In Toronto's capricious fall real estate market, agents have been trying to predict the moves of buyers while also reining in the unbounded optimism of some sellers. This week, with the added suspense surrounding voting night in the federal election and tension-filled Blue Jays baseball games, choosing a deadline for offers – or deciding whether to set one at all – has become even more complex.
Monday nights are not popular among agents who are setting offer deadlines. With voting in the federal election and a Jays playoff game both taking place on Monday of this week, no one was bracing for action in the real estate market.
Lisa Munro of Bosley Real Estate Ltd. was waiting until Tuesday evening to review offers, if any, for a three-bedroom semi-detached house in a coveted downtown neighbourhood.
Ms. Munro says the stretch around Thanksgiving is a bit unpredictable every year, but she decided to hold back offers because the streets surrounding Trinity Bellwoods Park are popular and few listings have appeared in the neighbourhood in the past year.
She figured there would be a lot of interest in the "hipster house," which she listed with an asking price of $949,000. While some agents set an asking price far below market value in an attempt to spur competition, that was not her strategy for this property, she adds.
Ms. Munro says the house at 60A Bellwoods Ave. is the sort that appeals to the Queen Street West demographic, with a modern white kitchen, renovated bathrooms, and fresh decor that still respects the home's few older details, such as original fireplaces. There's a third-floor master retreat with a walkout to a deck in the treetops.
The denizens of Queen West are avidly following the Jays, she knows, but she figured a playoff game wouldn't get in the way of buyers determined to bid on a house. "Without question the biggest selling feature of the house is the proximity to Trinity Bellwoods," she says.
The house doesn't have space for parking, but lots of urbanites prefer walking and cycling to driving, she adds. "It does make it more of a niche market."
On Saturday, Ms. Munro was welcoming house hunters to a fairly quiet open house, she says, as Torontonians contended with the first snow flurries of the year and the distraction of a Jays playoff game later in the afternoon.
By Monday, she could sense that house hunters were interested but not crazed. Some agents signalled interest by calling to ask for the home inspection report, she says. But when competition is at maximum intensity, listing agents will get a stream of phone calls from buyers' agents making sure that they're invited to the table if a bully tries to get to the property first.
Ms. Munro adds that history shows buyers sometimes hesitate at the time of an election. "There's a certain air of uncertainty."
She adds that sellers cannot depend on a bidding war in the current market – especially if the house lacks any key features.
Ms. Munro worked with one set of buyers who were very interested in a house in the High Park area. The detached house had an asking price of $1.08-million and a deadline for bids.
Her clients figured the asking price was low and made a bully offer of $1.285-million.
"The seller said: 'I'm not even remotely interested,'" she recalls, adding that a nearby house had recently sold for $400,000 above the asking price of about $1-million.
When the deadline for submitting bids arrived, "there we were as the only offer on offer night," she says. The clients purchased the house for $1.225-million – or $60,000 less than their bully bid.
Still, despite the nervousness, some buyers are poised to move quickly.
Adam Brind, an agent with Core Assets Real Estate Brokerage, recently worked with buyers who negotiated to pay $2,261,015 for a house in Moore Park before it actually hit the market.
He says the buyers had heard through a connection that the house backing onto a ravine on St. Clair Avenue East would be coming up for sale. He contacted the listing agent who let him and the buyers have a tour in advance of the launch.
The buyers didn't have much time to think about it before deciding to make a bid at slightly below the asking price of $2.299-million.
Mr. Brind says the home hit the multiple listing service for about 18 minutes.
The couple had been looking for a traditional home in the area for quite some time but ended up with a modern property instead. "This one definitely stood out to them," he says. "There's very little to do to the house."
The buyers also liked the fact that the property provides parking for several cars, he adds. "Very few things come up so the buyers felt really lucky."
He says listings are tight partly because so many people in Toronto have upgraded their houses in recent years that many are now staying put. Incomes have not kept pace with the rise in real estate prices. "There's no more room to upgrade," he says.
Mr. Brind says new listings are already starting to slow for the fall market and many homeowners thinking about selling will wait until spring.