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Report on Business Toronto home sales hold flat in March as buyers stay on the sidelines

Toronto region home sales were flat in March as buyers remained on the sidelines and available inventory fell, leaving the market continuing its sideways drift.

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) said 7,187 homes sold in the Greater Toronto Area last month, virtually identical to the 7,188 sales reported in March last year. Sale prices rose just 0.5 per cent on a year-over-year basis to an average of $788,335 for all types of homes across the GTA.

Part of the lacklustre sales performance was due to a decline in the number of houses available for sale in the region, where new listings fell 5.1 per cent compared with March, 2018, as many sellers continued to wait for more signs of activity before putting their homes up for sale.

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TREB said the total number of available active listings in the region was down 2.5 per cent at the end of March compared with the same time last year.

The March sales numbers are especially notable considering the major market slowdown last March after the federal government introduced a tougher new mortgage qualification stress-test rule.

TREB president Garry Bhaura said the stress test is still affecting home buyers’ ability to qualify for a mortgage, and is continuing to act as a drag of sales.

“TREB is still arguing that the stress test provisions and mortgage lending guidelines generally, including allowable amortization periods for insured mortgages, should be reviewed," he said in a statement.

He said TREB will continue to advocate for more affordable home supply and more rental housing options as part of the City of Toronto’s current review of its 2020-30 development action plan. TREB is a member of the external advisory committee offering input on the plan.

While Toronto’s market was weak over all, there were still bidding wars for some homes in some neighbourhoods. Jason Mercer, TREB’s chief market analyst, said the competition for homes in some areas helped to provide a level of support for average home prices.

Detached home prices fell 2.1 per cent in March compared with last year, recording an average sale price of $984,782, TREB said. Condo prices rose 1.6 per cent to an average of $560,020, even as the total volume of condo sales fell by 9.7 per cent.

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