped lot consists of two municipal properties, which are occupied by a one-storey automotive building, surface parking areas and a two-storey shopping centre called Bayview Woods Plaza.

The condo development would house 206 residential suites, plus 9,655 square feet of non-residential gross floor area, 216 bicycle parking spots and 311 parking spaces in a three-level partially underground garage. Designed by Kirkor Architect + Planners, the building would be W-shaped with an angular design that responds to the topographic grade changes across the lot.

“The proposal adapts to this condition by concentrating the majority of the building mass within the centre of the site, while incorporating a series of terraces along its edges so as to provide a transition to the surrounding low-rise neighbourhoods,” explains the planning rationale, authored by Bousfields Inc.

A three-storey podium would support the base of the building structure. Five retail units with access onto Finch Avenue East are proposed for the ground floor and mezzanine levels, along with the residential lobby and garbage areas. Throughout floors two and three, residential units and screened parking areas would be added, while level four would feature indoor amenity rooms that extend onto outdoor amenity terraces, plus additional residential suites.

Floors five to 12 would contain the remainder of the units. In total, 35 one-bedroom, 150 two-bedroom and 21 three-bedroom suites would be included in the development. All units are provided with private balconies or terraces.

In the neighbourhood, sales continue at BT Modern Towns Bayview Village and Concord King’s Landing near Sheppard Avenue East.

Price growth in the Toronto region lost some steam last month compared to July, but there were still plenty of substantial price gains seen across the city’s suburban markets.

According to the latest data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, 10 of the region’s suburban cities and towns saw home price increases of over 20 percent in August compared to the same period in 2019.

Scugog, Essa, Georgina, Brock and Mississauga made up the top five GTA markets with the highest price gains, all seeing year-over-year increases exceed 25 percent, with Scugog coming out on top with a 56.5 percent increase over August 2019.

Scugog’s average sale price in August was $910,848, up from $582,137 a year ago. The township to Toronto’s northeast was noteworthy for its home sales volume too, notching up 44 sales last month compared to just 30 a year prior. A result like this bolsters the argument that pent-up demand from the spring that’s currently elevating sales activity is concentrated in the region’s suburban markets where single-family homes dominate.

Essa, a township south of Barrie, and Georgina, a town in York Region, saw 32.4 percent and 28.7 percent average price increases, respectively. The former recorded an average sale price of $740,629 in August while the latter logged a $710,451 average price.

Brock and Mississauga, rounding out the top five, saw gains of 26 percent and 25.5 percent, respectively. The other five markets to see 20 percent-plus increases were Adjala-Tosorontio, Oakville, Innisfil, Pickering and Halton Hills.

Edgard Navarrete, an economist with Central 1 Credit Union, noted that home price appreciation in the Toronto region slowed somewhat in August from its pace in July as new supply hit the market.

But Diana Petramala and Victoria Colantonio, researchers at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research, said today that the sluggishness was centred on the high-rise market in the City of Toronto. Meantime, suburban “905” markets had their best month for home sales activity since 1996.

Petramala and Colantonio said that Millennials, supported by ultra-low interest rates pushed down further by the pandemic, are taking this opportunity to move out of condos in the city and into ground-related housing in suburban markets.

When the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown hit Ontario, some suggested the GTA’s white-hot housing market was going to take a hit.

Six months into the crisis, house prices in Mississauga and surrounding cities are up year-over-year, with the low-rise market experiencing significant price growth as residents flee from condos in search of larger yards and a little additional space.

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reported 10,775 home sales through its MLS system for August, up more than 40 per cent from 7,682 in the same month a year ago. Sales of detached homes rose 50.6 per cent and semi-detached houses climbed 66.8 per cent, while condo sales growth was slower, at 10.9 per cent.

The average price of a home sold in the region was $951,404, up more than 20 per cent from $792,134 a year ago.

“Between March and June … sellers took their homes off the market. A lot of people were afraid to have strangers walking through their homes,” says Michael Grant, a sales representative at Royal LePage Infinity.

“Around mid-July … all of a sudden it seemed that everyone had the same feeling: ‘Let’s jump into the market’.”

In spite of the record-setting sales in July and August, TRREB said year-to-date sales have not caught up to where they were this time last year, given how significant the drop in sales was during the spring. Only sales of detached homes have surpassed 2019 levels so far this year.

“Inside the city people are selling single-family homes, the low-rise models, the detached, the semi-detached, and they are moving out of the city,” says Charlene Williams, real estate broker at Real Estate Homeward Brokerage.

home sales were up 35 per cent year-over-year in the Region of Peel, with 2,301 homes sold in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.

Sadly for prospective buyers looking for a break, the average sold property price hit $897,391—a 20 per cent increase compared to last August. Since February, the last full month before COVID-19 emergency measures were implemented, the average home price rose 4 per cent.

Peel Region remained a sellers’ market this August.

As for Mississauga in particular, condo owners are having a little more difficulty offloading their units.

the total number of homes sold in Mississauga for August was up 22 per cent from last year, reaching a total of 950, there was a clear divergence in growth between freehold versus condo properties.

detached house sales were up 49 per cent year-over-year and the average price reached an all-time high of $1,307,832—a 23 per cent increase from last August.

Compared to last year, new listings increased 26 per cent to 586 properties but active listings were down 16 per cent, revealing a higher level of demand for this property type.

In contrast, condo apartment sales were down 11 per cent annually while new listings soared 77 per cent. The increased supply combined with reduced demand pushed the Mississauga condo apartment market near the threshold between a balanced market and a buyers’ market.

Despite the decrease in sales, the average condo apartment price increased by 13 per cent to $540,877 in August.

TRREB says the trend is apparent across the GTA, as condos are increasingly hitting the market as people move toward low-rise communities, “with growth in condominium apartment listings well-outstripping condo sales growth,” according to Jason Mercer, TRREB’s chief market analyst.

Board president Lisa Patel attributed part of the market’s overall sales growth in August to “improving economic conditions and “very low borrowing costs,” as mortgage rates remained low. Statistics Canada previously reported that almost 2.2 million Canadians were unemployed in July, nearly twice as many as in February, but unemployment levels were down from record highs.

“It’s mostly investors that are putting the condos on the market because they are not able to get renters. Tenants aren’t able to pay the rent … they are the ones that have lost their jobs,” says Williams.

Going into fall, market watchers are eyeing how mortgage deferral rates and the end of other government income supports will impact the real estate market, according to a separate report on interest rates released by Finder.com on Thursday.

Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at TD Bank, said a Finder.com’s report said that “a partial labour market recovery and ending mortgage deferrals could increase housing supply later this year, potentially putting downward pressure on prices.”

“People want to see what’s going to happen if the deferrals will have an impact on housing prices,” says Grant. “They are interested in holding off but they want that pre-approval, they want to lock-in that (mortgage) rate … They are able to afford more home with lower interest rates.”

Not everyone has a glum outlook: A survey of Remax brokers suggests that the average residential sale price in Canada could increase by 4.6 per cent through the rest of 2020, owing to Canadians looking to flee urban centres in search of more space.

“Predominantly in government, banking, insurance … the clients I’ve worked with just continued to work during the pandemic. There wasn’t any downtime or layoffs, they have just shifted to working from home,” says Grant.

“It’s kind of the haves versus the have-nots. There is not much middle ground in Toronto.”

Since late March, Canada’s real estate industry has seen extreme lows and highs in the span of just a few months.

Now, as the market prepares to enter another typically busy season, it’s difficult to pinpoint what new construction home developers, buyers and investors should be expecting from the fall.

“I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty going into the fall, and I think [residential] developers will be watching to see what’s happening before they necessarily put the foot on the gas pedal,” said Ralph Fox, broker of record and managing partner at Fox Marin Associates.

