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Toronto’s Housing Market “Taking A Breath”?

Toronto’s Housing Market “Taking A Breath”?

The urgency seems to be seeping out of Toronto’s real estate market as the year comes to a close.

“I think people have frankly gone into a ‘wait and see’ mode,” says real estate agent Janet Lindsay of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

Listings are dwindling, as they typically do at the end of November, but agents feel the pause came a little earlier this year. “It feels to most people that it’s been going on for a few weeks,” she says.

Ms. Lindsay thinks the market is absorbing recent events – including the federal government’s tighter regulations surrounding insured mortgages, the British referendum decision to leave the European Union, and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

Both buyers and sellers seem to be less energetic – especially at the high end of the market where she does most of her deals.

Homeowners often have a lot to do in December as they prepare to entertain for the holidays, she says, so they’re not keen to have potential buyers coming by for showings.

Even sophisticated money is flowing less freely as people wait to see how much change is coming, she says, although the stock market is surging. She doesn’t see any pessimism about real estate or a move into other asset classes – just a less frantic pace. “I’m not seeing any softening in pricing.”

Potential sellers are now talking about waiting for the spring market, Ms. Lindsay says. She’s been evaluating properties for some clients who are thinking about listing. Others are already getting their houses ready for showings in 2017. “I know of some things coming for sure.”

As for buyers – both domestic and international – they would like to have more selection. In some cases, buyers aren’t willing to make a move unless they find exactly what they’re looking for, so that makes the pool of listings even smaller. They might like a house, for example, but find that they want more land surrounding it.

Ms. Lindsay recently listed a newly built semi-detached house at 25 Edmund Ave. with an asking price of $3.6-million. The other half of the semi was sold, unfinished, by the builder before it hit the market.

She spends a lot of time keeping in touch with other agents to find out about houses that might be coming on the market, hoping to get her clients in before the listing becomes public.

Last weekend she took some buyers out for a tour of six properties. “Three were not on the open market.”

In the mid-range of the market, buyers are more likely to be affected by the federal government’s stricter “stress test” rules, which are aimed at making sure some buyers who seek mortgage insurance can handle heftier payments if mortgage rates rise in the future.

The changes make a difference to first-time buyers in particular, she says. In that market, competing bidders and bully offers are still common. Many millennials are eager to buy, she says, but they need to save more money if they can’t rely on the bank of mom and dad. “With the new stress test, some people have to wait.”

Robert Hogue, senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada, believes that the rebound in resale housing that took place in September and October will be short-lived. Mr. Hogue expects that new government housing policies will have a cooling effect across Canada in the months ahead.

Mr. Hogue also wonders if the “Trump surprise” will speed up the expected cooling of Canadian real estate.

The sell-off in the bond market that got rolling after the election led to a surge in bond yields. If the trend continues, he cautions, fixed mortgage rates in Canada could rise and further harden the landing he expects for the housing market next year.

Looking at the national market, Mr. Hogue forecasts a drop in home resales of 11.5 per cent in 2017 compared with 2016. Benchmark prices will edge up by 1.6 per cent next year, he predicts.

Ms. Lindsay says it’s hard to look ahead to the spring of 2017, but she thinks the current dynamics – with lots of buyers and little supply – are likely to continue as people sort out geopolitical movements.

She sums up the mood of market players as watchful.

“What will it all mean? If anything?”

Source: Carolyn Ireland With The Globe & Mail

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