A Newcomers Guide to Toronto’s Real Estate Market
New to Toronto Real Estate? Here are 5 things you should know when starting your home search.
Real Estate Commission for both the Seller’s and the Buyer’s Realtor are paid by the Seller: In Toronto, it is the norm for Home Buyers to use a Real Estate Broker for both Buying and Selling their home. In other international markets, a Buyer agent is not as popular (although gaining popularity in some markets like Australia), but in Toronto where the Buying Agent’s commission is commonly paid for by the Seller, Buyers typically choose to take advantage of this service. The way it works is this: a Seller enters an agreement with their Real Estate Broker (and their Listing Brokerage) to sell their home. In this agreement, they outline how much total commission they will be paying, and how much commission the Brokerage representing the Seller is to offer the Agent representing a Buyer. If the Buyer has no representation then the commission set aside for the Buying Brokerage would typically go to the Seller’s Agent. Why wouldn’t you want someone working on your behalf when someone else is picking up the tab? Buyer representation became popular in the 1990s when the industry realized that no one was looking out for the Buyer’s best interest, and it has become the standard in Ontario ever since. Those who choose to work directly with the Listing Agent should recognize that the listing agent has committed to working on the Seller’s behalf and will be trying to obtain the highest possible sale price for the property.
The List Price is a Starting Point: In Toronto’s frenzied real estate market, the price a property is listed at is often not representative of what it should sell for. Properties are often priced simply to get would-be Buyers through the door and encourage as many offers as possible. Others are priced way above market value in hopes that an uneducated Home Buyer will blindly give them their asking price. Sometimes you’ll see failed offer night strategies where a home is listed low for multiple offers, but then listed higher the next week when they don’t get the price they were hoping for. When offering on a home, your Realtor will be able to advise you of what a fair price is based on analysis of recent ‘solds’ and the numerous comparable properties that they have been through.
Focus Your Online Home Search: How many sites do you look at when searching for your next house? There are many Real Estate websites that offer a list of featured properties and have the ability to search available listings, though most of these listings actually belong to a different listing agent. Most people don’t realize that homes they see on random Real Estate sites are most likely either already on Realtor.ca, about to come on Realtor.ca, or already sold. Even homes being sold directly by an owner are now typically listed on Realtor.ca. So don’t get overwhelmed and stick to Realtor.ca for your property search. Or better yet, have us set you up with a customized daily property match for all homes that come on the market matching your search criteria. And if you hear the term MLS (Multiple Listing Service), this is just the old name for Realtor.ca that is still commonly used today.
Know Your Market: Condo vs Freehold: It’s true that Toronto’s condo market has shown healthy growth and remains quite competitive; however, the condo market has a much larger inventory of supply than Freehold properties making the two markets vastly different. Competition for Freehold properties is fierce. Supply never seems to be enough to satisfy demand, particularly in Toronto’s most popular neighbourhoods. In Toronto’s condo market, it’s more typical to see a downward price negotiation, and if the property isn’t priced for a quick sale, you likely have more time for your due diligence. Securing a freehold property for, at, or below market value requires you to be ahead of the game and your due diligence to be done on the fly. Strategy and speed are important in a market that typically sees houses sell in a week or less.
Toronto in a Nutshell: The GTA is made up of over $6 Million people and hundreds of neighbourhoods. The city proper is divided by Yonge St.; this central corridor is the heart of Toronto and home to the majority of Toronto’s highest priced properties. Toronto is surrounded by Durham Region to the East, York Region to the North, Peel Halton to the West and Lake Ontario to the South, forming what is referred to as the Greater Toronto Area. As you travel about 10 km outside of Toronto’s downtown core, the city is made up of inner suburbs with Scarborough to the East, Etobicoke to the West and North York to the – you guessed it – North. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing your ‘hood. Much of it has to do with what lifestyle you want to lead, how much do you want to commute, where do you want your kids to go to school, not to mention affordability. A Realtor can help you determine which neighbourhood makes most sense weighing both lifestyle needs and financial planning objectives. Affordability is an on-going consideration; for example, the east end of the GTA has the most affordable purchase prices, but you might end up paying twice as much in property tax. Navigating the bigger picture is where a Reatlor’s experience and knowledge comes in handy, giving you the proper information you need to make a good decision.
