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For Sale and Open House signs. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
For Sale and Open House signs. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

In Toronto, eager buyers prowl for pods in the driveway Add to ...

Out and about on the weekend, I noticed some sure harbingers of spring: houses with giant pods in the driveway.

Those containers, which are loaded with household stuff and carted off to a storage facility somewhere, almost always signal “this house is going on the market.”

Serious house hunters keep an eye out for these ciphers because in the overheated Toronto market, they are always looking for an edge. Perhaps these weary survivors of past bidding wars figure their agent can get them in before the open house.

But to the disappointment of the battle-hardened those pods sometimes merely announce “we’re having the kitchen renovated.”

That’s a large part of what keeps listings so tight in the Greater Toronto Area.

A recent poll sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada found that 83 per cent of Canadians would rather renovate than find a new place to live if their current home needs major work.

At 66 per cent, more survey participants are interested in renovating to suit their tastes than the 46 per cent who are motivated to increase the value of the property, or the 39 per cent who are doing necessary repair.

As long has been the case, kitchens and bathrooms top the renos list.

So, often homeowners look at the uncertainty and expense of buying another place and decide to just build a dream kitchen or spa bathroom.

There’s no sign of that dynamic changing: According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, new listings in the GTA dipped 2 per cent in the first half of March from a year earlier. The average selling price jumped more than 9 per cent, to $502,155 in the first two weeks of March, compared with the same month in 2011.

Re/Max recently unveiled a spring market trends report that showed that the average number of days a listing spends on the GTA market GTA edged down to 24 this spring compared with 27 last year.

Fifty per cent of houses in the coveted $600,000 to $900,000 price range in a good neighbourhood such as Cricket Club, Lytton Park or Leslieville, sell for more than the asking price, Re/Max says.

The survey also put some numbers to the anecdotal evidence that the luxury market has bounced back: The number of properties sold for more than $1.5-million has jumped 53 per cent so far in 2012, from last year.

So avid house hunters, keep an eye out for those pods: now that March break is behind us and Easter is approaching, homeowners in Toronto who are planning to move this year are in turbo-charged decluttering mode.

Tell us your plans: Are you thinking about moving or renovating?

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