As the COVID-19 pandemic picked up steam in the late winter and spring months, the housing market and global economy was hurled into rough waters. Homebuyers paused their purchasing plans while many home builders chose to postpone their launches until later in the year.

Despite the turmoil, there have been a handful of pre-construction launch success stories — both Fox and Ben Myers, president and owner of Bullpen Research & Consulting Inc, point to 28 Eastern in Toronto as a case study, which kicked off pre-sales earlier this year.

Myers noted that some developers that watched these pandemic launch successes initially ramped up their advertising, but after consulting with their brokers, are still prepared to pull back at the last minute if their product fails to generate sufficient interest. Overall, Myers said that we could see an average fall performance.

“I still think it’s in flux. Most developers have not launched a COVID project so maybe they’re not used to non-face-to-face and all-virtual, and it may be a little bit new for them,” he explained. “So we’ll see. I think it’s hard to tell, but I don’t think it’s going to be anywhere near the fall that we experienced last year or in 2018.”

While developers may have lost some time due to lockdown-induced delays, Fox and Myers said that new construction pricing isn’t expected to change much. Myers pointed out that investors are likely to be more conservative and price-sensitive with their purchases, while developers can’t be expected to afford to push pricing. Fox said that buyers and investors may see developers roll out other incentives instead, such as more flexible deposit structures.

Home offices, outdoor space and the ability to safely socially distance have been reflected in the purchasing decisions of recent resale buyers, many of whom are now migrating outside of the city. In preconstruction, some of these purchasing trends may carry over — Fox estimated that investors will seek out units with balconies and place higher value on smaller buildings, while Myers sees GTA investors starting to venture outside of downtown Toronto in search of better deals.

“I think it is impacting where investors are going to look,” said Myers. “Maybe they’re going to look for value in other places and maybe they see that price appreciation may be higher in what we would have called B and even C locations in the past.”

While the impacts of the pandemic will reverberate for months to come, Fox explained that investors are trying to project what the world will be like a few years from now when they close on their new construction property.

“I think investors typically think long-term, and I think most of the investors who are looking at making these types of investments are trying to think of what life will be like and what the demand will be like in three, four, five, six years,” said Fox.

“But I do think there does seem to be a consensus in the real estate investment world that this whole COVID situation, as unfortunate as it is, won’t last forever,” he added.

The Toronto region recorded another month of over 10,000 home sales as buyers seeking low-rise properties made their move before the end of summer.

A total of 10,775 properties changed hands last month, up over 40 percent compared to August 2019, according to data released today by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB). The average home selling price also increased substantially relative to a year ago, up 20 percent to $951,404.

“Increased demand for ownership housing has been based on improving economic conditions, in terms of monthly GDP growth and job creation, and the continuation of very low borrowing costs,” said TRREB President Lisa Patel in a media release.

“In addition, fewer households have chosen to go on vacation as a result of COVID-19 and instead have remained in the GTA and been active in the housing market, satisfying pent-up demand from the spring,” she added.

While condo sales recorded a healthy 10.9 percent increase over the previous year, it was single-detached, semi-detached and townhomes that drove the majority of the sales growth recorded in August.

Detached home sales soared by 50.6 percent in the Toronto region, while semis saw a nearly 67 percent sales rise over the previous year. Townhome sales were up 45.8 percent over August 2019.

A similar dynamic played out on the pricing front, with the average sale price for a Toronto region condo rising a relatively modest 9.5 percent to $629,643.

By contrast, all low-rise property types on the regional level saw price growth between 16 percent and 20 percent over the previous year. Drilling down further, it was City of Toronto single-detached homes that saw the largest price increase last month, rising 21.4 percent to $1,505,100.

“Generally speaking, market conditions remained very tight in the GTA resale market in August. Competition between buyers was especially strong for low-rise home types, leading to robust annual rates of price growth,” said TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer.

“However, with growth in condominium apartment listings well-outstripping condo sales growth, condo market conditions were comparatively more balanced, which was reflected in a slower pace of price growth in that segment,” he continued.

Looking ahead, market commentators have cautioned that the high-flying market performance seen this summer will likely cool as pent-up demand held over from the spring fades, government income support programs wind down and the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 infections weighs on homebuyer confidence.

Only five urban markets nationwide saw their condo values reach new heights in July, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

The strongest performer was Ottawa, with its 22% annual increase to a new peak of $369,200. Oakville posted the highest benchmark of the record-breakers at $600,600, despite having the smallest annual growth (10.2%) of these five markets.

Guelph ($375,300), Montreal ($316,100), and Niagara ($361,300) saw their highest-ever condo prices in July, as well.

The national benchmark condo price stood at $477,900 in July, representing 6.37% growth year over year and a slight 0.31% downturn from the peak reached in April 2020.

Traditional powerhouse condo markets such as Toronto and Vancouver experienced noticeable price declines at 1.4% (to $593,500) and 5.38% (to $682,500), respectively.

Condo price trends did not deter Toronto’s housing activity, however: Data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board showed that the Greater Toronto Area had 11,081 sales in July, up by 29.5% annually. New listings also increased by 24.7% during the same time frame.

“Normally we would see sales dip in July relative to June as more households take vacation, especially with children out of school,” said Lisa Patel, president of TRREB. “This year, however, was different with pent-up demand from the COVID-19-related lull in April and May being satisfied in the summer, as economic recovery takes firmer hold, including the Stage 3 re-opening. In addition, fewer people are travelling, which has likely translated into more transactions and listings.”

The summer months are typically a quieter time for Toronto’s new condo market, with project launches concentrated in the spring and fall months.

But when there’s no spring launch season to speak of thanks to a global pandemic, it turns out that you get a very busy July for new projects and units being brought to market.

Nine projects launched sales across the Toronto region, adding 2,539 condo units to the new home market, according to real estate data tracker Altus Group. The number of units launched represents the highest volume observed in the month of July since Altus Group began tracking the data in 2000. The project launch total is a near-record breaking result.

The data firm’s Ryan Wyse wrote in a blog post that the nine condo projects are reporting strong sales as buyers jump back into the market, encouraged by the easing of pandemic-related restrictions.

Although the activity seen in July was promising, Wyse said that year-to-date figures for project launches and condo units added to the market remain down significantly for 2020 compared to a year ago. Strength in July was not quite a perfect substitute for a busy spring market.

“However, with one-third of new July project launches occurring in the final days of the month, August is also expected to experience stronger than usual sales, resulting in a summer sales surge,” wrote Wyse.

A busy fall is also in the cards, according to Wyse, as builders are expected to continue to launch projects through the season to satisfy pent-up demand from homebuyers.

Restrictions were lifted on the province’s new home construction sites by mid-May, but with groundbreakings pushed back and project timelines stretched, Ontario is still set to see an overall decline in housing starts this year.

That’s according to Central 1 Credit Union’s Ontario Regional Economist Edgard Navarrete, who, in a research note published last week, projected that housing starts in the province would fall by one percent in 2020 compared to 2019 levels. This would amount to 68,300 new home units beginning construction across the province in this calendar year.

That isn’t half bad considering the restrictions on home building in place only a few months ago. And, thankfully, that’s about as grim as the picture will get provided a stronger second wave of COVID-19 infections doesn’t force the economy back into “hibernation,” wrote Navarrete.

By 2021, housing starts in the province should begin climbing back up, with the economist predicting an eight percent increase that year, or 73,800 units starting construction. Navarrete said that multi-residential starts (in other words, condos, townhomes and semis) would see a stronger uptick, rising 10.1 percent, compared to single-detached homes which he expects to experience a 2.6 percent increase in starts.