6 Steps To A Better Home Purchase
Have you ever found yourself stuck on the sidelines watching house prices soar out of your reach? Did you just lose out in your 7th offer night? Have you outgrown the home you just recently bought?
What is it that makes finding a great home so easy for some people and so difficult for others?
Purchasing a home is a big decision and can cause a great deal of stress, especially when done incorrectly. Without the right guidance, Buyers often feel overwhelmed leaving them on the sidelines or regretting their decision to purchase a home that doesn’t make sense for them. As a child, one of my Dad’s favorite spots for a family dinner was the Pickel Barrel. This restaurant has a massive menu and a seemingly endless number of meal choices. Spending 10 minutes deciding between these 300 menu items made me question my choice and lead to a bad case of food envy (I take my food seriously, folks.) This is one of the reasons this tradition does not carry on with me and my kids. Although some level of choice is crucial for happiness, too much can feel overwhelming.
Good decisions are often made when we allow the situation to guide us. The more experience you have with a particular type of decision, the safer it is to go with your intuition. When Buying a house, the number of choices can be overwhelming. To help clients avoid having home envy, we have come up with a guide for better Real Estate decision making. After all, purchasing a great home is simply a result of making a great decision.
See below for RelativeRealty.com’s 6 rules to better home buying decisions:
1. Identify a Realistic End Goal
Understanding market conditions and neighbourhood prices are essential to creating a realistic vision of your desired purchase. If you have an unrealistic vision of where and what your home should look like at what price, you are never going to feel comfortable making a purchase. Describe your desired home in detail and have your Broker show you recent solds (not active listings) which meet your criteria. If they don’t exist, you need to change your location or the vision of your dream home.
2. Setting Standards
Identifying your wants and needs is key to finding a home that will make you happy. Think ahead and ensure your purchase will meet your needs for the amount of time you plan on owning the home. For example, you may plan on growing your 2 person family to a 4 person family in the very near future. A house to grow into and school districts should be a consideration.
3. Don’t Get Caught Up with Finding the “Best”
Emotions can get the best of us; the need to win or get the best house leads to bad choices. You often see this when people get carried away in multiple offer situations and overpay for a home.
4. Be Aware of Biases
Being well informed with upfront and honest advice is critical to good decision making. It’s important to be aware of where biases exist, both your own and those of others. For example, a listing agent has a bias to the Sellers, so their advice may not be in your best interests.
5. Try Not To Rush
Making a rushed decision can lead to regret. Home buying is a process, practice patience and trust the process – you will be happier in the end.
6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
With home buying, your focus should be on features that you can’t change. Home and lot size, layout and location are either expensive or impossible to change. Loud paint colours and outdated décor, while sometimes difficult to look past, can be easily updated. Don’t get overwhelmed by low impact items.
Photo Courtesy: Bostonist.com
Decision Making Steps Courtesy: Catherine Price
Will Stock Market Volatility Impact the Sale of Your Home?
Are you planning to buy and sell a property in the near future? Deciding whether to buy or sell first can often be a tough decision. As the Canadian economy enters a precarious time and stock markets continue to tumble and recover, home buyers and sellers should be mindful of how this volatility might impact their purchase and sale.
Home Buyers needing to sell a property in order to close on their purchase should be paying particular attention. A short dip in stock markets often has no impact on Toronto’s Real Estate market. However, if you combine this volatility with increased recession chatter, consumer confidence could be impacted enough to reduce the number of active home buyers. Buyers may begin to question large purchases and consider waiting to see if a better bargain is around the corner.
Vacationers return to Toronto in droves by the beginning of September. This drastically increases the number of active buyers compared to August, typically making September a more appealing month to list your home. Time will tell if September will be a better month to list than August this year, and supply will likely have the biggest impact on prices. Many agents seem to be encouraging clients to list now to avoid the increased competition in September (active listings are up about 5% from the same time last year). We live in a city where a big part of the economy comes from financial services. If stocks take a beating and don’t recover shortly after, both consumer confidence and their pocket books are impacted. Higher priced homes are the most volatile as buyers in high price points are more likely to have earnings tied to stock markets.
