The new year started strong, producing 4,672 residential resales, an increase of more than 8 percent compared to the 4,318 sales the market produced during January 2015. The big story early in the year is not sales, but the lack of inventory.
In January only 8,957 new properties became available for sale in the greater Toronto area. This compares poorly against the 9,547 new listings in January 2015, a decline of over 6 percent. The number of new listings combined with the properties that sold in January means that at the beginning of February there were only 9,966 properties available for buyers to purchase. This is a decline of almost 15 percent compared to the 11,600 properties available last year and an even bigger decline than 11,903 properties available for sale in February 2014.
These numbers are exceptionally low. They translate into only 1.8 months of inventory in the greater Toronto area and 2.1 months in the city of Toronto.The difference is due to the larger supply of condominium apartments available for sale in the city, predominately in the central core. In early 2015 there was 2.2 months of inventory in the greater Toronto area and 2.4 months in the city of Toronto. These numbers favor sellers but create a troublesome imbalance in the market place. In same trading areas the lack of inventory has reached serious levels of concern. For example in the trading area that encompasses the Riverdale and Leslieville neighbourhoods, there are only 1.1 months of inventory, a record low.
The problem with these low inventory levels, aside from the fact that they leave buyers frustrated and prevent first time buyers from becoming homeowners, they are placing incredible upward pressure on sale prices.
In January the average sale price for the Toronto area came in at $ 631,092, more than 14 percent higher compared to January 2015’s average sale price of only $ 552,929. In the city of Toronto the number is even higher, and the average sale price in the central core, including all condominium apartment sales which took place in January, is now $ 731,243. If inventory levels stay low the continued pressure on prices will put sustainability in question.
Activity was not restricted to the lower priced properties in January. For example, 88 properties having a sale price in excess of $2 million sold in January. This compares with only 44 such sales during the same period last year, an increase of 100 percent. The tight market conditions have driven the average sale price for a detached home in Toronto to $1,061,789 and a semi-detached home to $ 713,972. The problem with semi-detached homes is that there are hardly any available to buyers. There were 10 trading districts in Toronto that had no semi- detached properties listed for sale in January.
In the city of Toronto the only abundant source of available inventory is condominium apartments. In January there were 3,231 active condominium apartments listings. This supply represents almost 70 percent of the total available inventory of residential properties listed for sale in Toronto. It is not surprising that buyers are turning to condominium apartments as their only housing choice. In January condominium apartment sales were up by 11.6 per cent compared to last year. Prices jumped by 8.6 percent. In January the average sale price for a condominium apartment was $416,104. In Toronto’s central core the average sale price was $469,723.
It will be interesting to see what happens in February. It is unlikely that tight inventory levels will improve, which means the pressure on prices will continue. The turmoil in equity markets may have an impact on sales, particularly the upper end, where choice rather than necessity plays a role in buying and selling decisions. Lastly on February 15ththe new lending rules come into effect. After that date high ratio buyers will have to come up with 10 percent downpayments on loans that exceed $500,000. They can still make 5 percent downpayments on the first $ 500,000 of the loan amount. It is not anticipated that this change will have a negative impact on the greater Toronto resale market place.