Hopes for a sustained upswing in the Toronto-area housing market have largely fizzled as sales continue to meander this fall.
In September, sales rose an indifferent 1.9 per cent from the same period in 2017. That result follows two months of stronger year-over-year gains in July and August.
“The word I would use for most of the past year is ‘hesitant,’” said real estate agent Tam Boyko of Keller Williams Realty Solutions.
She adds that the mood is pervasive among both buyers and sellers.
Ms. Boyko says some buyers are remaining cautious while they wait to see if there is a further softening in prices. Others don’t qualify for a hefty mortgage after tighter lending rules came into effect at the beginning of 2018. Banks are also more choosy about which deals they take on, she says.
“Sellers think they will wait until the dust settles if they missed the crazy spring of 2017,” she said.
Ms. Boyko says sales and listings of condo units in Toronto’s core remain fairly steady, but many owners of detached houses are holding off. In the lakefront communities west of the city, where she concentrates much of her business, listings have been quiet.
Mimico, Long Branch, Port Credit, Lorne Park, Clarkson, Oakville, Bronte and Burlington are all light on properties for sale, she says.
Sales in Hamilton and Burlington, meanwhile, jumped 4.6 per cent in September from the same month last year. That market has perked up recently after cooling earlier this year.
Ms. Boyko recently listed a three-bedroom house for sale in Hamilton with an asking price of $619,000. Sales and prices in the city west of Toronto have been on a tear in recent years after many people were priced out of Toronto and other areas closer to the core.
The area currently has a comfortable balance between buyers and sellers, according to George O’Neill, chief executive of the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB).
Year to date, sales have fallen 18.8 per cent from the same period last year, according to RAHB.
According to the Canadian Real Estate Assocation’s MLS housing-price index, prices in the Hamilton-Burlington area have jumped 6.1 per cent since September, 2017.
Ms. Boyko says a weekend “open house” at 152 Balmoral Ave. N. was busy with potential buyers. The house is located in a central Hamilton neighbourhood, just a couple of blocks from hip Ottawa Street North.
The detached 1920s-era house was owned by the same family for 56 years before it was purchased and renovated from top to bottom for resale.
Ms. Boyko says four couples made the trip from points east to the open house, including a couple who owns a small condo unit in the 416 area code. Ms. Boyko points out that the condo unit would fetch about the same amount as the detached house in Hamilton.
The couple is considering holding onto the condo and upsizing to a house in Hamilton.
“Rents are high, too, and the rent from their condo could actually help pay the cost of the new house,” Ms. Boyko said.
Ms. Boyko adds that another condo she represents at Rusholme Road and College Street in Toronto is listed with an asking price of $1.695-million.
That amount would almost buy three detached houses in Hamilton, she points out.
But buyers in Toronto remain interested in condo living.
According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the average price for the Greater Toronto Area rose 2.9 per cent compared with September of last year. Prices have remained firm partly because buyers have little to choose from: New listings dropped 3.1 per cent in September from the same month last year.
Active listings, meanwhile, swelled 5.6 per cent from the same month in 2017.
The average home price in the GTA now stands at $796,786.
Compared with August, seasonally-adjusted sales edged up 0.2 per cent in September from August. The average selling price dipped 0.5 per cent from the previous month, according to TREB.
Looking at the market by segment, the price of a detached house in the 416 slipped 1.4 per cent in September from the same month last year to stand at $1.342-million.
A condo unit in the 416, by contrast, saw an 11.7-per-cent jump in price from September, 2017, to stand at $615,582.
On a national level, real estate sales remained flat in September with a 0.4-per-cent decline from August, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
CREA tracks the sales of existing homes through the Multiple Listing Service of local real estate boards.
Compared with September of last year, sales dropped 8.9 per cent, the association says.
Looking ahead, CREA president Barb Sukkau warns that potential buyers who have struggled to get into the market may have even more difficulty in the coming months. Many economists expect the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates and those higher borrowing costs will make it harder for some buyers to line up a mortgage.
“Differences in market balance will likely come into sharper focus as interest rates rise and cause this year’s new mortgage stress test to become even more restrictive,” she said.