March was the second consecutive month this year where sales were considerably lower than the same month in 2012. As reported by the Toronto Real Estate Board, overall sales were down by 17% in March. Total condo sales were down by 20%, while downtown core condos were down by 16%. As we reported last month, the poor weather in February and now this March had a major impact on sales. The so called experts have dismissed the weather claims, but when you are ‘on the street’ and see appointment cancellations, and people delaying the search process; you know better. While the market has now been soft since last summer, prices have yet to decline as the experts have been predicting. Average prices are up 4% over this time a year ago. Average condo prices in the 416 area – the one segment that has generated the most concern are up by 2%. So how do you explain that?
Looking specifically at the downtown core ‘active’ listings continue to rise – up 16% from March of 2012. However ‘new’ listings for March were up only 5% from March of last year. For those condos that are selling, they are selling at 98% of list price and on average in 31 days. Last year the numbers were 99% of list and 27 days! Not much of a difference. What that tells us is that listings priced at market are selling, and that we have an overhang of listings with sellers who are unrealistic about price.
TREB sales results for the first two weeks of April are out. The weather is a little better – not the spring temps from last year – and surprise! Overall sales are only 1% lower than for the same period last year. Looking at condos in the 416 area, sales were off by only 4% from last year and the average price is 5% higher. Are we heading for a ‘lagged’ spring market? In 2012 monthly sales peaked in May and then dropped off significantly by July. This year we are looking for sales to peak in June with a much stronger summer selling season than last year. Let us be the first to predict that monthly sales will exceed those in 2012 by July – August at the latest! When will the other so called experts figure out the market change? They probably will read the tea leaves by September and most buyers looking for the market bottom will have missed it again.
Trying to interpret prices in this market is difficult. This month we examined sales at the Festival Tower at 80 John St. Having the Toronto International Film Festival head quartered in the building does add extra sizzle to prices. The Developer first began selling units in 2007 at $600 -700 per sf. and the project was completed for occupancy in 2011. We decided to trace the history of a single unit which was sold first as an assignment in June of 2011. The unit, on a high floor, is a one bedroom plus den with 619 sf. It has a locker, no parking, plus a 128 sf balcony, with significant upgrades. It sold for $450,000 or $727/sf. The same unit was sold again in January of this year by the mortgage lender as a Power of Sale – as is; meaning that it was a slightly below market price. The price was $402,000 or $649/sf. Currently, there are 9 other units for sale out of 373 in the building – none of which are Power of Sales. The range of list prices for similar units is $700-720 per sf. The point we have been making over the last twelve months is that the resale condo market is very stable in the $500 -550/sf range downtown. If anything prices have edged up about 2-3%. Premium buildings have seen their prices come down from upwards of a $1,000 per sf to the $700+ range.
Currently 24% of all condos in the GTA are being rented by investors as opposed to being lived in by end users. The current vacancy rate is 1%. In the downtown core, almost 600 units were leased in March. Rental prices were unchanged. Studios or bachelor units averaged $1400/mo. One bedroom units start at $1500 without parking or den and average up to $1900 for a one bedroom that includes parking and den. Two bedroom units start at $2200 and go up to $3,000 per month. There were twelve three bedroom units leased in March at an average price of over $4,000 per month. Average days to lease ranged from 10 days for one bedroom units, to 16 days for two bedroom units, and up to 50 days for the three bedroom units.