Toronto area home prices rose last month, up 3.5 per cent on average from a year ago to $788,345, including houses and condos. But sales and listings were down dramatically, ramping up competition among buyers in some neighbourhoods, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.
The number of resale property transactions dropped 14.7 per cent to 6,251 in November, compared to the same month last year. But new listings were down 26 per cent in the same period, to levels reminiscent of the market prior to the cooling off period initiated by the provincial Fair Housing Plan in April 2017, said TREB director of market analysis Jason Mercer.
New listings are up 12 per cent this year to date, according to statistics released on Wednesday.
There was a spike in new real estate listings after the government policy was announced as a way to cool the overheated market. Those listings have now been absorbed, he said.
The underlying issue of the region’s housing shortage hasn’t changed, however.
“For a period of time, an ongoing supply issue in the GTA was masked by the fact that the sales had dropped off substantially. Now we’re in a situation where sales are certainly not back at their record level, but we’ve also seen listings move back down to where they were prior to the volatility,” said Mercer.
Before the Fair Housing Plan, the Toronto region had seen double-digit home price increases for months, with buyers competing fiercely for homes and multiple offers becoming the norm.
Although some neighbourhoods are hot again, Mercer said he doesn’t expect a return to the conditions in the first three months of last year.
“Looking forward through 2019, I wouldn’t expect to see a return to double-digit price growth, but looking at some of these categories of homes, you’re seeing price growth certainly above the rate of inflation. That’s indicative of relatively tight market conditions even with sales off their historic highs,” he said, citing the continuing price climb of condos in particular.
Lower-priced homes have seen the strongest growth recently, particularly as the mortgage stress test requires buyers to qualify for a loan above the rate their bank is offering. That, coupled with rising interest rates, has curtailed affordability.
Condo prices have increased 7.8 per cent in the Toronto region this year to date, while detached home prices have dipped 7.8 per cent.
In November, detached house prices rose 1.3 per cent on average in the Toronto area to about $1 million. The price for this category of home remains significantly higher in the City of Toronto, where a 1.8 per cent year over year increase brought the average to $1.3 million, compared to a 0.8 per cent rise in the 905-area communities to about $900,000.
The regional average for a semi-detached house was $791,760, 8.3 per cent higher than in November 2018. A townhouse cost 3.1 per cent more year over year at $647,418. Condos gained by 7.5 per cent last month, with an average sale price of $556,723.
The real estate board’s benchmark price index — which compares homes with similar characteristics such as size, location and the age of the property — showed a slightly lower 2.7 per cent price increase year over year in November. Seasonally adjusted prices show that the average home declined in value by about $6,000 between October and November this year.