Toronto’s condo sales may be down but they’re still way above average

Numbers may not lie, but they can certainly tell different versions of the truth.

Take the year-to-date sales numbers released by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) for new homes and condos sold across the Greater Toronto Area between January and May. During that time, 8,924 new high-rise units were sold — down 22.4% from last year. Low-rise sales during the same period, though, were up 1.6%, at 8,040 sales.

All of that would seem to signify a bad year for the new high-rise market, and a good year for low-rise — except that’s not the case, says George Carras, president of market analysis firm RealNet Canada, which provided the data to BILD. “It’s down [from last year], but relative to the last 12 years it’s the second best year,” he says of the high-rise market. “In fact, when you do the average of the last 12 years, you’re about 37% above average. You’re still seeing on a relative basis very strong sales over the long term.”

Low-rise, though, is a different story. Though sales of new low-rise homes were higher than last year, they were down 25% compared to long-term averages, Mr. Carras says.

Put low-rise and high-rise sales together, though, and what do you come up with? A pretty average year so far, he admits — down 12.7% from 2011’s record numbers. Overall, sales from January to May were at 16,964 units sold, compared with long-term average sales of 17,293 during the same time. “You’re almost right on average in total,” he says.

“The main difference, of course, is the shift in the kind of housing. And that’s continuing.”

Another difference is price. With supply down in the low-rise sector, prices are rising there. RealNet calculated the average index price for a low-rise home at $607,893 in May, “the first time it’s ever gone beyond $600,000,” Mr. Carras says. In the high-rise sector, meanwhile, prices have been levelling off in general, though did rise in May to $439,549. “You usually look at a price gap between low-rise and high-rise, and in the long-term it tended to be about $78,000,” he says. “This is the widest gap on record.”

Affordability continues to drive the high-rise market, adds Jasmine Cracknell, partner with Toronto real-estate consulting firm N. Barry Lyon Consultants Limited. The June 21 announcement by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, reducing the maximum mortgage amortization period to 25 years from 30 years, will see that trend continue, she predicts.

“Affordability will be much more critical … now somebody who qualified for a 700-square-foot condo before will have to get a 600-square-foot condo,” she says. “Some people’s expectations might have to be lowered in terms of what they can afford.”

The result, she adds, will be a market slowdown — the very intention of the change. Did Toronto, specifically, need it, though? Ms. Cracknell doesn’t think so. “It was slowing anyway,” she says.

Source: Lisa Van de Ven, National Post

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