August numbers are out from the Toronto Real Estate Board. Sales were just over 8,000 units -27% higher than August '08. For September, we are forecasting 7,500+ units. Compare that to 6400 units in September '08 and 6,900 units in September '07 ( the record sales year on TREB).
There is no reason to expect this market to back off. Affordability is at a five year low and the economy is starting to improve along with consumer confidence. Listings are still in short supply and while prices have increased from February lows, we have not seen any speculative price increases that would suggest any type of housing/condo bubble that would lead to a correction in the near term.
All good news but we have been in this business long enough to not get complacent. The key to success in this business is to track the real estate market on an ongoing basis and to keep on top of even the slightest changes. That's where most of the experts tend to fall down and which leads them to their biggest mistakes.
July was another record breaking month for the Toronto Real Estate Board. Residential sales were 9,967 units – up 28% over ’08 but down 9% from the peak month this year which was June. On the condo side, sales were up 24% over July ’08. In South Etobicoke, condo sales were ahead by 5%, whereas Downtown condo sales were up by 33%. More significantly, Downtown condo sales matched June’s numbers. August numbers will be lower than July’s – in the 8,000 unit range which will be 25% ahead of August of ’08. But we need to see September numbers before we can accurately gage the rest of the year.
We know that low interest rates and Generation X and Y are driving this market. But what is fuelling strong prices is the lack of listing inventory which has caught most of us by surprise. New listings continue to trend down – 18% lower this July, than in July of ’08. Active listings, the pool for buyers to select from, is 36% lower than last year! When you examine the sale-to-list ratio for condos Downtown, it is currently over 80% (remember a balanced market is 25-35%) and in South Etobicoke it is just over 50%. This is certainly a window for sellers to move up and for investors to sell out. Experts seem convinced that demand (buyers) will drop off later this year. Their rationale is not based on any economic factors but just that buyers have to run out at some time. Certainly seasonality will slow this market but our analysis shows that condo buyers just don’t work in area ‘416’, as most people assume. The number of younger buyers who work in ‘905’ and who insist in living Downtown is huge and is growing!
This month we looked at sales at Mystic Point and The Tides building in South Etobicoke. This is the perfect building for young people – lower prices and highway access for those who work in ‘905’. We looked at three different-sized units to track the price trend from the market peak in 2007 down to the trough in late 2008 and then the market rebound in 2009. As we have reported before, small units were not impacted in 2008, whereas larger units definitely dropped in price and then rebounded. The smallest unit we looked at was a jr. one-bedroom with parking which sold in 2007 for $187,000 and then sold again in July of this year for $207,000. A two-bedroom with one bath, at 800 sq.ft., sold in 2008 for $264,000 and again in May of this year for $277,000. The biggest unit with the best view – two bedrooms with two baths and parking, sold initially for $324,000 in 2007 and was sold again in May of this year for just $313,500. The smallest unit is selling for $400 per sq.ft., while the bigger units are going for $350 per sq.ft. which is a discount to the Downtown market of about $50-75 per sq.ft. Prices at these levels are definitely sustainable going forward.
The rental market remains strong and very tight. 245 one-bedroom units were leased Downtown, from a low of $1400 on average without parking to a high of $1700 for a one plus one with parking. This was the biggest month for two bedroom rentals this year with 138 units changing hands. Prices ranged from $2000 – 2200. There are also more bachelors on the market with prices averaging $1250 to $1350 for parking. An interesting trend is that units with parking are staying on the market for 15 days while those without are staying on the market for 25-30 days before renting.