The Toronto real estate market has a reputation for being hot! Jam-packed with amenities, there are so many reasons why homebuyers and renters flock to this dynamic, metropolitan city.

Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused shifts for some parts of the market. For instance, no longer are certain segments eager to rent in the Toronto market, leading to sliding rental prices. Further, precautions to ensure safety during the virus even caused some to reevaluate their current lifestyles, impacting activity within the Toronto rental market as a whole.

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Here are some of the trends in the Toronto condo market which could explain why rental prices continue to trend downwards:

Toronto Real Estate Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic

A sharp contrast to the purchasing market which seemed to rebound in a few months and had record-high sales in September, the Q2 rental market in Toronto was clearly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has had prolonged effects on this segment of the market overall. By the end of the second quarter, there were 24.8 per cent fewer apartment rentals on the market compared to Q2 of 2019.

State of Toronto Rental Prices

According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), in Q2 the average one-bedroom condominium apartment rent was $2,083, down five per cent from Q2 2019. Meanwhile, the average two-bedroom condominium apartment was renting for $2,713, which is a 5.6-per-cent decrease from the same quarter the previous year.

There are several reasons why rental prices are being pushed down in the Toronto market:

  • Condo supply has brought a lot of inventory back to the market.
  • Job loss during the pandemic could have reduced financial power for renters, causing many to stop searching.
  • Restrictions on showing homes could have also halted renters from searching for an appropriate unit.
  • Less migration due to COVID-19 border control has resulted in fewer new immigrants renting in the city.
  • Students have been spending less time in the city due to post-secondary school closures or the shift toward online learning models.

Rising Toronto Rental Inventory

As the virus raged on, there was a continuation of rental listings versus rental transactions, leading to growth of the overall market. This has resulted in less competition in the market due to increased inventory and perhaps lowered demand thanks to changing housing preferences.

According to the TRREB, the number of condominium apartments on the market was up by 42 per cent year over year. Now that renters now have more choice, this has led to year-over-year declines in average rents in Q2.

Yet, condo owners are considering either turning their properties into long-term rentals or selling altogether. This could result in further supply in the coming years.

Typically, landlords have had the upper hand in this market, often resulting in bidding wars. Yet, for renters who have the financial means, recent conditions allow them to benefit from a more balanced market.

Shifting Preferences Emerge in Toronto Housing Market

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented shift took place. Due to social distancing and other public safety protocols, people were forced to spend the majority of their time confined to their condos.

The boundary between home and workplace was quickly blurred when many businesses pivoted to remote working arrangements and schools shut their doors, prompting parents to homeschool.

Many condo and apartment dwellers were uncomfortable with the shared spaces of a multi-unit living environment such as a lobby, elevators and other facilities. The required close proximity to others induced fear and anxiety.

For those who rent condos in Toronto, the time spent cooped up inside led to increased desire for larger floor plans and access to green space. While the benefits (and glamour) of city-living were long sought after, the limitations of a city lifestyle were quickly realized during the pandemic.

This shift is evident in the increased demand in neighbouring suburban areas like Durham region.

Low Interest Rates

The Bank of Canada slashed its benchmark interest rate to 0.25 per cent; great news for those looking to jump into the housing market. Renters who have been sidelined pre-pandemic due to expensive housing, may now be able to borrow money at a reduced rate. These move up buyers can be another factor explaining lower demand for rental units and the resulting downward trend in rental rates.

The Toronto real estate market has historically been a popular, highly competitive place to rent a property. Yet, demand and activity in this segment of the market have declined. While COVID-19 exposed challenges to city living, there are also seismic shifts in the attitudes people have toward their living arrangements. As homebuyers are setting their sights upon properties and communities promising more indoor and outdoor living space, some renters are also following this trend, leading to decreasing rental demand and prices within the city.