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Single-family homes are seen against the skyline of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada September 30, 2020.

JENNIFER GAUTHIER/Reuters

The work-from-home trend continues to increase property sales and prices outside the core areas of Toronto and Vancouver, while depressing downtown condo prices as buyers seek bigger spaces.

Home sales hit 8,766 in the Toronto region in November, an increase of 24 per cent over the same month last year, with strong sales in all types of houses and townhouses offsetting weakness in the condo market, according to the local real estate board.

Condos within the city of Toronto were the only type of property to record flat sales and lose value in the region, as new condo listings nearly doubled over the year, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.

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The average selling price of a condo fell 3 per cent to $640,208 compared with November of last year, said a report by the Toronto board. In comparison, sales of detached and semi-detached houses, as well as townhouses, increased from 19 per cent to more than 30 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area. Detached house prices rose 19 per cent in the suburbs and 9 per cent in the city.

Across the Toronto region, the average selling price hit $955,615 in November, an incremental decline from October and a 13-per-cent gain over November of last year. The home price index, which corrects distortions caused by expensive transactions, was up 11 per cent to $902,500 over the year.

Greater inflation occurred in the areas surrounding the city. To the west in Halton Region, the index was up 13.5 per cent. To the east in Durham Region, the index was up 20 per cent. To the north in Simcoe County, the index was up 22.7 per cent. In contrast, in the city of Toronto, the index was up 6 per cent.

The same trend is taking place in the Vancouver region. Home sales reached their highest level in five years, with house sales surpassing downtown condos as buyers sought bigger, cheaper spaces to accommodate home offices and work-from-home plans.

Home sales in the Vancouver region reached 3,064 last month, a 23-per-cent increase over November, 2019, with semi-detached houses recording a 40-per-cent jump, followed by detached houses and condos, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

Prices were higher for every type of property compared with November, 2019, but condos recorded the smallest gain. The home price index rose 9 per cent for detached houses in the Vancouver region. The index was 5.6 per cent higher for townhouses and 3 per cent higher for condos, according to a Vancouver board report.

”It’s all about space right now,” said Vancouver board chair Colette Gerber. “Now that people have a better sense of what their work environment is going to be like and how much time they will be able to spend at home, they are definitely moving further out and living in more open air,” she said.

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Since the pandemic started, homebuyers have gravitated toward detached and semi-detached houses, the suburbs and areas outside major employment centres of Vancouver and Burnaby in British Columbia and the city of Toronto. In vacation areas such as the Sunshine Coast and Gulf Islands in B.C., approximately 40 per cent of the buyers bought properties as secondary, recreational homes before the pandemic. Now, about 80 per cent of the purchases are for primary residences, according to Ms. Gerber.

The price index across all types of homes was up 20 per cent on Bowen Island, up 17.5 per cent on the Sunshine Coast and up 8.8 per cent in Squamish, according to the board.

In Toronto, although condos have taken a hit in the city, the real estate board and other realtors believe that the market will rebound when the pandemic subsides and the economy reopens once again. “That will lead to an increase in demand for condominium apartments,” the Toronto board’s chief market analyst Jason Mercer said in a statement.

Overall, new listings in both regions were up by about a third compared with the previous November.

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