What Is Driving Toronto Real Estate Prices?

The real estate sector can be a real mystery. Prices drive ever higher, drop, and then get back to soaring again with no apparent reason. Or is there a reason? There’s always something responsible for driving up housing prices. For Toronto, the spotlight has returned to detached housing, which pulled up the average price in 2019.

Upward Momentum

“With recovery well underway in the detached housing segment, the residential real estate market is starting to fire on all cylinders,” says Christopher Alexander, Executive Vice President and Regional Director RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “The more relaxed mortgage rules, in conjunction with today’s low interest rate environment, may serve to spark up the GTA housing market yet again.”

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), over half of their districts report upward momentum in average price thanks to single-detached home sales. This is a major contributor to the uptick in average price, in over 50 per cent of the GTA’s neighbourhoods, according to a recent RE/MAX report.

The report looked at trends and developments in 65 TREB districts. They discovered detached home sales were up in close to 88 per cent of the markets. Between January and June 2019, 51 per cent of markets saw increases compared to last year.

Good Old 905

The greatest increases were seen in the 905 area. The report indicates all 30 905 neighbourhoods saw an increase in both home-buying activity and rising sales of detached homes. Of those communities, 43 per cent experienced price appreciation. Meanwhile, in the once-dominant 416 area, 20 of the 35 districts experienced an increase in sales. Detached prices in these areas increased by 57 per cent of the 416 neighbourhoods.

Back on Track

Torontonian detached homeowners can let out a sigh of relief as detached housing has found its way back on track, with sales up from 2018. That is good news, and it indicates a return to more normal levels of home-buying activity.

“Market share is also climbing, with detached homes now representing 45.7 per cent of all home sales in the Greater Toronto Area, up from 43.1 per cent one year ago,” says Alexander.

Greater Affordability

So, it’s back to wondering why detached home sales have seen an uptick. In this case, it’s all about greater affordability. However, RE/MAX also found the tried-and-true mantra “location, location, location” to be a factor as well.

First-time and trade-up buyers are choosing to secure prime Toronto real estate before values are on the move again, especially in light of the stress test. The leader, when looking at the percentage increase in average detached home price, is the city’s east end, which includes North Riverdale, South Riverdale, Blake-Jones, and Greenwood-Coxwell (EO1). Here, the average price rose 15.2 per cent to $1,378,987.

Not too far behind is the always-popular Trinity-Bellwoods, Palmerston-Little Italy, Niagara, Little Portugal, Kensington-Chinatown, and Dufferin Grove (CO1). These popular neighbourhoods saw a 12.8-per-cent increase in average price, reaching $1,953,511.

Rounding out the top five are:

  • Third place: Leaside and Thorncliffe Park (C11) held a respectable third place with an 11.2-per-cent increase in detached housing values to $2,193,747.
  • Fourth place: Scarborough’s Dorset Park, Wexford-Maryvale, Clairlea-Birchmount, Longview, and Kennedy Park (E04) with a 7.8-per-cent increase to $836,585.
  • Fifth place: Toronto’s Junction, High Park North, Runnymede-Bloor West Village, Lambton-Baby Point, and Dovercourt-Wallace Emerson-Junction (W02) with a 7.1-per-cent increase to $1,410,057.

Prices in all but the one area in Scarborough still sit well above the $1-million mark.

Top Five: Seller’s Markets

TREB Market Watch reports the top five neighbourhoods as seller’s markets in June. A classic seller’s market is characterized by low inventory levels, which in some cases, can lead to bidding wars. In other words, a seller’s dream.

As well, TREB reported the sales-to-active listings ratio ranged between 62.5 per cent in C01 to a high of 88.8 per cent in E01.

Buyer’s Markets

In about 45 per cent of GTA districts within the 416 area, good inventory means it’s a buyer’s market. RE/MAX noted areas north of Bloor had attracted opportunities for negotiation, particularly for homes that are topping $2 million. Going further south, the market conditions get tighter.

“Heated demand clearly exists for single-detached housing south of Bloor Street, but there are pockets throughout the 416 that are scorching hot,” explains Alexander. “The Oakwood-Vaughan area in C03, where homes can still be had for just over the $1 million price point, is one of those neighbourhoods, while C10, comprised of Sherwood Park, Mount Pleasant West, Mount Pleasant East, is another. The Junction Area, High Park North, and Runnymede-Bloor West Village (W02) in the west end and Leslieville (E01) and the Beach (E02) in the east are also highly sought-after, with close proximity to transportation and vibrant shopping avenues the common denominators drawing younger buyers.”

First-time buyers can look for cracks that can be exploited in York Region to get the best value if they want to get in on the market.

Scarborough Rules Unit Sales

If you want to talk unit sales, the top performers were markets offering single-detached homes under the $1-million price point, with Scarborough’s L’Amoreaux, Tam O’Shanter-Sullivan, Steeles neighbourhood (E05) at the top. This area experienced the most notable upswing when considering the percentage increase in sales. This little pocket saw a 76.2-per-cent increase to 148 units sold.

The other areas seeing unit sales increases include:

  • Milliken, Agincourt North, Agincourt South, and Malvern West (E07) ranked second, with a 57.1-per-cent increase and 132 sales.
  • Yorkdale-Glen Park, Briar Hill-Belgravia, Brookhaven-Amesbury, Weston, Maple Leaf, Rustic, Beechborough-Greenbrook, Mount Dennis, Humberlea, and Pelmo Park (W04) in the west end reported a 50-per-cent gain to 204 units sold.
  • Simcoe County’s Essa reported a 43.6-per-cent increase in sales of 168 units.
  • Downsview-Roding-CFB, Glenfield-Jane Heights, Black Creek, Humbermede, York University Heights, and Humberlea-Pelmo Park (W05) in the west end rounded out the top five with a 37.1-per-cent increase in sales to 144 units.

Recovery to the North

There are signs of recovery to the north, with York Region’s Richmond Hill ranking sixth for detached home sales at an average price of $1,380,253. This reflects a 36.1-per-cent increase to 615 sales. In general, the northern GTA, an area that was hit hard during the correction, appears to be experiencing recovery.

So, it’s hats off to the detached housing segment as the key factor for what is driving Toronto real estate prices!