Reader and housing market veteran Brian Knapp wrote me this week to say that he thinks the real estate market in Toronto is deflating.
Mr. Knapp’s opinion is based on his experience from buying three properties over a span of more than 20 years.
He still spends about 15 hours a week looking at real estate online.
From his ground-level perspective he succinctly summed up a viewpoint that many people share: While he believes some air will come out of the market, he’s not expecting a loud pop. He also thinks the core markets in the city will hold up better than those in the outlying areas. Still, he notes that consumer confidence is shaky and it could suddenly deteriorate.
Mr. Knapp’s views seem to be in line with those of a lot of other people, including John Andrew, who is director of the executive seminars on corporate and investment real estate at Queen’s University.
Prof. Andrew says he’s not surprised that the softness in Toronto’s real estate market in August continued into the first two weeks of September.
Sales in the overall market in the Greater Toronto Area declined by 15 per cent in the first two weeks of September compared with the same period last year.
Hardest hit, according to figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board, were sales of condos in the 416 area code, which plunged 32 per cent in the first half of September compared with the same period in 2011.
The “double-whammy” on the condo front, says Prof. Andrew, comes from the fact that buyers are stepping back even as more new units are arriving on the market.
Between 48,000 and 52,000 units are still under construction, he warns.
“That’s an awful lot of supply coming down the pipe.”
Prof. Andrew expects to see significant price drops in the resale condo market “very, very soon.”
At the same time, he won’t be surprised if the prices of detached houses just keep climbing because there is such a shortage.
Prof. Andrew says that for many people, a condo won’t make a good substitute for a single-family home, even if condo prices fall dramatically.
He adds that no crash has taken place in Vancouver because people have pulled their houses off the market rather than accept a big discount on the price. The same could happen in Toronto.
“The Vancouver market is self-correcting really nicely,” he says.
James Warren, a real estate agent in Toronto with Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Johnston & Daniel Division, says he believes the market in Toronto is healthy and balanced at the moment.
Mr. Warren, who specializes in the affluent Rosedale neighbourhood, held three open houses last weekend and all of them had lots of visitors – even on a rainy weekend.
“When people come out in the rain and have to deal with boots and all of that, you know they’re interested.”
He says the fall market has been a bit slower than it was last year at this time.
“People are looking for value.”
But he recently sold a house in Rosedale within a day of its arrival on the market for more than the asking price.
As for Mr. Knapp, he has recently downsized from a large house to a smaller one in Toronto’s west end, but since his real estate investments have been his best, he figures he’ll probably buy another property or two in his lifetime.
Still, like many people at the moment, he’s not in any rush. The tempo has definitely changed.