April sales marked the start of the Spring Market – about six weeks later than last year. And for the first time, the gap between monthly sales for 2012 versus 2013 narrowed significantly. As reported by the Toronto Real Estate Board, overall sales were only 2% lower than April of 2012. For condos, sales were 5% lower than for April of the previous year. But Downtown and on the Etobicoke Waterfront, condo sales were only 2.4% lower this April. As we predicted, improving weather had a dramatic impact on sales.
At the same time, new listings in April were up considerably from the same month a year ago – 11%. For condos, the increase in new listings was 14%. For Downtown condos, the number was just 10% but on the Etobicoke Waterfront it was 40% higher! While the so-called experts keep saying that the market weakness is centred on Downtown condos, the reality is that 905 and the Etobicoke markets are weaker. However the increase in listings will keep prices in check. Days-on-market for properties selling have also increased slightly from the same month a year ago. For Toronto, the days figure was 23 versus 21. For the Downtown condo market it was 31 days as compared to 27 last April.
Now sales results for the first two weeks of May are out. Overall sales are down 9.7% from the first two weeks of last year. For condos, sales are down by 13%. So how does that relate to the improving sales numbers that we reported for April? The answer is that May was the peak sales month for 2012. By June sales had declined by 13.5% from May, and for July the decline was 19% from June. For 2013, we see the peak sales month of the year being June, and with a summer drop off in sales of only about 10%.
While house prices and condo prices continue to edge up on an average price basis, we continue to believe that the most accurate way to measure price changes is to track individual properties over time. This month we looked at sales at Newport Beach on the Etobicoke Waterfront. The building is under ten years old and enjoys great water and city views. The first unit tracked was a two bedroom with two baths, two balconies, parking and locker at 1150 sf. It sold in February of this year for $375,000 or only $326/sf – partially because it faced northeast. This same unit first sold in 2006 for $309,000 and three years later in 2009 for just $310,000! Over 6 ½ years, the unit appreciated by just 3% per year. The second unit we looked at was a one bedroom with parking and locker that faced southeast, with a slightly better view. It sold late last year for $305,000 or $420/sf. The same unit also sold two previous times – in 2005 for $225,000 and then again for $269,000 in 2007. When you do the math that is a 4% annual appreciation rate over 7 years. Compared to Downtown condos, these prices are cheap. Condo fees at Newport Beach, which include all utilities, are just over 60 cents per month. From our perspective, prices for these condos can only go up when you see new developments on the Etobicoke Waterfront priced at $500/sf.
The media is now focused on rental prices that are going up too quickly. Again they are about six months too late. Rental prices accelerated last fall – rising by over $200/month. Now they have levelled off – even in this spring market when rental demand is peaking. What happened? Two recent trends have emerged: first, a lot of renters have figured out that it is better to buy. (starting in April, downtown condo sales picked up considerably); and secondly, changes in how Revenue Canada are dealing with Assignment condo sales have made it more advantageous for investors to rent their units for at least a year rather than flipping them. Hence more condos were listed for rent. In April studios were renting for just under $1400 on average. About 100 more one bedroom units – almost 400 in total were rented in April than March. Bottom end one bedroom units start at $1525 per month without parking. The most popular rental, the one bedroom plus den and parking, averaged $1800 – down $75 per month from the peak in November. Two bedroom units – over 250 were leased in April – also saw some moderation in rents. The basic two bedroom without parking averaged $2100 and a two bedroom with den and parking topped out at $2800. Again these rents are $100 less per month than the earlier peak, although they are still some $150 higher than this time a year ago. It will be interesting to see how rental rates perform for September 1st leases, usually the peak of the market.