Despite the relatively rosy outlook barring a significant COVID resurgence, there will be challenges for home builders in the coming months.

“[T]he pandemic has changed building sites for the foreseeable future until a vaccine or treatment becomes widely available. To protect the public health, fewer workers are allowed on job sites and this has significantly slowed progress,” wrote Navarrete.

He cited data on longer project completion timelines due to pandemic impacts, noting the average amount of time to complete a housing project has jumped to 19.9 months, up nearly 25 percent compared to reported completion times in 2019.

“Moving forward, with the pandemic-effect fully baked-in time to complete projects will only increase as sites have to be vigilant of following stricter public health measures,” Navarrete wrote.

That said, home builders should be heartened to see demand rising as the gradual economic recovery takes shape through 2021. Navarrete wrote that first-time homebuyers are expected to zero in on multi-residential developments — including townhomes and semi-detached homes — in the periphery of larger markets.

If one thing’s for certain, July was a scorcher in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and no, we’re not just referring to the weather. The new home market also experienced the strongest July for new home sales since 2007, as a total of 3,544 new properties were sold, according to data released by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

According to market intelligence sourced from Altus Group, BILD’s official data partner, new homes sold in July were up 36% from the same time last year and 40% above the 10-year average.

New single-family homes continued to make strong sales gains in the GTA, with 1,553 properties sold last month. This marks a whopping 187% increase in new single-family home sales — including detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses — compared to the same month last year.

Compared to the 10-year-average, new single-family home sales were up 78% last month, marking the highest July since 2009.

f one thing’s for certain, July was a scorcher in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and no, we’re not just referring to the weather. The new home market also experienced the strongest July for new home sales since 2007, as a total of 3,544 new properties were sold, according to data released by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

According to market intelligence sourced from Altus Group, BILD’s official data partner, new homes sold in July were up 36% from the same time last year and 40% above the 10-year average.

New single-family homes continued to make strong sales gains in the GTA, with 1,553 properties sold last month. This marks a whopping 187% increase in new single-family home sales — including detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses — compared to the same month last year.

Compared to the 10-year-average, new single-family home sales were up 78% last month, marking the highest July since 2009.

 

What’s more, the total new home remaining inventory — which includes units in preconstruction projects, in projects currently under construction, and in completed buildings — in July was 13,828 units.

“The strong demand for new homes we saw in July is heartening but not surprising,” said David Wilkes, BILD President & CEO.

“Even as our region makes its way through recovery, it continues to be a very desirable place to live and work. The provincial government, with its Housing Supply Action Plan, has put in place a number of changes to help address our generational housing supply shortage.”

Wilkes says it’s now time for municipalities to work with the industry to “implement these changes for the benefit of the families who want to call GTA home and as a much-needed boost for our economy.”

While Mississauga commuters might be a little disappointed to hear that there are no plans to extend the TTC subway system to Square One, they might be happy to hear that plans to extend the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit project to Pearson Airport in Mississauga are still underway.

On Aug. 19, Ontario Premier Doug Ford appeared in Mississauga to announce that the government is releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to advance tunnelling work on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE).

The ECWE will extend the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, currently under construction, by 9.2 km from the future Mount Dennis Station to Renforth Drive. The province says the extension will create connections between different transit systems throughout the region.

It will provide connections to the UP Express and Kitchener Line GO train service at Mount Dennis, TTC bus services at transit stops in Toronto, and MiWay and GO bus services via the Mississauga Transitway at Renforth Drive.

The Renforth Station, located in Mississauga, is the most eastern terminus of the 18-kilometre Mississauga Transitway, a dedicated bus corridor with 12 stations. The Transitway, which runs east to west, begins at Winston Churchill Boulevard and ends at Renforth Drive.

The province said it’s also still committed to establishing a connection to Pearson International Airport, which is technically located in Mississauga.

The project has a preliminary cost estimate of $4.7 billion and is estimated to support as many as 4,600 jobs annually during the six-year construction period.

The province estimates that the ECWE project will bring 31,000 jobs within a 10-minute walk to a station and attract 37,000 daily boardings by 2041.

“Today marks another step forward in delivering modern underground rapid transit to connect people from across Toronto and Mississauga to one of the country’s largest employment centres,” said Ford in a statement.

“Working with our partners, we will reduce travel times for riders and get more vehicles off our roads, so people can spend more time with their families.”

On Aug. 20, 2020, the province will invite the selected teams from the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process to respond to an RFP that details how they plan to design and deliver the tunnelling work for the ECWE.

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Metrolinx expect to award this tunnelling contract in mid-2021.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) first announced plans to partner with Metrolinx to extend the Eglinton Crosstown West LRT from Renforth to Toronto Pearson Airport in late 2019.

While the Eglinton Crosstown West project is a light rail transit project, the province says there are plans to build it (or part of it) underground, hence many are referring to it as a subway.

The plan is part and parcel of a plan to turn Pearson into a major transit hub dubbed Union Station West.

The province says that to expedite work on the extension, tunnelling will begin first, followed by separate contracts for the balance of the work.

On Aug. 5, 2020, Ontario announced three teams of bidders per project were shortlisted to advance tunnelling work on the ECWE and the Scarborough Subway Extension.

The province plans to spend $28.5 billion on transit projects, with the funding directed towards the ECWE, the Scarborough extension, new Ontario Line and the Yonge North Subway Extension.

At the press conference, Ford asked the federal government to commit to helping to fund the major transit projects.

“I want to thank the province for advancing the important work needed to extend and connect the Eglinton Crosstown to Renforth Station,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie in a statement.

“Once complete, this will serve as Mississauga’s newest east to west regional transit link and fully connect our transit system to Toronto and the GTA. It will allow for more frequent and rapid service to the Airport Corporate Centre and, eventually, Pearson Airport, which will one day be Mississauga’s Union Station West.”

If I were asked to compile a list, “Why is Toronto real estate so bananas?” has joined his buddies, “So, what are you thinking about school in September?” and “Who’s idea was it to open bars, anyway?” as my most prominently featured conversations of this pandemic summer.

While I have no clue where to even begin to answer the second two questions, the subject of Toronto real estate in the time of COVID-19 continues to be endlessly fascinating.

To quickly recap, when the pandemic lockdown first set in, I, along with pretty much all of my industry colleagues, braced for impact.

Following a record-breaking February and first half of March, April was a complete bloodbath. Houses that would have sold in multiple offers just days earlier suddenly sat, prices fell, the industry shut down.

Buyers were at home.

People were rattled, presumably by the economic fallout that was to come from these “unprecedented times,” and the market was frozen.

But then it woke back up again. And woke back up, it did.

This has been, by all accounts, the busiest summer on record. The average price of a home in Toronto is now closer than it’s ever been to $1,000,000.

Yes, $1,000,000.

And that is in the middle of a global pandemic with credible fears of a second wave to come.

And a suburban and rural exodus from Toronto driving outer markets to record levels.

Maybe it’s the pent-up demand from the spring market that never came, or possibly the fact that most people aren’t travelling this year, or maybe even the five months of social distancing that likely changed our perspectives on our living situations.

And it’s not that people are oblivious to the potential economic fallout of COVID-19 — it’s more that buyers appear confident that Toronto is a sound investment. Whatever comes next, in the mid-to-long-term, even a 2008-style crash will really just be a blip.

So, what’s important to know?

Mortgage rates are now sub-2% in some cases. Money is essentially free.

Even with record unemployment, those who worked through the shutdown are either back in the office at least partially, or have pivoted to a work-from-home model, so people feel mostly secure.

The looming “deferral cliff” that has been so widely anticipated in the face of mortgage deferral programs ending in September is seeming like it probably won’t be the crisis we originally feared, in Toronto at least.

