Recovery underway in key Canadian markets ends buyer dominance in resale housing, says RE/MAX
Pent-up demand for residential housing has bolstered sales in Canada’s major markets—a clear signal that the housing sector has shifted into recovery mode, says RE/MAX.
More balanced market conditions have emerged, effectively ending the stronghold that buyers had on the market over the past six to eight months. Canada’s largest markets, Toronto and Vancouver, led the charge—with June sales among the highest in history for both local real estate boards. Close to 11,000 properties changed hands in Toronto, up 27 per cent over one year ago, setting a new record for sales in the month of June. The figure was just slightly off the all-time peak of 11,146 units. Residential sales in Greater Vancouver increased 75.6 per cent over one year ago, to 4,259 units, just short of the record breaking 4,333 sales, which occurred in June 2005. Overall, major markets began to recover in March, posting escalating sales in April, May and June. The impetus is expected to continue throughout the remainder of 2009, with most centres now forecasting year-end sales on par or ahead of 2008 levels.
“The strength of the market, amid the most significant global recession in recent history once again underscores its relevance to the nation’s economic engine,” says Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Canadians believe in homeownership --a fact best illustrated by the purchasers who ventured forward in recent months and snapped up some of the best real estate deals this market has seen in years. Those who chose to sit it out on the sidelines are now facing a market in transition, characterized by the threat of rising interest rates, low inventory levels, and upward pressure on housing values.”
The recent surge in resale activity can be attributed to three key factors—pent-up demand, low interest rates, and greater affordability. The combination—in conjunction with declining inventory levels—has created heated market conditions in hot pocket neighbourhoods, prompting a resurgence in multiple offers in June. Average prices are holding steady or climbing, days on market are down, and inventory levels continue to tighten, especially at entry-level price points.
“While sales are the leading indicator, there are other clear signals that recovery is indeed underway,” says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. “Renewed consumer confidence, albeit cautious, has been key, supported by improved economic news. In addition, we’ve seen sale price-to-list price ratios climb across the country, rising as high as 105 per cent in some communities. Vendor incentives have also come off the table, both for resale and new housing stock.”
Although the current pace may be unsustainable, all markers point to greater stability in the market, leading to healthier activity in the long run, with inventory levels a key variable influencing pent-up demand.
Specific Market Overview: Greater Toronto Area
Pent-up demand for residential housing continues to fuel home buying activity across the Greater Toronto Area. The number of homes sold in June – at 10,955 -- came close to the historic record of 11,146 units set in May 2007, while pressure on average price is sending housing values higher than one year ago. Although balanced market conditions prevail, there are those communities that have clearly transitioned into sellers markets. Inventory is key, with the number of properties currently listed for sale down approximately 30 per cent from 2008 levels. Over the past six weeks, momentum has been building, with demand strongest for homes priced between $300,000 and $600,000. Multiple offers are once again commonplace, especially in the city’s coveted hot pocket neighbourhoods.
Affordability – in terms of low interest rates and housing values – has been the impetus for first-time buyers. Luxury home sales have also experienced solid demand in recent months, with 291 homes changing hands over the $1 million price point in June – a new record. The threat of higher interest rates and home prices are expected to stimulate a flurry of home-buying activity in the months ahead. By year-end, sales are forecast to exceed 2008 levels.