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Real Estate Real estate: When an asking price is just conjecture

With views likes this, from the backyard of 25 Ellis Park Rd., no wonder the winning offer topped $2-million,

The string of houses that back on to High Park's Grenadier Pond in Toronto's west end are seldom offered for sale and people tend to marvel at the rarefied setting when they are.

"I don't think there are too many places where you can walk out on a back terrace and all you see is green," says real estate agent Jillinda Greene.

Ms. Greene was prepared for the crowds when approximately 200 people showed up at the two public open houses she held at 25 Ellis Park Rd. in Swansea on a recent June weekend.

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Visitors walked up to the expansive plate glass windows in the living room and master bedroom and watched swans and ducks drifting along in the water below. "The three levels of the house cascade down the ravine," she says.

Ms. Greene, of ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd., figured that setting an asking price was really just conjecture, despite the input of two appraisers and a handful of colleagues.

"I always knew it was up to whoever bought it," she says, "With a house like that, once it's gone, you're not going to find it again. It was such an unusual property."

She tossed out an asking price of $1.698-million and – after five buyers joined the fray – the winning bid came in at $2.11-million.

The property was also unusual in that it was a duplex. A third suite on the lower level was set up for a caregiver.

It was an estate sale, Ms. Greene says, and the vendors live out of town, so she made it clear that no bully offers would be accepted. The buyers didn't reveal whether they plan to keep the house as it is, convert it to a single family dwelling or rebuild.

Ms. Greene says the market has remained extremely busy so far in June.

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To the west, in Mississauga and Oakville, Matthew Regan of Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., says it was the busiest spring market since before 2008. Multiple offers are common in the popular price segment between $750,000 and $1.2-million, Mr. Regan says.

He points to one deal in his office that saw 17 offers on a house that was listed for $699,000 and sold for $840,000. "It's unprecedented out here," he says of the spirited competition.

In the luxury market, houses are selling briskly at prices between $2.8-million and $4-million, he says, although bidding wars don't typically happen in that price range.

Mr. Regan says some of the buyers are move-up buyers from Toronto who want a detached house, a backyard and a driveway, but can't afford to purchase a property with those features in the core. "They're priced out. The natural gravitation is to be pushed out to Mississauga and Oakville."

In one case, a house in the desirable Lorne Park area sat on the market for three or four months until a couple from Toronto looked at it and bought it for $2.05-million. "They saw it for 26 minutes and bought it on the spot."

That couple had been looking for 18 months in other areas: "Boom – they see it out here in Mississauga in a safe neighbourhood with good schooling," he says, adding that it's a 25-minute ride by GO Train to downtown Toronto.

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Other house hunters in the high-end tranche are empty-nesters who have put their kids through university, he says. They may start out as downsizers and decide to trade space for a more desirable location or more luxurious property – even at a higher price. "Luxury – if you put it in one word, that's what they want," he says.

Mr. Regan says the brisk sales are encouraging some property owners to put their houses on the market. Along Mississauga Road and the surrounding side streets, for example, "for sale" signs are abundant. He says a Mississauga Road address was once a status symbol but, as the thoroughfare becomes busier, properties tend to sit longer.

More entry-level buyers can find a three-bedroom bungalow or split-level house in the $700,000 to $900,000 range, he adds. Such properties are often renovated, detached and built in the 1960s, he says.

Numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board demonstrate how torrid the market has remained in an unusually chilly June.

According to TREB, resale housing activity jumped 15.7 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area in the first half of June compared with the same period last year. The average selling price during the first 14 days of the month was $650,732, or 12 per cent higher than it was in the first half of June, 2014.

The strong growth pushed up prices for condo units and single family homes.

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Modest growth in new listings was not enough to offset the pent-up demand that has built up during the first half of 2015, notes TREB's director of market analysis, Jason Mercer.

Condo units in the 416 area code saw the biggest sales jump of any segment in the GTA with a 23.5 per cent surge. But urban areas of the 905 also saw big gains with an 18.7 per cent increase in condo unit sales and a 19.2 per cent rise in detached house sales.

By comparison, sales of detached houses in the 416 rose 7 per cent.

The strongest price advance, meanwhile, came from townhouses in the 905, which gained 16.7 per cent in the first half of June compared with a year earlier.

Detached houses in the 416 added 13 per cent year-over-year to reach an average price of $1,070,472. The average detached house in the 905 traded hands at $745,288 for a 15.1-per-cent gain.

New listings in the GTA edged up to 8,900 from 8,753.

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