Do we know that the people who opted-in to payment holidays from their mortgage did so out of necessity? Or is it just as likely that many, in the face of the unknown, took advantage of deferral programs just in case.

For those who do need it, between CMHC declaring their intention to explore other options to help borrowers such as extending the program, lengthening amortization periods, and working on special repayment arrangements, and the fact that even the most doomsday forecasted correction won’t leave people upside down on their mortgage, the worst case scenario isn’t likely to pass.

So, as the summer that has been unlike any summer before starts to wind down, it will be interesting to see what happens post-Labour Day. Barring some dramatic turn of events like another lockdown, it doesn’t seem likely that the conversations will change.

Medical waivers. Masks. Virtual showings. Seven-figure purchases, sight unseen.

Home buying and selling has seen a head-snapping shift during the COVID-19 era, as both parties deal with the demands of physical distancing, virtual showings and previously unheard-of safety considerations.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the competition: Most major Canadian markets are as buoyant as ever after a brief slump and in defiance of gloomy forecasts about the impact the pandemic could have on real estate activity.

But the nuts and bolts of the process – how buyers and sellers interact and how realtors work with both – looks dramatically different than it did a few months ago, forcing years’ worth of sales innovation into just a few months.

Here are a few of the biggest changes:

Say goodbye to open houses
So much for perusing open houses as a weekend pastime. Physical distancing brought group showings to an abrupt halt this spring. As restrictions eased nationwide, open houses slowly started up again. In Ontario, for example, the province lifted its prohibition in most areas on July 17 as part of its Stage 3 reopening.

Still, open houses are nowhere near as common as they once were. Sellers remain wary of inviting large groups of people to traipse through their homes and some renters’ groups have spoken out against them as well.

“Before you could have upwards of two or three different agents with groups, at any given time, showing the same property,” says Darren Josephs, a Toronto Re/Max agent. “Now, the windows are 15-to-30 minutes and no overlap.”

Also, each client goes through individually, following sanitizing protocols before and after each visit. And there’s no such thing as dropping in with a moment’s notice, Mr. Josephs says.

“I think a lot of people were never entirely comfortable with open houses, especially sellers,” he says. “I think we’ll see a real long-term effect from this and more qualified showings, which tend to weed out people who aren’t serious.”

Vancouver-based independent realtor Chris Strand says there’s a “split in the realtor community” on the issue. He points out that realtors can often pick up new clients at open houses. However, he agrees that a decline in open houses – at least as we once knew them – may be one of the biggest long-term changes to emerge from the pandemic.

Better digital sales tools
The era of out-of-focus photos and sparse online listings is over, according to Patti Ross, a Royal LePage realtor in Halifax.

“You’ve always seen listings and asked, ‘Why are the photos so bad?’” she says. “We were proactive in my brokerage years ago in stepping up online marketing and building a photography and video department and it’s really paying off now.”

Realtors have also long been limited in the number of photographs they can use on listings but, from coast-to-coast, those limits have been bumped up, allowing potential buyers to get a better sense of a property before arranging a viewing.

“Our real estate board just upped our photo count from 20 to 40,” Mr. Strand says, “and we’re seeing more people hiring professional videographers and using virtual walk-through tools.”

Sometimes that means 360-degree photos tours and, for high-end properties, it can mean full-blown immersive 3D renders of a property’s interior. That can help drive more selective, qualified showings, and fewer potential buyers arranging a viewing out of curiosity, only to show up and quickly realize the property isn’t right for them.

More safety protocols
When in-person viewings do take place, safety has become a top priority. In most cases, realtors will go into homes in advance, opening every door, cabinet and cupboard for clients.

“We ask that visitors treat the house like a museum,” Mr. Josephs says. “No touching.”

Potential buyers sign waivers attesting to their lack of COVID-19 symptoms and international travel. And everyone – buyers, sellers and agents – wear masks and keep the mandated two-metre distance.

Even Ms. Ross’ photographers and videographers make sure their gear is sanitized before it enters a property and they clean it thoroughly once they leave.

Some realtors hope that better safety protocols can instill more confidence in sellers to list their homes.

Major markets nationwide are currently grappling with a serious imbalance between supply and demand, as buyers return to the market in droves, but sellers remain shy. ”

You definitely see people waiting or holding off on listing,” Ms. Ross says. “But once you talk to people and tell them about process, they feel better.”

More risk-taking
That imbalance between buyers and sellers has also made markets more competitive. In Halifax, Ms. Ross recently sold one suburban property listed at $229,000 for $55,000 over asking, after entertaining more than 30 offers. In Vancouver, Mr. Strand is seeing similar activity, as is Mr. Josephs in Toronto, where he recently sold one home for $350,000 over asking, after 26 offers.

More buyers are also signing off on purchases remotely. In June, Nanos Research conducted a poll for the Ontario Real Estate Association that revealed 42 per cent of buyers were open to buying a home even if they could only see it online beforehand.

Ms. Ross says she’s noticed more buyers willing to purchase places sight unseen. (Atlantic Canada’s current self-isolation restrictions for out-of-region travellers mean visiting the region to house-hunt is especially impractical).

“We’re doing virtual tours that allow people to shop from Ontario or Vancouver,” she says, “and walk through the house remotely.”

She’s also begun doing walk-through video tours of neighbourhoods. A video tour showcasing sports facilities and outdoor trails near one property recently helped seal the deal with one out-of-province family.

Mr. Strand is seeing the same kind of activity in Vancouver.

“We’re using FaceTime, and I’ve had potential buyers from Ontario, Alberta, and several from Hong Kong,” he says.

Mr. Strand says some of that activity may be due to the current bull market in housing. But most industry watchers, including major banks and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, are still forecasting at least a modest decline in home prices over the coming year. As sellers re-enter the market, spiralling prices may well simmer down – good news for buyers already struggling with deteriorating affordability.

But even if markets re-balance, there seems little doubt that COVID-19 will result in lasting changes to the way Canadians buy and sell homes.

“Anything could happen in the next few months,” Mr. Strand says. “We’re all just waiting to see what sticks as we keep going through this and what goes back to the way it was before.”

Canadian home sales and prices surged to a record high in July, as buyers flooded the market and took advantage of low mortgage rates after the coronavirus pandemic briefly slowed activity in the spring.

The number of homes sold jumped 26 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis from June to July, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, with Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver soaring along with surrounding regions such as Hamilton-Burlington in Ontario and Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

The seasonally adjusted home price index, an industry calculation of a typical home sold, reached a record high of $637,600 last month – up 2.3 per cent over June, the largest month-to-month increase since early 2017 when real estate markets were on a tear.

Before the pandemic struck in March, the real estate markets in Vancouver, most of Southern Ontario, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal were showing signs of overheating, with a shortage of properties triggering bidding wars.

“What we saw in July is mainly activity delayed from the spring,” said Robert Hogue, senior economist with Royal Bank of Canada. “Lower mortgage rates also probably helped a number of first-time buyers enter the market last month and work-from-home arrangements caused some people to make a move,” he said.

With the popular five-year fixed mortgage currently less than 2 per cent, there is more demand today than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am seeing more home buyers and more investors than pre-COVID,” said mortgage broker Bernadette Laxamana, president of Karista Mortgage in B.C. “With the rates being so low, it’s costing them less per month to buy and more of their payment is going to principal versus interest,” she said.

Realtors have described a spike in demand for larger properties and outdoor space, as the majority of office workers were forced to work from home. This has spurred “activity that otherwise would not have happened in a non-COVID-19 world,” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist.

Areas such as Niagara, London, Hamilton, Burlington and Guelph in Ontario are experiencing a spike in activity and prices. The home price index for Guelph rose 3 per cent month to month to $608,100. In Victoria, the index was up 1 per cent to $719,300.

