Industry experts are starting to call the problems in the Toronto housing market a “blip” rather than a bursting bubble. While it is true that in some areas, housing prices are going down, overall prices are still up year-over-year in the Toronto area.
Flood of listings sellers trying to cash in at “peak”
The primary driver behind the dip in Toronto home prices has been a flood of supply on the market, mostly from sellers looking to cash in on what experts had determined was the “peak” of the housing market in early 2017. Generally, when you are told prices are the highest they are going to get, you’re going to make the decision to sell.
However, the new listings are high-priced, and there are a limited amount of buyers that can afford the average home price of $746,218 across the GTA. Even condos, which used to be the entry-level option to the housing market, have an average price now of $519,000 – which is definitely out of reach of the single income individuals who usually purchase these properties. So while sales have decreased, prices remain steadily growing at a single-digit pace, in accordance with the Toronto Real Estate Board’s prediction earlier in 2017.
Will buyers come in off the sidelines after seeing steady price increases?
There are three things that could happen with prices in the Toronto housing market. The first sees sellers lowering their prices significantly in order to sell their properties. But since the primary driver for these sellers was to “cash in”, this is highly unlikely – although it is what buyers want to happen. The second option – the inventory will be pulled off the market or turned into rental properties, as there is a rental crunch in Toronto and the GTA, and non-selling properties could make their owners more money if they become rental properties.
A third option, and one advocated by the TREB which has so far predicted every move in the Toronto housing market correctly for 2017, is that buyers waiting on the sidelines for prices to decrease see them increasing instead, and decide to purchase homes in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018. Those hoping for a deal will see steady price increases month-after-month and will realize that the deals won’t materialize. What remains to be seen is if there are enough people with the incomes to afford Toronto and GTA housing at current prices to snap up the current supply.
Sales need to decline for a number of months to see a price drop
Big price drops don’t realistically happen unless sales decline over a long stretch of time – and there are other factors at play, such as sellers deciding to convert their properties to short-term or long-term rental properties rather than selling them if they don’t get the price they want. For now, real estate agents and industry experts are predicting an “insane” fall season for property sales in Toronto and the GTA.
The Toronto Real Estate Board’s June Market Watch outlined a number of key trends in Toronto and surrounding area real estate. An increased supply of listings has led to less price growth than we have been used to seeing in the market, but the price growth is still healthy at 6.3% year-over-year.
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Shortly after the Ontario government introduced legislation designed to curb foreign real estate buyers and real estate speculation, the Toronto Real Estate Board undertook a data analysis exercise to understand just how many foreign buyers there are in Toronto and the GTA, and just how much real estate speculation is really going on in this area. (more…)
The Ontario government recently introduced the Fair Housing Plan, which includes sweeping legislation for the real estate market – most of which will have an impact on landlords in Ontario. One of the measures was the Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) of 15%, which is meant to curb speculation by foreign investors in southern Ontario.
The brass tax of the NRST
The NRST has been in force since April 21, 2017. It imposes a 15% tax on real estate purchases of any property that would be considered a single-family residence that is purchased by a foreign national, entity or corporation. The full text of the NRST is available here.
Refugees and immigrants are not subject to the NRST. Additionally, a rebate program is available for foreign nationals who obtain Canadian citizenship – they can receive a rebate of the tax if they become a citizen within four years. Students enrolled in a Canadian institution for at least two years are also exempt from the NRST. A foreign national student would only receive the rebate after two years of full-time attendance at a Canadian university or college.
The NRST’s geographic scope expands well beyond Toronto and the GTA. It includes the following municipalities:
Vancouver foreign buyer’s tax sparks GTA’s NRST
After a foreign buyer’s tax of 15% was levied to cool housing prices in Vancouver, there was evidence that firms marketing Canadian real estate shifted their focus to Toronto. However, the Toronto Real Estate Board surveyed Toronto area Realtors and found that only around 5% of real estate transactions conducted in 2016 were from foreign buyers.
Around a quarter of those purchases were rental investments, with the rest being purchases of homes for the individual or a family member. The percentage of foreign buyers was much higher in Vancouver – it was just above 15% before the B.C. government introduced its foreign buyer’s tax in 2016. It subsequently dropped to about 4% as of December 2016 – only a percentage point below the TREB’s estimated percentage of foreign buyers in Toronto and the GTA.
