Residential sales in October suffered their biggest single month decline this year over ’07; down 35%. The 416 area code was worse, down by 38%. In terms of condos, the overall market was off 25%, but Downtown, where condo activity is stronger, sales were down more, to 32% from the same month a year ago. There is no doubt the New City Land Transfer Tax introduced in 2008 pushed forward sales into late 2007 and this also had a negative impact on this year’s sales. Only the politicians who imposed the tax seem surprised! But the telling signal for Downtown Condos is that the sale-to-listing ratio which last year stood at 65% (a sellers’ market) is now at 25% (a buyers’ market). But before anyone thinks that everything is being sold at fire sale prices, the sale price to list price ratio for condos selling is still at 98%. What is happening is that sellers either get their price or their properties just don’t sell.
Going forward, we cannot emphasize enough that ‘market timing’ never works. Sellers who were waiting for the top of the market missed it six months ago. So if you don’t have to sell now, take your property of the market and wait! Buyers who think that the market will be even softer in six months are also in for a surprise. The long term fundamentals of the condo market are extremely positive and all of the bad economic news has already been factored into this market. The best time for buyers is now when there is so much product available. Wait a year and you will be back in the herd, running after listings with multiple offers.
So let’s look at today’s real estate prices by tracking some sales at the Waterview condos – 2119 and 2121 Lake Shore Blvd. on the Etobicoke waterfront. The first unit we tracked was a two-bedroom with parking at 1550 sq.ft. With upgrades and great water and city view, it sold in December of 2006 for $570,000. The same unit sold again in May of this year for $590,000. Two things to note: at $380 per sq.ft, the price is reasonable and in fact is lower than comparable new developments. Secondly there was no drop in price in 2008. To further prove this point, we looked at two other smaller units in the same complex. The first, a bachelor sold in 2007 for $155,000 and then again in 2008 for $169,000. The second, a one-bedroom sold in September of 2007 for $225,000 and again in May of 2008 for $237,000! So why are average prices down in 2008? As we explained in our last Report, the mix of sales has changed dramatically from 2007 to 2008 – less of the expensive properties and more of the cheaper units are now selling in 2008. That will produce a drop in the published average price, even when individual properties are actually increasing in price! In this market there is no doubt that some properties have declined in price but there are plenty of examples of properties increasing in price too!
The rental market remained strong in October with over 150 one-bedroom units leased. The most popular type was a one plus den with parking that averaged just under $1700. The entry level Bachelor without parking averaged $1200. There were 90 two-bedroom units leased. Two-bedroom prices averaged $2340 with parking and a den, down to $2000 for units without parking or a den. The average days-on-market for one-bedrooms was 12-14, while two-bedrooms took 17-20 days to lease up. This is usually the slowest rental period of the year but it is pretty clear what is happening. As more people decide to rent (and wait to buy later), the result has been increased rental prices of $100-150 per month.