In Montreal and region, the second-largest real estate market in the country, sales jumped 37 per cent to a record high, with robust demand in the areas surrounding the downtown core. The home price index also reached a record of $401,200 across all property types, according to CREA, 2.8 per cent higher than the previous month.

The quick recovery in the residential resale market has given developers confidence to launch new projects throughout the Greater Toronto Area, even though rental prices have softened partly because of the influx of new condos and a slump in immigration.

Although the number of new property listings is increasing across the country, it is not keeping pace with sales. Over all, the inventory of listed properties is at a 16-year low, according to CREA, driving up competition.

Economists and federal mortgage insurer Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. have warned of numerous risks to the market. That includes banks’ mortgage deferrals, some of which are due to expire in the fall and could lead to loan delinquencies and foreclosures if homeowners are unable to resume payments.

As well, federal aid for businesses and underemployed Canadians is winding down, which could lead to more insolvencies and higher joblessness if the economy does not improve.

Toronto-Dominion Bank said the loan deferrals and federal support was helping insulate the economy from the worst effects from the pandemic and said it was “important not to extrapolate recent gains too far.”

When the support starts to wind down this fall, “this could bring significant headwinds to housing markets, particularly prices,” the bank’s senior economist, Brian DePratto, said in a note.

Canadian home sales surged to a record in July as homebuyers emerged from lockdowns.

Transactions for existing properties reached 62,355 in the month, up 26% from a month earlier, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported. Benchmark prices were 2.3% higher on the month, as pent-up demand for homes collided with extremely low inventory levels.

“A big part of what we’re seeing right now is the snap back in activity that would have otherwise happened earlier this year,” Shaun Cathcart, CREA senior economist, said in a statement.

Canada’s economy is emerging the steepest downturn since the Great Depression, fueling a renewed housing boom. Housing starts hit a two-year high last month, while the latest confidence readings show optimism about prices is rebounding.

In Toronto, the country’s largest market, sales of existing properties jumped 50% in July compared to June, and were up 29% with the same month a year ago, CREA reported. Vancouver sales increased 44% on the month and 24% from July 2019. Average prices in Toronto were 5.5% higher on the month, and up 1.5% in Vancouver.

There were just 2.8 months of inventory nationwide, the lowest level on record, CREA said.

Average prices were 9.4% higher nationwide on the month.

The Greater Toronto Area neighbourhoods that saw the greatest price growth so far this year had a detached housing average value of $2.9 million, according to RE/MAX.

In its recent analysis, RE/MAX said that the localities of Annex, Yonge-St. Clair, Casa Loma, and Wychwood had a 25.7% annual increase in detached housing prices during the first half of the year.

“The areas of Yonge-St. Clair and Wychwood were recognized as being two of the top neighbourhoods to buy real estate in 2020 due to their value and the momentum of price growth,” Toronto Storeys said in its report on the RE/MAX study.

The next strongest year-over-year price growth was 18.4%, seen in the Birchcliffe-Cliffside and Oakridge areas (average prices up to around $1.1 million), as well as the High Park, Roncesvalles, Swansea, and South Parkdale areas (up to around $2.1 million).

The findings supported observations that the COVID-19 pandemic had only a relatively minute impact on activity and price growth in one of Canada’s hottest housing markets.

Data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board indicated that the average home sales price in the GTA went up by 16.9% annually in July to reach $943,710. The most significant growth was observed in the low-rise housing segment, especially within the City of Toronto.

“Competition between buyers continued to increase in many segments of the GTA ownership housing market in July, which fuelled a further acceleration in year-over-year price growth in July compared to June,” said Jason Mercer, chief market analyst at TRREB.

Sales activity also intensified by 29.5% compared to July 2019, for a total of 11,081 residential transactions across the GTA.

While Toronto has been known for having pricey real estate for decades now, those looking to enter the housing market for the first time can continue to expect affordability challenges for the foreseeable future due to persistently low housing supply and pent-up demand stemming from the COVID-19 lockdown.

Not to mention, for the first time ever, the average home price in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is now the closest it has ever been to reaching $1 million, after hitting an average of $943,710 in July. Based on the current trend in price growth, it’s within reason that the market could eclipse the $1 million average sometime this year, which is more than a little daunting for most first-time homebuyers.

According to RE/MAX, detached housing trends, home sales, and prices in the Toronto-area have been on fire this year, with many pockets of the city experiencing tremendous price growth.

In fact, the areas of Annex, Yonge-St. Clair, Casa Loma, Wychwood saw the biggest increase in detached housing values, which were up by 25.7% in Q1 and Q2 of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, to reach a whopping $2,918,968 average. The areas of Yonge-St. Clair and Wychwood were recognized as being two of the top neighbourhoods to buy real estate in 2020 due to their value and the momentum of price growth.

 

Tied for second place, with an average price increase of 18.4%, are Oakridge, Birchcliffe-Cliffside, which saw average prices increase to $1,095,287 and High Park, Swansea, Roncesvalles, and South Parkdale, where prices reached $2,050,596.

The areas of Oakwood-Vaughan, Humewood, Cedarvale, and Forest Hill South saw prices increase by 17.7% to reach $2,371,546, with Oakwood-Vaughan also being recognized as one of the top neighbourhoods to purchase in this year.

Islington-City Centre, West-Etobicoke-West Mall, Markland Wood, Eringate-Centennial-West Deane, Princess-Rosethorn, Edenbridge-Humber Valley, and Kingsway South experienced an average price growth of 17% to reach $1,693,382.

Rounding out the top five is the west-end district of Alderwood, Long Branch, New Toronto, and Mimico, where prices rose by 16.2% to reach $1,202,176. Interestingly enough, earlier this year, Alderwood was recognized as the best neighbourhood in Toronto to put your money into a home. For those out of the loop, Alderwood is located on the west side of the city, just north of Long Branch.

The more than 60-year-old Cloverdale Mall in Etobicoke is agreeably not the most beautiful destination that the city has to offer shoppers.

But a major developer has some big plans for the property, and they’ve just released the details of the multi-building, mixed-use development due to take the place at the dated, largely one-storey shopping centre near Highway 427 and Bloor Street West.

Cloverdale’s current sprawling, flat footprint at 250 the East Mall will be upgraded to a number of condo towers offering a whopping 334,000 square metres of living space between 4,050 units, with ample green space interspersed in between them, along with a food market building, community centre and more.

The residential structures range from between 24 and 48 storeys, and circle a new “retail main street” that will have storefronts, cafes and more at ground level.

The centre of the 12-hectare site will be the glazed glass-covered Cloverdale Square, which will increase the retail space of the project to 26,000 square metres and offer even more residences in low- and mid-rise buildings.

The amenities of the site will be connected by a series of roadways and pedestrian/cyclist paths, and there will be multiple levels of both underground and above-ground parking, a neighbourhood park, rooftop greenery, courtyards and another two residential towers with at-grade retail space on the adjacent lot at 2 East Mall Crescent.

Essentially, it’s a huge, modern mini-community with more than enough features to blow the current mall out of the water.

The land owner and developer, QuadReal, along with architect Giannone Petricone Associates and landscape architect Janet Rosenberg & Studio recently submitted their comprehensive zoning applications to the City of Toronto after months of consultations with the community.

Though Cloverdale Mall has long been a staple of the west end, it’s also a relic, and there’s no doubt that many will be happy to see it go for something a lot more snazzy, practical and current.

While the original application contained only a single perspective of the proposed development, located one block south of Bloor Street East, the resubmission includes several new images highlighting multiple angles of the project. Featuring architecture by RAW Design, the majority of the renderings showcase how the existing Traders Building will be partially retained to serve as the front door of the project.