The Ontario government first showed a distaste for introducing a similar tax in 2016, preferring to let market forces prevail. However, winds changed as the public became increasingly concerned with skyrocketing housing and rental costs in Toronto and the GTA and the Fair Housing Plan was introduced in April 2016 with the NRST as a prominent plank in the Plan.
Various Reactions to the NRST
The Toronto Real Estate Board didn’t have anything specific to say about the NRST in its statement reacting to the Fair Housing Plan, but did say that more empirical data is required before policy decisions are made. We didn’t really know the numbers of foreign nationals that were buying into the Toronto and GTA markets prior to the enactment of the Fair Housing Act; that data will be available to the government once the Plan has been in force for a few months.
Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association, had this to say about the NRST. “The main culprit behind rapidly rising house prices is the GTA’s unbalanced market – housing supply cannot meet demand – not foreign buyers.”
TD Economist Beata Caranci argues in favour of the tax, stating that it has worked well in international jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Melbourne to cool housing markets but not to slow them down. However, she added in a joint statement with other TD economists that “Ultimately, it is unknown what degree of home sales are related to this speculative behavior.”
Will the NRST cool a hot housing market?
Tim Hudak’s argument for supply not meeting demand seems sound, but it remains to be seen how much of that demand was generated by foreign investors. Parsing it out further, how much of that demand is being generated by foreign investors speculating on the market? If 25% of homes purchased by foreign nationals in 2016 were rental property investments, that’s an income-generating venture which allows for more rental supply for tenants, not speculation.
Until the data comes in, we won’t have any numbers – and that is the TREB’s point. The B.C. government did it right by gathering data prior to enacting its legislation, and found that a high percentage of property purchases were coming from foreign buyers. The Ontario government has put the cart before the horse, and will no doubt reap the tax rewards of such a move, but it isn’t evidence-based policy decision making.
One thing is certain – the NRST is an effective tool to curb speculation for those who were looking to speculate in the Vancouver market and shifted gears to Toronto. However, the number of transactions which occurred because of that shift is unknown – we’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, bidding wars will continue in Toronto and the GTA, and the only change is that foreign buyers may not be parties to those wars.
Partnering with a friend or family member to purchase a rental property can seem like an attractive prospect, especially with rising real estate costs in Toronto and the GTA. Going in on a rental property with a partner can make it a more affordable and potentially rewarding venture, but with it comes a significant risk. Before making any hasty decisions, it’s important to take into consideration the legal implications of a joint venture partnership. (more…)
An economist at BMO Capital Markets recently said that the real estate market in Toronto and surrounding areas is a bubble market. And while rising prices and dwindling supply have been a fact of life in the Toronto real estate market for the past couple of years, it has to be argued that we’re not in striking distance of where it is possible for the bubble to “pop”.
Definition of a housing bubble
A housing bubble is an increase in property prices which is driven by demand, usually due to limited supply. Once demand reaches a certain point, real estate speculators begin to enter the market, which can further drive up price. The bubble pops when demand decreases, either due to a new abundance of supply or other factors, such as a serious downward slope in the overall economy.
It walks like a duck, but doesn’t quite talk like one
It is true that prices and demand have risen significantly in Toronto and the GTA. Additionally, CMHC has put forward the theory that speculation is driving up the Toronto and GTA real estate markets. But a very important condition to the bubble bursting just doesn’t exist in the Toronto and GTA market – and that condition is decreased demand.
One of the only things that could decrease demand significantly is an increase in inventory, which isn’t likely to happen any time soon within the 416 area code. The boom in the GTA is a direct result of rising prices in Toronto pushing buyers into a cheaper location – many of these buyers would prefer to live in Toronto to avoid long commutes to work. The only place we can really see expanded inventory is in surrounding GTA communities, as development in Toronto itself is limited by space. While demand may dwindle in the GTA once new builds happen in outlying communities over the next few years, that demand for a home close to work will always be there in Toronto itself. If anything, this will depress housing prices in the GTA slightly once new inventory is released onto the market.
