Numbers can be confusing. Some very alarmed clients have called me recently, asking about the recent drastic downturn in Toronto Real Estate sales numbers. I felt quite foolish – the last numbers I had read were very positive – condo sales were up, as were single family homes. I frantically combed through the media articles, trying to understand why there were starkly different reports as to what was happening in the GTA. Let’s take a look at some of the contradictions and find out what’s going on…

The Financial Post recently reported that ‘Toronto condo sales hit decade low’. The title certainly grabbed my attention. How are we supposed to make sense of the decline in sales when we see an article from the Toronto Star that reads: “Some of the strongest growth numbers were seen in Toronto’s beleaguered condo sector last month where sales were up 20.1 per cent across the GTA — 21.4 per cent in the City of Toronto — and prices climbed by 3.7 per cent year over year”.

Very odd. Two seemingly contradictory reports for the same area in the same time frame. Luckily, the articles contain links to the source of the confusion. The Post referenced brand new-builds (RealNet Canada), whereas the Star article referenced the Toronto Real Estate Board’s Marketwatch, which is primarily geared to tracking ‘re-sale’ homes. This wasn't clear in the articles.

Simply put – the articles were quoting two completely different sets of numbers. The resale numbers are very healthy. Condos are moving again, after a sluggish summer. Single family homes are moving well, as they have for quite some time. There are price points, and particular pockets of the city, where this is not the case – but overall, the market is very robust.

However, new condos and home sales numbers have drastically decreased. Which makes sense to me – why would you buy a condo that’s three years from completion when a lot of people are saying that the market will become saturated? Gone are the days when you can get a 25% return as soon as the building is completed – those days disappeared a long time ago (in my opinion - good riddance - keep the speculators out!). Also, with the greenbelt surrounding the city, I believe that new single home starts will decrease because we’re running out of land for expansion. Toronto will grow up, not out. Please take a look at some of the most recent numbers posted below, taken from the TREB’s database of recent sales. Far from panic, I think the numbers show that the Toronto market is liquid and remains healthy.

CENTRAL TORONTO:

 

    Unit Sales   Active Listings   Average Price
    This Year Last Year Difference   This Year Last Year   This Year Last Year Difference
Detached 229 181 +26.5%   701 636   $1,319,500.00 $1,203,200.00 +10.0%
Semi   58 56 +4.0%   71 103   $788,500.00 $723,400.00 +9.0%
Condos   783 663 +18.0%   2791 2287   $412,200.00 $402,900.00 +2.0%

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Numbers are useful, but they can also be very tricky. Recently, there have been some pretty confusing articles being written about Toronto's real estate sales. We'll provide some examples and some thoughts about these articles in a Two Part blog. Here's Part One...

The Huffington Post recently reported that phantom listings were artificially driving up the GTA's sales numbers. This has lead to speculation that the real estate industry is deliberately deceiving the public. Let's look at why an agent would post a property in two or more boards at the same time (the second board listing is 'the phantom listing'). If you have a farm for sale near Belleville, and your target market includes both Belleville residents and Torontonians that want a second home, you would want the same information to reach both areas. You'd likely list it on TREB and on QDAR. Here's the problem - when the property sells, it could count as a sale in both the TREB and QDAR numbers. This would 'skew' the numbers by making the single sale count as two separate sales in Ontario, artificially inflating the number of sales. However, far from being a deceptive trick to skew the sales numbers, this is an honest attempt to get the information out to the broadest audience possible.

Is this a new practice? No. Listing properties across boards has been happening for years. Are the numbers from 2013 slightly wrong because of 'phantom listings'? Yes. They're likely just as wrong as the numbers from 2012 were. And 2011, 2010, ... And so on. The system isn't perfect, but I'm not putting my listings up across boards to try to deceive anyone. I just want to provide the best service possible for my clients by exposing it to the most people. By the way... that listing in Belleville was from 2009, so we may want to revise Ontario's real estate sales numbers DOWN by one for that year...

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We all know that where we live has a huge impact on how we live. Proximity to friends and family, availability of public transit, the average price of gas and groceries, noise levels, dog parks…these things all add up to a total lived experience that influences how you feel about (and behave within) your neighbourhood. But did you know that your neighbourhood can also influence how your child learns? It's true! Highly "walkability" scores and high academic performance are co-related. This does not mean that a walkable neighbourhood guarantees high academic test scores or good performance in school, but certain factors associated with walkable neighbourhoods are also associated with academic performance: high household income, established neighbourhoods, and healthy groceries readily available. So when you're thinking of moving, how can your move best benefit your child and her academic performance? First, give her opportunities for regular exercise. This can mean living near a park, or within walking distance of school, or making time for her to participate in team activities like sports, dance, or martial arts at the local community centre. According to the New York Times:

“a growing body of evidence” suggests children who are more active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less-active children. They also perform better on standardized academic tests.

Second, make sure that library services are easily accessible. You may feel fine driving your toddler that extra distance to a nearby library for story time, but you won't be so keen on it when your munchkin hits middle school. Thinking ahead and buying near a library ensures that your child will always have a place to study and professionals to help him with research. It also ensures that your kids will have neutral places to meet classmates and get homework or projects done without the distractions of video games, Netflix, pets, siblings, or too many snacks. Further, cultivating and making space for a home library is important -- especially for that last minute work or forgotten assignment. So don't skimp on those built-ins; you're investing in your child's future. If walking sounds central to these ideas, that's because it is. It's tempting to check out homes and neighbourhoods on services like Google Earth, where everything seems instantly visible, but neighbourhoods are about more than what they look like on a map. You may not have a true sense of distance or scale until you've walked around the area. So, when attending open houses, make sure to walk around them and see what you can find. Include your kids. Imagine how much time would be spent outside, and how much in the car. Would you feel safe letting your kids bike to and from school? Would they? Take the time to discuss it. Remember: buying a home also means investing in a neighbourhood. This doesn't mean the entire neighbourhood should be perfect before you buy there -- if it were, the owners wouldn't be putting their property up for sale -- but a beautiful kitchen can't always compensate for a long commute to and from school.

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