The Toronto and area residential resale market picked up where 2016 ended. In fact it accelerated the pace of sales we witnessed in December. This is unusual behavior for the market in January, usually a slow month, as buyers and sellers kick out the holiday season cobwebs. But these are unusual times, very unusual times.
The shortage of available supply is causing buyers to hunt for properties for sale, even at the very beginning of the year. In January there were 5,188 reported sales, almost 12 percent higher than the 4,640 reported sales in January of 2016. January’s sales figures would have been higher if there were more active listings available to buyers. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that in the City of Toronto there was a decline in the number of detached and semi-detached properties sold, while at the same time average sale prices increased by almost 27 percent for detached properties and more than 26 percent for semi-detached properties.
The other interesting piece of data that emerges from January’s results is the speed at which properties were listing for sale and then reported sold. In January all properties listed for sale (on average) sold in just 19 days. The number, when compared to January 2016, is startling. Last year it took 29 days for all properties to be reported sold, a speed-up in sales of almost 35 percent. It must not be forgotten that 2016 was a record breaking year in all categories, including days on market.
It is no surprise that with a listing shortage, fast sales, and a certain buying fervor that the average sale price for all homes sold in the greater Toronto area increased sharply in January. The average price for a home in the greater Toronto area was $770,745. That is not a record, but it was close. The record is $777,031 achieved in November of last year. Last January the average sale price was only $630,193, a dramatic increase of more than 22 percent. That increase included condominium apartment sales. Excluding condominium apartments the average price of a detached home is $1,336,640, and $902,688 for a semi-detached property, eye-popping increases of 26.8 and 26.4 percent from last year.
In Toronto’s central core the numbers are even higher. A detached house in the central core will now cost a buyer $2,324,593, with semi-detached properties now trading for $1,169,123, if you can find one. Only 33 semi-detached properties sold, again speaking to the shortage of supply, and they sold in only 13 days. Other trading areas in Toronto produced similar or even more shocking results. For example, all detached properties in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood (there were only 6 of them) were placed on the market and reported sold in only 2 days! And at 114 percent of their asking price. These are unprecedented market performances.
The decline in the number of available condominium apartments for sale is also becoming troubling, especially since the bulk of all reported sales in Toronto in January were condominium apartments. In January the combined total of detached and semi -detached properties sold was a mere 584. By contrast there were 1,125 condominium apartment sales, an increase of almost 27 percent compared to last year.
At the end of January there were only 1,387 active condominium apartment listings. Last year there were 3,231 condominium apartment listings, a shocking decline of 57 percent. We have reached the stage where there is just over one month of inventory of condominium apartments, and we are only in February. It appears that the last source of abundant housing, like detached and semi-detached properties, has dried up. It is not surprising that the average sale price of a condominium apartment jumped by more than 13 percent in January.
Inventory levels will dictate how the market unfolds for the remainder of 2017. At the beginning of February there were only 1.1 months of inventory in the greater Toronto area, and 1.3 months of inventory in the City of Toronto. The 1.3 months of inventory translates to only 2,230 properties available for sale. The market is far removed from a balanced market. We would need three times the current number of listings on the market to begin approaching a balanced market.
The market is clearly heading towards a state of paralysis. Sellers are holding off putting their properties on the market unless forced to, because there are few alternatives for them in the market place. The supply shortage continues to drive up prices – the average sale price in January was $770,000 – eventually taking them to unsustainable levels. Unless there is a change in the supply side, we could see the 2016 Vancouver pattern develop in the greater Toronto area.
Even without government intervention prices reached such exhibitant levels in Vancouver that by the middle of the 2016 sales began to decline. The decline was accelerated, of course, by the 15 percent foreign investor tax that was implemented in the fall. By year-end the average sale price of houses sold in the greater Vancouver area dropped by 6.6 percent compared to a year ago and sales tumbled by almost 40 percent. The average price for detached properties sold in the region tumbled to $1.5 Million last month, a 17.8 percent decline from the record high of $1.83 Million in January of 2016. The average price for a detached house in Toronto in January was $1,336,640, and $1,068,670 in the greater Toronto area.