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Is the Toronto real estate market facing an affordability crisis today? While condominium prices have eased over the last 12 months, it is the detached and semi-detached properties that have soared in price throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis. With the busy spring buying season here, it is almost an inevitability that North America’s fourth-largest city will experience greater sales activity and more pricing growth amid strengthening demand and falling inventories.
From a different perspective, the Toronto real estate market is hotter today than during the boom in 2016. At that time, the red-hot rally had forced the federal and provincial governments to intervene with various measures, such as tightening mortgage lending standards and limiting the flow of foreign cash.
So, how does the Toronto housing sector look in 2021? A common term that is being frequently referenced – by everyone from media to market analysts – to describe the current state of this urban market is affordability crisis.
Toronto Real Estate Market – March 2021
According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), residential sales surged 97 per cent to 15,652 in March. The average home price in Canada’s financial capital increased at an annualized rate of 16.5 per cent to roughly $1.1 million. Industry observers say the substantial push in the Toronto real estate market is a testament to consumer confidence and historically low mortgage rates encouraging sales.
“Confidence in economic recovery coupled with low borrowing costs supported a record pace of home sales last month. While the robust market activity is indicative of widespread consumer optimism, it is also shedding light on the sustained lack of inventory in the GTA housing market, with implications for affordability,” said TRREB President Lisa Patel in a news release.
Like the rest of the Canadian real estate market, it is a case of demand outstripping supply. Although new residential listings jumped 57 per cent year-over-year to 22,709, the annual growth rate is way below transactions.
“With sales growth outstripping listings growth by a large margin, including in the condo market segment, competition between buyers in some market segments and the potential for double-digit price growth could continue without a meaningful increase in the supply of homes available for sale. This will become more apparent as population growth resumes over the next year,” noted TRREB Chief Market Analyst Jason Mercer in a statement.
The positive trend is the growing number of housing starts. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing starts topped 5,100 in March, up from 1,196 in the previous year. Year-to-date, there have been close to 10,000 housing starts in Toronto, up from 6,840 in 2020. Completions have also advanced in excess of 5,100, which is more than double that of the same time last year. In the first three months of 2021, housing completions have exceeded 10,000, up from 7,535 a year ago.
“Affordability Crisis” in Toronto Real Estate Market Continues to Make Headlines
Is it a housing bubble or a housing affordability crisis?
Current market conditions across Toronto (as well as many of Canada’s urban markets) have priced out too many first-time homebuyers, cheap borrowing has ignited bidding wars, and a shortage of inventory is only encouraging this activity.
Overall, these factors have resulted in rising prices, with the average detached property selling for more than $1.7 million. This is an unprecedented average for the city of Toronto, although it should not be too surprising. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the Toronto housing market launched a decade-long period of enormous growth across multiple property categories.
“Housing bubble? I prefer the term ‘affordability crisis,’” explained Christopher Alexander, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada, in a statement. “The demand level is at an all-time high and inventory is very low. I don’t see how we’re going to be able to keep up with the demand with population levels expected to rise to new heights.”
So much for the COVID discount that many had anticipated and hoped for at the start of the pandemic.
As a result, more than one-third of young Canadian adults have given up on the dream of owning a home, according to a new Royal Bank of Canada survey. The same poll found that nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (62 per cent) believe the majority of people will be priced out of the real estate market over the next decade. With that being said, 30 per cent admit that they are still thinking about purchasing a home in the next two years.
Many people say that their budget for buying a home is $500,000. The problem? The average price of a Toronto home, across all property types, is just shy of $1 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed Canadians to accumulate savings. Some studies found that households saved about a fifth of disposable income in 2020. This has fueled the Canadian economy with billions of dollars in cash that could be injected into the marketplace, including housing. As many households wait for a double-digit correction, these funds could be employed at the right time, allowing the next generation of homebuyers to enter into ownership.
Can Homebuyers Plant New Roots Outside of Toronto?
Even if young families are unable to find their dream home in the heart of Toronto, there are plenty of alternatives throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), and across the Ontario housing market. The housing boom has indeed seeped into the province’s small towns and rural communities, whether it is northern Ontario or cottage country. But if your household’s budget to acquire a home is $500,000, there are still many great options across the province; you just have to know where to look.
In Renfrew County, for example, near Ottawa, the average home is selling for $400,000. Thunder Bay has an average price of a home sitting at approximately $220,000. Sudbury has properties selling for an average of $385,000. Affordable housing markets remain, but you have to be willing to venture further outside of the Toronto hub.
Courtesy of REMAX.ca
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What is a housing bubble? You’ve undoubtedly heard the term, but what does it actually mean, and is Canada experiencing one? Whether you already own a home, are considering buying one in the near future, or you’re waiting for the right time to sell, here we answer what is a housing bubble, what causes it, and how it may affect you.