While the original application contained only a single perspective of the proposed development, located one block south of Bloor Street East, the resubmission includes several new images highlighting multiple angles of the project. Featuring architecture by RAW Design, the majority of the renderings showcase how the existing Traders Building will be partially retained to serve as the front door of the project.

Although the Traders Building is not a listed or designated heritage resource, ERA Architects has determined the building qualifies for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, citing its “design, associative and contextual value.”

The project contemplates the preservation of the principal west elevation fronting Church Street, in addition to approximately three metres of the north and south faces. The rebuild of the north and south elevations is envisioned as a “ghost facade” which reinterprets the scale, articulation and massing of the existing elevations using modern materials.

 

The revised proposal maintains a height of 201.9 metres and would contain a total of 651 units. The unit mix remains unchanged, proposing 66 studios, 319 one-bedrooms, 200 two-bedrooms, and 66 three-bedrooms.

The four-level office component, which will replace the demolished interiors of the Traders Building, has increased slightly from 10,079 m² to 10,101 m². Total residential gross floor area has also experienced a slight boost from 45,742 m² to 46,292 m². The double-height retail program at grade has decreased in size to 559 m² from 593 m².

The mid-rise residential and amenities element dividing the tower from the podium now features a more seamless design following the removal of north-facing balconies. The series of projecting balconies previously proposed have been replaced by inset balconies.

A 126.6 m² privately-owned publicly accessible space (POPS) has also been introduced along the south side of the building, a gesture to be coordinated with proposed boulevard improvements along Charles Street East. The space could include a potential patio area to support the proposed retail and restaurant uses.

A 2.1-metre-wide walkway along the east lot line will sport a unique paving pattern. The space will function as a pedestrian connection alongside the vehicular driveway, which provides access to 260 parking spaces across five underground parking levels. The project would also provide 706 parking spaces for bicycles.

Additional information and images can be found in our Database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

Those looking to lay down roots just outside of the city may want to consider checking out a new development coming to Thornhill. And it just so happens that new renderings of the project have since been released, giving future residents a better idea of what to expect.

Located within the Thornhill/Uplands area at 8188 Yonge Street — which is also the project’s namesake — this new build from Trulife Developments and Constantine Developments is ideal for young families looking to invest in a new place to call home that’s away from the hustle of the city.

This area of York Region is currently seeing a lot of redevelopment and is highly popular among professionals and families due to its connectivity to transit and major thoroughfares.

Once complete, the development will consist of a 10-storey, mixed-use building with 282 residential units and ground-floor retail and commercial space.

The building will house a mix of 1-bedrooms, 1+1, 2-bedrooms, 2+1, 3-bedrooms, and 3+1, catering to all lifestyles and preferences.

The units will be comprised of standard suites featuring 9-foot ceilings and private balconies; six lofts featuring 11-foot ceilings; luxury penthouse suites with private rooftop terraces, and seven townhouses at grade level with 10-foot ceilings.

The building will also feature bespoke balconies, meaning that homeowners can choose from a different balcony package (Forest, Ocean, and Garden) along with associated finishing and décor options to design the balcony to be their own.

Another big takeaway for residents is the impressive indoor and outdoor amenities, which would make ever leaving this place seem impossible.

Indoor amenities include access to the grand lobby, 24-hour concierge, security, gym and wellness centre, entertainment area with catering kitchen, guest suites, visitor parking, 6th-floor entertainment space with wrap-around outdoor terrace, library, media lounge, pet spa, kid’s play area, EV charging stations, parking and lockers (available for purchase), bike storage, and retail at grade.

As for outdoor amenities, residents will have access to the swimming pool, park, ‘infinity walkway’, lounges with BBQs, outdoor yoga and exercise space, dog park, and sun deck with cabanas.

Sales for the available units are expected to begin this fall and start in the high $400,000s.

A large commercial lot near a major Etobicoke intersection could be the future site of a high-rise residential complex.

Last week, a rezoning application was submitted to city planners to develop a set of mixed-use towers containing 1,210 residential units at 1325 The Queensway. Each rising 37 storeys, the two structures would be built on top of a six-storey podium base and supported by an 11-storey mid-rise portion, which would house an internal courtyard, daycare facilities and retail space.

The square, 0.86-hectare site is located on the southwest corner of Kipling Avenue and The Queensway, fronting onto The Queensway. A two-storey Hakim Optical store and a single-storey auto repair shop currently occupy the lot, with surface parking interspersed throughout.

Spanning over 900,000 square feet of total gross floor area, the property would be broken up into two phases, according to the architectural drawings, the first of which would focus on the eastern tower.

“The towers were situated at the rear of the site to provide The Queensway with an appropriately scaled mid-rise building that reflects an evolving urban corridor while also fostering a comfortable pedestrian experience,” explains the planning rationale, prepared by Bousfields Inc.

On the exterior of the mid-rise portion, balconies and vertical projecting elements would be included to break up the facade. Fronting The Queensway, the ground floor would contain 7,567 square feet of retail space in the northwest corner of the building, alongside 2,949 square feet of resident amenity space. A 7,190-square-foot private daycare centre would be situated in the northeast corner.

A separate, publicly-owned daycare facility covering 5,672 square feet would also be included. Together, both daycares would provide 134 childcare spaces and each would feature an attached outdoor play space, totaling 4,628 square feet.

A 10,408-square-foot central courtyard would occupy the second floor, a third of which would be reserved as an outdoor amenity area. Landscaping, seating and canopies would be implemented, with private terraces and balconies from the podium and mid-rise buildings overlooking the courtyard.

At the rear of the site, towers one and two rest atop a six-storey podium, which would provide indoor amenity space and garbage collection rooms. On the seventh floor, a large outdoor amenity area encompassing 9,213 square feet would connect the two vertical structures.

Residential units would be dispersed from the second to the 37th floors throughout the tower, podium and mid-rise building. The collection of 1,210 suites would provide 28 studios, 803 one-bedroom, 256 two-bedroom and 123 three-bedroom units. A five-storey underground parking garage would offer 1,064 vehicle spaces, alongside 903 bicycle spots, 85 of which would be located on the ground floor.

The Canadian home building rebound only gained momentum in July with housing starts rising to an annualized rate of 245,600 units, the highest level recorded in two-and-a-half years.

This result, released today, exceeded expert predictions by a wide margin, as single-family home construction surged across the country while Toronto and Vancouver saw a strong uptick in condo building.

In a research note published earlier today, BMO Economist Priscilla Thiagamoorthy said builders are unlikely to be “packing away those hammers anytime soon” as low interest rates and strong demand will ensure home construction remains robust for the rest of the year.

Looking further ahead, Thiagamoorthy said that home building activity will hinge on the strength of population growth, which is currently taking a hit due to pandemic-induced national immigration restrictions.

The jury is still out on the pandemic’s long-term effects on population growth and, by extension, home building. But, most market observers agree that new home construction has stayed remarkably resilient throughout the volatile year.

RBC Economist Claire Fan noted that national housing starts in 2020 thus far have put up numbers comparable to levels seen through the previous year, even as building activity was curtailed by pandemic measures introduced during spring’s first half. July’s strong performance, which saw housing starts rise 11 percent over the same time last year, was a major contributor in making up for activity lost during the spring.

While the industry is unlikely to be totally impervious to the pandemic’s ill-effects, TD Economist Omar Abdelrahman said the impact on home building so far has been relatively slight.

“[A]side from the complete pause in Quebec in April due to restrictions on non-essential economic activity, homebuilding has shown only a muted response to COVID-19, swiftly returning to pre-pandemic levels. This stands in contrast with more severe declines and more drawn-out recoveries seen in other industries,” he wrote.