Economy another potential external factor
If conditions continue with the status quo, the only other item which could affect the real estate market – and which would affect it no matter what the housing prices and demand were like – is a significant downward tick in the economy. The most recent outlook maintains that Canada’s economy is growing, with a slowdown in the real estate sector in Vancouver pumping the brakes a bit on growth. The elephant in the room is how many protectionist trade policies the U.S. is planning on putting in place in the next year with the renegotiation of NAFTA, although the current administration’s signals during Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent Washington visit pointed to Mexico, and not Canada, being the major target in NAFTA renegotiation.
So is the proclaimed “bubble market” really just regular growth in the Toronto and GTA real estate market? While the rise in housing prices and increased demand may make it look like a bubble market, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) argues that the supply levels for real estate being at their lowest levels since 2000 is the critical factor in rising prices. It is predicting another year of double-digit growth in housing prices. So if it is a bubble, it’s going to keep on growing for at least another year.
The main concern of the Toronto Real Estate Board for the current market is how many buyers will get pushed out of the market with rising housing prices and new federal mortgage rules which put home ownership effectively out of reach for first-time buyers in expensive markets like Toronto – this is justifiable as these people may just move out of the area, instead of being future Toronto and GTA real estate homebuyers.
Those who can’t move will rent, making this market a hot one for those who have considered real estate investment in an income-producing property. Contact Highgate today if you want to find out how you can capitalize on these market conditions with a property management company and real estate broker built to serve current and future landlords.
Real estate investment in Toronto is actually much simpler than people think, but you have to have the right mindset to do it. That mindset is somewhere in the middle between being too scared to jump into it before investigating every small detail and being overconfident and uninformed. As with everything in life, moderation between the two extremes is where you want to be in order to be successful with real estate.
The most successful investors we meet are confident, make decisions and don’t look back. They are not looking for a silver bullet to make easy money. But they are patient and willing to look down the road long-term. They believe in themselves and they believe in the real estate market.
Stop being scared of the “what-ifs” of property investment
You may have a dream of investing in an income property. But somehow, you always manage to talk yourself out of it. Prices are too high, the market isn’t right, you don’t have enough time – there’s always an excuse.
If anyone actually knew how the real estate market would perform, they would be the richest people in the world. There is one fact that every statistic backs up – real estate always appreciates in value in the long term. The hardest thing is to purchase that initial property and it’s like quitting smoking – the sooner you do it, the more results you’ll see over time. You have to hold your nose and take that initial risk, but you shouldn’t do it flying blind either. A Toronto property investment firm like Highgate can walk you through the entire process, from making the initial purchase to managing the property for you.
For the overconfident: Real estate investment is not a way to get rich quick
There are a few types of people who fit into the “overconfident” category of real estate investor. Either they’ve been to a few real estate investment “seminars” where they’ve been asked to fork over thousands of dollars to learn something a Realtor could tell you for free, or they’ve been watching reality TV shows where houses are flipped and fortunes are made. Either way, the overconfident real estate investor comes in with guns blazing and a little bit of uncontextualized knowledge.
The #1 thing that you should learn about real estate before you purchase an investment property is that there is no “Get Rich Quick” scheme that can possibly involve real estate. Even if you purchased a dirt cheap foreclosed property in the US after the American mortgage crisis of 2008, you would have still had to hold on to that property for a number of years to make good money on it – and that’s an extreme example that hopefully, for the economy’s sake, won’t happen again. Real estate investment is exactly that – an investment. It’s an investment of money and time. It does pay off – but only over the long term, and only if you manage your cash flow properly and make prudent initial buying decisions.
For the house-flipping bunch, the thing you don’t usually see on those shows are the hidden costs that crop up after the sale and the renovations start. There may be structural issues that were missed on the home inspection, requirements to bring the property up to code, and more – all of which can quickly nuke any profits that could have been made on the sale. Due to this and many other factors, house flipping is also not a “Get Rich Quick” scheme, unless you make prudent purchase decisions and budget properly.
Real estate investing done right for everyone
If you want to do real estate investment right, just follow these three simple steps.