What is a Housing Bubble?
A housing bubble happens when the price of homes rises quickly, at an unsustainable rate. Typically, a price-growth rate that’s in the high single-digits is considered to be healthy and sustainable. Under healthy conditions, homeowners continue to earn equity over time, sellers can make a profit on resale, and buyers can still afford to get into the market. This type of price growth can usually be explained by economic factors, such as an employment boom and favourable interest rates.
On the other hand, a housing bubble can happen as a result of non-organic growth. For example, if speculators were flooding the market, buying up homes to take advantage of rapid price growth, with the intention of selling in the near term for a hefty profit. When prices are deemed to have hit a high point, speculators list their properties for sale. This massive influx of listings, coupled with stagnating demand, causes prices to plummet and results in a “housing market crash.”
A housing bubble is a temporary event and prices eventually return to normal levels, when demand rises again and home-buying activity resumes.
What Happens When a Housing Bubble Bursts?
During a housing bubble, homes become overvalued. When the bubble bursts, prices fall. Homeowners who have no intention of selling are unlikely to feel the direct impacts of the bursting bubble. However, these market conditions often indirectly impact other aspects of the economy, so to call homeowners who aren’t selling “free and clear” would be misleading. The ripple effects of a bursting housing bubble would likely touch most of us, in one way or another.
Homebuyers who purchased a home during a housing bubble likely paid considerably more than it is worth. Properties bought by end-users as a residence, with no intention of being sold in the short-term, will eventually rebound closer to “normal” values and at some point, return to positive growth.
A housing bubble poses the biggest risk to home sellers. Those who purchased in the bubble, but now find themselves forced to sell their home, will come up short on resale. They bought the home at a price that exceeds what they can recoup, putting them in the red with no asset to show for it.
For example, someone purchased at peak market prices, but due to circumstances such as a job loss or the inability to carry the costs for any reason, now has no choice but to sell in a down market. The seller still owes money to their mortgage lender on a home that they no longer own.
Are We in a Housing Bubble?
The Canadian housing market took a surprising upward turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, after coming to a grinding halt in mid-March. The slow-down was short-lived, and what followed through the remainder of 2020 was a a spike in demand for homes met by a shortage of supply. With 2021 well underway, there appears to be no end in sight.
There are a number of factors that indicate we’re not experiencing a bubble caused my market speculators, contrary to some media reports.
A recent online survey of RE/MAX brokers and agents in Western Canada, Ontario and Atlantic Canada found that speculators are not a factor in the Canadian real estate market at this time. In fact, more than 96% of RE/MAX brokers and agents supported this finding, confirming that the majority of homebuyers are end-users. Speculators tend to wait out hot markets, buying when prices are down and selling when they’re up again. The short-term investment opportunities they’re generally looking for are hard to find under current market conditions. Bully offers and bidding wars are commonplace, and we continue to see demand outpacing supply with the release of the monthly housing market data. These factors are generally inhospitable to speculators and investors.
For a housing bubble to burst, there needs to be a steep incline in inventory and new listings, and a decline in demand – neither of which is likely to happen any time soon.
Housing Crash 2021? It’s Highly Unlikely.
The Canadian housing market is still feeling the impacts of the pent-up demand from 2017, when the government introduced the foreign buyer tax and the mortgage stress test as a means to cool the overheating market. These policies prompted many homebuyers to move to the sidelines, opting to wait and save, with plans to re-engage in the housing market in a few years.
Now fast-forward a few years to 2020. COVID-19 had a similar impact on the market, whereby many homebuyers delayed their purchase plans due to pandemic-related uncertainties. That pre-existing pent-up demand for homes continued to swell. With Canadians subject to stay-at-home orders with nowhere to go and spend their hard-earned money, they collectively saved historically high sums, which was injected back into the housing market once consumer confidence returned. The spending came in the form of record-high home sales and for those who were unwilling to face the competitive resale market conditions, renovations to existing dwellings. In fact, Canadian real estate was said to be the driving force behind the Canadian economy in 2020.
Savings, low interest rates and low inventory continue to put pressure on the housing market.
Now, consider the housing needs of the 1.2 million people who are expected to immigrate to Canada through 2023, per the government’s 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.
Given all this, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll experience the influx of real estate listings needed for a housing market crash – and if we did see those listings suddenly come on stream, there should be plenty of buyers to absorb them.
Homebuyers and Sellers, Do Your Due Diligence
Challenging market conditions and a still-present global pandemic have added some personal risk on the part of homebuyers and sellers. It’s important to remember that conditions vary across Canada, and can be dramatically different between provinces, cities, and even from one neighbourhood to the next. Now more than ever, it’s important to work with a trusted, experienced professional Realtor who can guide you through the buying and selling process.
Give us a call, we would love to help!
Courtesy of REMAX.ca