Canadian mortgage rates are in a virtual free fall, dropping to record-setting lows with discount brokers now offering one- to five-year variable rates in the 1.64 to 1.68% range.

But the nearly free money arrives as Canadian mortgage debt is exploding and lenders are dealing with a rush of mortgage payment deferrals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bank of Canada reports that mortgage credit hit a record high in May, at $1.68 trillion, up 0.6% from April and 6% higher than in May 2019.

Mortgage deferrals, meanwhile, are also soaring. Deferrals topped 743,000 in May at Canada’s six major lenders alone.

At the start of the pandemic, the big six banks—RBC, TD, BMO, Scotiabank, CIBC, and National Bank—announced they would allow customers to defer paying their mortgage for up to six months.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association, deferrals now account for 15% of the mortgages provided at its 13 member banks, which include all the majors.

Most of the deferrals are in Quebec, at 27%, and Alberta, at 26%. Ontario accounted for 21% of mortgage deferrals, with B.C. at just 7%.

With new mortgage applications faltering, lenders have slashed lending rates.

HSBC Canada led the trend early in June when it announced a five-year fixed default-insured mortgage for 1.99%—the lowest rate ever for a five-year fixed at the time. Days later, multiple brokers were offering five-year fixed rates starting at 1.98% and even lower in some cases, with restrictive conditions.

The lowest fixed mortgage rate available as of July 2, according to rate comparison website RateSpy.com, was the one-year fixed at 1.69% for those putting down less than 20% for insured mortgages.

Even the 10-year fixed rate is reaching new lows, currently available nationally for as low as 2.84%.

“Fixed rates are dirt cheap because funding costs keep sliding,” RateSpy founder Rob McLister said. “With a bearish economic report or two, we could slide further into uncharted depths, as soon as next month.”

The lowest nationally available variable floating rate is currently 1.95%, which is prime minus 0.5%, although certain discount brokers are offering rates as low as 1.69% for default-insured mortgages.

As of July 2, intelliMortgage and Butler Mortgage, both based in Ontario, posted a 1.64% rate for one-year fixed-rate products, and a similar record low of 1.68% for their five-year variable-rate offerings.

“Canadians can expect fixed and variable rates to stay at their current historic low until the Canadian and world economy is close to fully recovered,” Ratehub.ca co-founder and CanWise Financial president James Laird said.

The Bank of Canada overnight lending rate remains at 0.25%, and the central bank has hinted it will not go lower.

Average rent prices for both one-bedroom and two-bedroom condos fell during the second quarter of 2020 as rental listings increased and demand fell.

According to new data published last week by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), the average price for a one-bedroom condo in the GTA was $2,083, down 5 percent from the same period a year earlier. The rent price for a two-bedroom condo also fell over 5 percent to $2,713.

As the second quarter results were announced, TRREB President Lisa Patel pointed to two major takeaways from the data.

“First, COVID-19 clearly impacted the demand for rental condominium apartments, due to restrictions on showing units and job losses across many sectors of the economy,” Patel said in a media release.

“Second, we saw the continuation of the pattern experienced over the past year, with year-over-year growth in rental listings far outstripping growth in rental transactions, resulting in a much better-supplied market and a moderating pace of rent growth,” she continued.

There were 7,320 condos rented through TRREB’s MLS system during the April to June period, down nearly 25 percent compared to the same time last year. As Patel noted, listings rose significantly — up 42 percent — during the second quarter, leading to a supply and demand mismatch.

The Toronto region has long grappled with a painfully low rental vacancy rate, viewed by experts as a symptom of a chronic rental supply shortage that’s been called “the worst rental supply deficit in Canada.”

In response to the new data, TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer said that the second quarter increase in listings is part of a “consistent trend toward balance in the GTA condominium apartment rental market over the past year-and-a-half.”

“Accelerating growth in rental listings were at the root of this trend, but the COVID-19-related drop-off in rental transactions had a marked impact as well. Increased choice led to more negotiating power for renters, resulting in year-over-year declines in average rents in the second quarter of 2020,” Mercer said.

Prime Interest rates have gone down for 1.5% this means (see below chart)

For example $700,000 condo fully financed mortgage from $ 3,308.85 went down to $ 2,743.19 = $565 /Month

Translation: about $80 lesser mortgage payment (P&I) for any $100,000 mortgage !

click here for more information 

During heavy rain, the sewers can become overloaded. It is essential that homeowners take appropriate action to reduce the risk of basement flooding.

The City offers owners of single-family, duplex and triplex residential homes a subsidy of up to $3,400 per property to install flood protection devices. Eligible work includes:

  • Installation of a backwater valve.
  • Installation of a sump pump.
  • Severance and capping of a home’s storm sewer or external weeping tile connection.

Disconnecting the downspouts from your property’s eavestrough system is not eligible for a subsidy.

Eligible Work

Backwater valve

  • Installation or replacement of backwater valve.
  • Installation of alarm for backwater valve.

The available subsidy is 80 per cent of the invoiced cost up to a maximum of $1,250 regardless of the number of devices installed at the property, including eligible labour, materials, permit and taxes.

A Building Permit is required to install a backwater valve. The valve must pass inspection by the City of Toronto building inspector, in order to be eligible for the subsidy.

You must also consent at the time of the building inspection or at the request of the City:

  • To provide City access to the backwater valve to verify that installation has been completed in accordance with the requirements and conditions of the Program.
  • To the City taking photographs, video and digital images of backwater valves.

See what backwater valves look like and how they work.

Sump pump

  • Installation or replacement of sump pump.
  • Installation of alarm for sump pump.
  • Installation of back-up power for sump pump.

The available subsidy is 80 per cent of the invoiced cost up to a maximum of $1,750 regardless of the number of devices installed at the property, including eligible labour, materials and taxes.

Note: Be sure to maintain basement flooding protection devices according to manufacturer instructions. Keeping these devices in good working order is an important step in protecting your home against basement flooding. See what sump pumps look like and how and they work.

Foundation drain (weeping tile) pipe severance and capping

  • Disconnection of foundation drains (weeping tiles) from the City’s sewer system by severing and capping the underground sewer connection.

The available subsidy is 80 per cent of the invoiced cost up to a maximum of $400 including eligible labour, materials and taxes.

 

Subsidy Conditions

  • You must be the registered owner of a single-family residential, duplex or triplex property within the City of Toronto.
  • The property must not have exceeded the lifetime maximum subsidy amount for each eligible installation.
  • The subsidy is available only to existing homes, not homes in the planning stages or under construction
  • The downspouts from the property’s eavestrough must be disconnected from the City’s sewer system or you must have applied to the City for an exemption.
  • All front yard paved areas of the property, including parking pads, must comply with the City’s Zoning By-law requirements.
  • You must submit your application within one year of completion of the installation of the flood protection device.
  • Your contractor(s) and any sub-contractor(s) who performed the installation of flood prevention device(s) must possess a valid license from the City of Toronto for the installation work, at the time of installation.
  • Original invoices from the licensed contractor(s) and any sub-contractor(s) who performed the installation of the flood prevention device(s) must be provided with your application.
  • You must not have any outstanding taxes or debts owed to the City of Toronto at the time your application is processed.
  • Submitting an application does not guarantee a subsidy. Subsidies are issued on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, and are subject to annual funding approved by City Council.

How to Apply

Download the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program application form.

Applying for the installation of a backwater valve and sump pump

  • You will need a Building Permit to install a backwater valve, which will be inspected by Toronto Building staff once it is installed.
  • If installing a backwater valve and sump pump, please complete and sign the Consent to Enter Form and include it with your Permit application. It will authorize Toronto Building staff to inspect and verify that both the backwater valve and sump pump have been installed according to Program requirements.
  • Installing the flood protection device(s) according to Program requirements is an important part of ensuring your eligibility for the subsidy.