Step 1 – Contact a real estate broker
Find a real estate broker you can trust – preferably one like Highgate which also does property management. Firms like this will know the rental market and the real estate market, and can educate you on both.
Step 2 – Get in touch with the market
You can read all of the books and real estate magazines that you want – the only way to really get to know properties is to go see properties with an experienced broker, even if you aren’t planning on buying one yet. Pick an area that you and your broker like, then go see about ten properties in that area. Find out what each property sells for. This will tell you how much you need to budget for, give you an idea of fair market value for the area, and start your real estate education. Don’t be worried about being viewed as a tire kicker, you will likely be buying a property with that broker one day and a good one won’t mind showing you the ropes. Repeat the process every couple of months until you have a good sense of what properties sell for, what potential issues are, and so on.
Step 3 – Purchase your investment property
If you’re already working with an experienced broker, they’ll have helped you work out what your budget should be for your investment property. Most importantly, don’t over leverage yourself in order to purchase an income property – even the best-laid plans come with unforeseen costs that you should be prepared for.
Now that you have a sense of the market, you can apply that knowledge and put in offers that are likely to be accepted on properties where you see the most potential growth, the best rental possibilities, and so on.
Step 4 – Properly manage your investment property
If your intention is to rent your property out, you’ll get the most return on investment with a property management company – especially if you are not an experienced landlord. They will help you avoid potential pitfalls like non-paying renters and more. A firm like Highgate can also help you out if you are interested in house flipping – we know the duds and the stars, and have contractors on hand who are affordable and efficient. We’ll also make sure you aren’t overleveraging yourself financially and have enough funds to do it right.
If you are interested in real estate investment, contact Highgate today. We don’t speak at fancy seminars, but you can get our advice for free – and our family has been in the real estate and property management business for decades.
We’re rolling out the red carpet for new clients at Highgate Property Investments this month with promotions for home buyers, sellers and landlords seeking property management services. While we can go on about how great we are in our marketing, the only way to really sell our services is to show you what we can do for your bottom line. (more…)
Real estate in the Greater Toronto Area and Toronto continued to appreciate in terms of price and number of units sold in August 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). The amount of properties sold increased year-over-year by 13%, while the average home price increased to $710,410, a huge 17.7% increase. This is on-trend for the year, with consistently increasing prices and a dwindling supply of properties. The average price of a detached home in Toronto is now well over a million, at $1,206,637.
“Population in the GTA continues to grow. The resulting growth in households coupled with favourable economic conditions and low borrowing costs means that we remain on track for another record year for home sales. Against this backdrop, TREB will also be releasing new third-party research, and consumer and REALTOR® survey results throughout the fall and winter, with discussions focusing on foreign buying activity and issues affecting the supply of ownership housing,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.
There are three sure factors that are combining to create this perfect storm of increases – increased population, low borrowing costs and a limited supply of new properties on the market.
Mercer also mentioned a forthcoming analysis of another potential factor, which is demand from buyers who would have purchased properties in British Columbia, but are now being hit by the punitive foreign ownership tax for doing so. The assumption is that these buyers are now looking seriously at purchasing instead in Toronto, but that theory remains to be proved in the TREB’s upcoming report due in the last quarter of 2016.
What does the GTA look like?
Unsurprisingly, housing costs rising into the stratosphere in Toronto are driving buyers into the suburbs. Condos, townhomes and detached homes in the 905 have gone up in sales numbers between 24% and 26.8%. Condominiums in the GTA have only seen a modest price increase of 9.2%, making them much more attractive to first-time buyers and people with middle-class incomes.
The TREB has been beating the refrain that increased supply of properties on the market are a partial solution to the problem of rising housing costs – but realistically it will take some time for new units to be built. Additionally, many homeowners may be hanging on to homes as the price increases year-over-year have made any investment in real estate in the last five years attractive; they are not incented to sell when it doesn’t look like prices are going down any time soon, which further restricts inventories.
Be prepared for housing costs and sales to continue their upwards trend for the rest of 2016 – the only thing that could realistically stop this is a sudden increase in interest rates, which the Bank of Canada is not signalling as a possibility before the end of 2016.