The mid-month numbers are in for February 2015 from the Toronto Real Estate Board, and it looks like everyone who called for an "early spring market" is right: despite the snowdrifts and freezing temperatures, the Toronto real estate market has never been hotter than it is now.

Three key things to notice this month:

The average selling price in the GTA is now over $600,000. The exact figure is $602,110, which represents an increase of more than 10% over the average price in mid-February 2014.

While home prices continue to rise, mortgage rates have fallen yet again. The Bank of Canada's surprise cut to the prime interest rate at the end of January, a move undertaken to foster economic growth, has had an accelerant effect on the Toronto real estate market. Banks have been racing to acquire new mortgage customers by offering rates for 5-year fixed mortgages at well under 3%. (If you need an excellent mortgage broker, we can help; just let us know.)

The imbalance between listings and sales continues to drive price growth. In the first half of February, sales increased by 14.9%, but listings increased by only 3.5%. This is yet another indicator of a sellers' market in which buyers are competing for comparatively few properties.

“With tight market conditions continuing to prevail in most parts of the Greater Toronto Area, especially where low-rise home types are concerned, it is no surprise that we continue to see strong competition between buyers leading to robust annual rates of price growth,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

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Many of Ontario’s schools are ranked by a standard test called the EQAO. Some of the public schools score exceptionally well on this test; while this doesn’t mean that a particular school will be the best fit for your child, it certainly is a good indicator that the school takes its’ education very seriously. Purchasing a home in a good public school area can typically be 5-10% more expensive than in corresponding areas. For a family, spending an extra 5-10% to live in a good public school area is a worth-while investment for several reasons:

1) If you want your children to get the best education possible (who doesn't?), private schools typically cost $15 – 35,000 per year. This equates to over $120,000 during the pre-high school years alone - for a single child. Being able to make use of the public school system can mean the difference between scraping by and having a very comfortable retirement.

2) The premium you spend getting into a good area will be recouped if or when you eventually sell. These areas are also less prone to price depreciations during difficult years.

3) That area is very likely to have parents just like you – they're interested in motivating their children to 'do their best'. This typically leads to your child’s friends having the same drive and enthusiasm toward scholastic achievement.

One of the big disadvantages of a public school is the lack of programs that are offered at the private schools. The public schools simply don’t have the staff and resources necessary to offer some of the programs that the private schools have. We’ll be highlighting some fantastic programs that we have had experience with and that can augment your child’s public school experience:

- Icewire Makerspace.

Spirit of Math.

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As we discuss in our market report this month, 2014 was the second-busiest year in Toronto real estate history since records began, edged out only slightly by the banner year in 2007. Despite near-constant dire predictions in the media about the Toronto market's overvaluation and imminent slide, the market is, quite literally, nearly better than ever. 

And so far this year, it looks like that trend is only going to continue.

Here are two reasons why:

1. Toronto is a world-class city, with world-class amenities, but is also an "affordable" alternative to more prominent investment centres like London and New York. In the same five years or so that Toronto has been taking its place on the world stage as a major player in the global economy, cities like NY and LON have seen a fair bit of unrest in terms of affordability of property for the people who live in those cities at the same time as a huge increase in investment in property by overseas or buy-to-rent landlords. There's a lot of money flowing into these cities in the short term, but in the long term, Toronto's real estate market is healthier - and the city itself is healthier -  because it has a better balance between absentee and investment owners and owner-occupiers. 

Which brings us to...

2. Toronto real estate is still affordable. Between low interest rates that seem to be staying low into the near future and the general health of the Canadian economy in general and the Toronto economy in particular, our real estate is still affordable for the average-income-earning family in the city. It's not an overheated market if the people in the market can afford to buy real estate: and considering that price growth this year was primarily due to a shortage of listings and a glut of buyers, that's exactly what's happening. As TREB President Paul Etherington says: "While home prices certainly increased substantially in 2014, the purchase of an average priced home remained affordable, in terms of the average household's ability to comfortably cover their monthly mortgage payments."

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