SIGNIFICANT PRICE INCREASES AND HIGH DEMAND IN THE GREATER TORONTO AREA DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2017 SPURRED GROWING NUMBERS OF BUYERS TO LEAVE THE DOWNTOWN CORE.
These buyers, known as move-over buyers, are looking for greater affordability in markets across southern Ontario. In turn, they are driving price appreciation in Mississauga, Brampton, Durham, Barrie, Hamilton-Burlington, Windsor, and as far away as Kingston. The GTA saw the average residential sale price rise by 29 per cent, up from $675,492 in the first quarter of 2016 to $873,631 during the same period in 2017.
At the same time, housing demand has slowed in Greater Vancouver compared to Q1 of 2016, and the average residential sale price decreased 11 per cent year-over-year, from $1,094,936 in the first quarter of 2016 to $969,900 in 2017. The decline in average sale price is in part due to the introduction of the foreign buyer tax last August, a relatively severe winter and the natural stabilization of prices after the market reached a high point in May 2016. Move-over buyers from Vancouver and buyers migrating from other provinces continue to fuel activity in Fraser Valley, Kelowna, and in Victoria, particularly in the upper-end of the market due to relative affordability in these regions.
A recent RE/MAX survey conducted by Leger found that when making buying decisions, over two-thirds of Canadians consider the location of a home to be more important than the style or size of the home. Respondents indicated that beyond price, a number of other factors influence home purchases, including: access to green space (77 per cent), proximity to work (66 per cent), proximity to retail centres (65 per cent), and proximity to family and friends (65 per cent). All of these ranked higher than the style of a home.
In response to heightened activity seen across the GTA in recent months, the Ontario provincial government announced a 15 per cent Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST), along with a number of other regulations in mid-April in an effort to balance the need to stabilize the market while preventing a harmful sharp correction. Similar to the foreign buyer-tax introduced in Vancouver last year, the impact of this measure on market and buyer activity in the long run is difficult to predict. This measure may impact consumer confidence in the short-term as buyers hold out until they fully understand how they are affected, causing overall market activity to slow.
In Western Canada, particularly in Alberta, slowly recovering oil prices, low interest rates, and US approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project have renewed buyer optimism, particularly among move-up buyers and millennial, first-time buyers who are typically looking to buy condominiums. The average residential sale price increased three per cent year-over-year in Calgary to $482,065, up from $467,780 during the first quarter in 2016. A wide variety of inventory across the market provides good opportunities for buyers in Edmonton, resulting in a 12 per cent increase in activity and stable year-over-year prices to start 2017.
Charlottetown and Halifax experienced increased demand from foreign buyers in the first quarter in addition to sustained demand from buyers moving back to Atlantic Canada from other parts of the country to purchase more affordable housing options than what is available in Canada’s larger urban hubs.
New residential and commercial development projects in markets across the country are expected to fuel demand in these regions. These cities include Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Victoria, and Regina in the West and Windsor, London-St. Thomas, Hamilton-Burlington, Mississauga, Barrie, Durham, Brampton, Ottawa, Saint John, and Halifax in Central and Eastern Canada.