For backwater valve installation, start at step 1 and for all other eligible work, start at step 3

  • Obtain a permit from Toronto Building. If installing a backwater valve and sump pump, please attach the Consent to Enter Form PDF to your permit application. Permits can be obtained from Customer Service Counters.
  • Request an inspection once installation is complete. Toronto Building staff must inspect the installation of all backwater valves. Do not enclose or cover the valve before this occurs. This inspector must be able to confirm whether the installation meets the applicable Building Code requirements.
  • Complete the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program application form PDF.
  • Include original invoice(s) with your application. Invoice(s) must show an itemized cost breakdown of all work applicable to this subsidy and must be clearly marked “paid in full.” If your contractor uses a licensed sub-contractor, please also include original invoices from the sub-contractor.
  • Mail the completed application form with the required documentation to:
    Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program
    City of Toronto
    PO Box 15266 STN B RM B
    Toronto, ON M7Y 2W1
  • City staff will review your application and determine whether you are eligible for a subsidy. If your application is incomplete or you have not included the proper documentation, it will not be processed and all documents will be returned to you. If your application is denied, you will be notified by mail.

Selecting a Contractor

Homeowners are strongly encouraged to conduct due diligence before hiring a contractor. It is recommended you obtain a minimum of two quotes as well as references before hiring a City of Toronto licensed contractor.

Before work starts, verify that your contractor has a valid City of Toronto business license using the Business Licence Lookup tool or by phoning 416-392-6700.

If your contractor does not have a valid City of Toronto license, you will be denied funding for the work completed.

Different types of contractors are licensed to perform different types of eligible work:

Protecting Flood Prevention Devices & Your Basement

To keep your flood prevention devices in good working order, it is essential to maintain them according to the manufacturer’s directions.

When installing a backwater valve, consider including an alarm, so that you know when the device is activated. When your backwater valve is activated, it works to keep sewer water from backing up into your basement, but it also keeps wastewater from your home from flowing to the sewer. When your backwater valve is activated, any water sent down the drain (through toilets, sinks laundry etc.), may end up in your basement.

As rainstorms and power outages can accompany one another, you may also want to consider battery-power back-up for your sump pump.

Only 3,459 condos sold across the Toronto region in the second quarter of 2020, a 50 percent decline from the same three-month period a year prior.

Despite this historic decline in sales activity, the condo resale market still managed a 5.1 percent price increase during the same period, bumping the average condo selling price across the GTA to $619,707.

Market activity captured by this second quarter data, released today by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), is expected to be the worst affected by the COVID-19-related business shutdowns and general economic uncertainty.

While the Toronto region’s housing market mounted a strong rebound in June, it was far from enough to save the quarter. Even as the overall market improved in the final month of the quarter, market commentators noted that the condo segment was noticeably sluggish in June compared to the detached homes segment, especially in the City of Toronto.

Condo listings that hit the market in the second quarter of 2020 also declined significantly compared to the same period a year earlier, down 21.6 percent to 8,717. The connection between new listings and sales is an important one, as it links condo supply and buyer demand. If new listings start to rise at a much faster rate while sales remain depressed, prices will invariably be affected.

“It will be important to watch the relationship between condominium apartment sales and new listings as we move through the second half of 2020,” said Jason Mercer, TRREB’s Chief Market Analyst, in a media release.

“If economic recovery is sustained, the demand for condo apartments will improve. However, the prospect of stricter regulations on short-term rentals and softer rental market conditions could fuel increased listings of investor-held units. If we see more balanced market conditions, condo price growth could be more moderate compared to low-rise home types,” Mercer continued.

TRREB President Lisa Patel struck an optimistic tone when looking ahead to the late summer and early fall months. In the media release, she said condo sales are on the right track for an improvement in the third quarter with the solid showing in June indicating a trend toward market recovery.

New single-family homes sold by developers across the Toronto region in June beat new condo units sold during the same period by a wide margin.

Last month’s data, published today by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), signals that the market for new detached and semi-detached homes and townhouses is recovering faster than new condos.

There were 1,160 new single-family homes sold in June, the best result for the month since 2016 despite it being 12 percent below the 10-year average.

BILD’s data partner, Altus Group, said that during the same period, 744 new condo units were sold, down 73 percent from June 2019 and 70 percent below the 10-year average for the month.

“Single-family demand recovered more quickly as buyers returned and new supply started to come back into the market,” said Altus Group Vice President Matthew Boukall, in a media release.

“Given the challenges around COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve seen developers adopt new strategies to reach consumers and have seen success in the lower density segments,” he added.

The total number of new homes sold in June, at 1,904, was down 43 percent over the previous year. BILD was quick to point out, however, that the monthly total was a major improvement from May and April’s results. Both months were severely affected by restrictions in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 and saw new home sales totals well below 1,000.

“The June new home sales numbers are encouraging, though much remains to be seen as the GTA re-opens and begins recovery,” said BILD President David Wilkes.

“Now is the time to implement what we learned about facilitating the delivery of housing during the pandemic, to address our long-standing housing supply and affordability challenge while stimulating the local economy. Our industry is working with all three levels of government to help achieve these goals,” he continued.

Even with the ongoing slowdown in new condo sales, prices remained resilient. According to BILD and Altus Group, the benchmark price for a new condo was $999,228 in June, up nearly 25 percent from the previous year. The benchmark price for new single-family homes also saw an annual increase, rising nearly 4 percent to $1,141,848 in June.

As for the relative weakness of the new condo market, there are several explanations that are likely all contributing to the sluggish sales numbers.

For one, new condo sales rely more heavily on property investors who are reluctant to jump into the market with such an uncertain economic outlook prevailing. There is now emerging data-backed evidence that some investor-owners in downtown Toronto condos are beginning to sell their investment units. It is unclear how widespread this is and whether it will last through the fall, but it surely had an impact on the June sales numbers.

Secondly, there are simply far fewer new condo projects being brought to market by home builders. The spring months, which typically see the highest volume of new condo launches, saw only six projects hit the market this year. This pales in comparison to the 40 projects brought to market in the Toronto region during the same time in 2019.

Finally, there is a similar trend being observed in the resale housing market. Condo resales in the City of Toronto saw a 21 percent decline over the previous year in June while the region as a whole only saw a 1.4 percent decline in overall home resales. Meanwhile, sales for detached homes and townhomes in the Toronto region’s suburban markets saw a 10 percent year-over-year increase.

Ontarians may still be wary of going back to the office, but the provincial legislature has had a very busy July. After passing the controversial Bill 184 on July 6, and the far less contentious Bill 159 eight days later, the Ontario government passed yet another bill last week that should be of interest to the province’s realtors, mortgage brokers, and home buyers.

While Bill 197 is unlikely to make headlines for its real estate components – it is an exceptionally broad piece of legislation – it could lead to increased costs for developers. Anyone who has dabbled in the new construction space will know what that means.

“At the end of the day, when they say ‘The developer has to pay this, and the developer has to pay that,’ there’s only one person who pays for that – that’s you and me who buy the house,” says Leor Margulies of Robins Appleby Barristers and Solicitors. “The developer doesn’t pay for anything. If the cost is too high, he doesn’t do the project. If the cost can be passed on in a purchase price, then the purchaser pays for that.”

Essentially a companion piece to the province’s much-touted Bill 108, aka the More Homes, More Choices Act, Bill 197 tweaks Bill 108 in three ways that could lead to higher prices in much of Ontario.

Increased development charges

In the mid-1990s, under Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservative govern