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Luxury real estate up 20% in October

Tom Lebour, National Post

Accord­ing to fig­ures released by the Toronto Real Estate Board last week, the hous­ing mar­ket started off the fourth quar­ter with strong results. Octo­ber trans­ac­tions through the Mul­ti­ple List­ing Ser­vice, at 8,476, were up 64% com­pared with Octo­ber 2008. The aver­age sell­ing price for exist­ing homes was up 20% to $423,559.

Jason Mer­cer, the Toronto Real Estate Board’s senior man­ager of mar­ket analy­sis, said the rea­son for the strong annual increase in sales and aver­age price was two-fold:

Buy­ers remain con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to pur­chase and pay for a home over the long-term, as the aver­age house­hold income in the GTA con­tin­ues to com­fort­ably cover the mort­gage pay­ment on an average-priced home. How­ever, with this said, when com­par­ing this October’s sales and aver­age price to last year’s, it is also impor­tant to remem­ber that the hous­ing mar­ket was enter­ing a brief period of decline at the end of last year. This fact serves to mag­nify year-over-year growth that we are cur­rently experiencing.”

What was also inter­est­ing about the Octo­ber results was that the largest sales increases were in the luxury-home price ranges – homes sell­ing above $750,000. In fact, sales of lux­ury homes were up by more than 200% from last Octo­ber. Intu­itively, this makes sense.

Last win­ter we were going into a reces­sion. Fewer peo­ple were spend­ing on lux­ury items, includ­ing above-average-price homes. Now, with mort­gage rates at his­tor­i­cally low lev­els and con­sumer con­fi­dence recov­er­ing rapidly, inter­est in lux­ury prop­er­ties has rebounded strongly this year.

Octo­ber marked the sec­ond straight month with double-digit annual rates of aver­age price growth in the Toronto real estate mar­ket. Clearly, the GTA hous­ing mar­ket has more than recov­ered from the price declines at the end of 2008 and begin­ning of 2009. How­ever, it is unlikely we will con­tinue to see annual double-digit rates of aver­age price increase, as we move through 2010.

Accord­ing to Mr. Mer­cer, “the strong price increases expe­ri­enced over the past few months resulted from very tight mar­ket con­di­tions in the GTA. Sales were at record lev­els for the bet­ter part of the sum­mer and fall, while list­ings remained at lows not seen reg­u­larly since 2003. With sales high rel­a­tive to list­ings, price growth has been above aver­age. In 2010, I am expect­ing an increase in list­ings, as home own­ers react pos­i­tively to the strong sales and price growth of the sec­ond half of 2009. With more list­ings next year, the aver­age home price will grow at a sus­tain­able rate.”

It has been a tale of two mar­kets in 2009. The steep drop-off in sales at the begin­ning of the year was cause for con­cern. Since the sum­mer, how­ever, demand for real estate in Toronto has come roar­ing back. By all accounts, we will con­tinue to see record lev­els of sales in Novem­ber and Decem­ber before mar­ket con­di­tions bal­ance out in 2010.

Tom Lebour is pres­i­dent of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a pro­fes­sional asso­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents 28,000 real­tors in the Greater Toronto Area.

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