It’s smart to pay attention to what’s happening with the economy and adjust your home buying/selling plan if needed. Volatility should be one of the main factors that you consider when you are determining whether to buy or sell first. The more volatile the market, the more risk that you won’t be able to fetch your ideal sale price. For other factors you should be weighing, check out my post from last summer on how to decide whether to buy or sell first.
Neighbourhood Exploration: What is it about Willowdale??
When you get a group of people from across the city in one room, talk often turns to Real Estate, both the insanity of Toronto’s market and the unwritten divide that exits in Toronto. People are either East Enders or West Enders, with Yonge St being the dividing line. Torontonians tend to stay in their corner of the city, taking comfort and pride in the familiar sights and sounds. Unfortunately, this thinking really limits your Real Estate options. It’s fair to say that if you are unfamiliar with or have never visited a particular neighbourhood it’s unlikely to be on your radar, but being open to all the city has to offer helps to avoid buying and paying more than you should in an overheated area. I have never found myself with any allegiance to the east or west end, but for those of you that get anxiety crossing over Yonge St, the thought of moving North of the 401 might send you into deep sweats. So let’s explore what is it about Willowdale that makes it such a desirable place to live for so many Torontonians.
Willowdale is considered downtown North York, and for many, the appeal is that it’s located smack dab in the middle of the GTA, bordered by Finch to the north, Bayview to the East, Bathurst to the West, and Sheppard to the South. Previously a suburban area north of Toronto, construction of the Yonge St. subway eventually led to a boom in condo development surrounding the Yonge St. corridor. As a result, freehold properties in surrounding areas have increased substantially in value. The average condo in Willowdale sells for just under $400,000 and you can expect to get a about 10-20% more space than what you would find at the same price point downtown. The inventory of detached homes in Willowdale is different from what you will find in neighbourhoods located closer to Toronto’s core, but don’t expect any price discounts. Willowdale attracts many of Toronto’s most affluent newcomers. In 2015, the average bungalow in Willowdale West has been selling for $1.1 M while a Detached 2 -storey will set you back $1.6M+. The West side of Yonge seems like a deal compared to the East where Bungalows have been averaging $1.3M and Detached 2-storey homes have been averaging almost $2 M this year.
So who is buying in Willowdale and why? The top languages spoken in Willowdale, aside from English, are Persian, Chinese, Russian, and Tagalong. Many Buyers find Willowdale appealing because you can find large recently built or brand new detached homes with lots ranging from 30’ to 60’ in width. The freehold inventory in Willowdale is made up of newer homes often with 3000 or more square feet and modern finishings. In the end though, it’s the home’s age and frontage that play the major role in the final sale price. The newer builds offer home buyers minimal maintenance compared to many of Toronto’s neighbourhoods to the south. These large houses often house extended families. The price tags are high, but the buying process is much less intense than Toronto’s southern neighbourhoods. Offer nights are not the norm these higher priced homes, and although they often sell close to asking price they might sit on the market for some time before finding the right buyer. Willowdale is quite walkable with a diverse array of restaurant options all along Yonge St. It’s transit friendly especially if you find something in good proximity to Yonge St. and most of the schools are well-ranked.
Willowsdale may or many not be the right option for you, but exploring what other neighbourhoods have to offer can lead to a better purchase. Before you even start looking at properties, it’s a good idea to have your Realtor do some neighbourhood analysis and recommend areas that match your price point. Have your Real Estate Broker send you ‘solds’ for similar priced properties across the city, and go visit a park, community event, or public space in a new neighbourhood to get a feel for all the city has to offer.
The Intricacies of Deciding When To Sell Your Home
The smell of fireworks has barely cleared the air and the number of new listings hitting the market this week compared to last is piling up. Active Listings in Toronto are currently 11% higher than they were on Monday and 15% higher than what they were 3 weeks ago. Often realtors discourage listing leading into a long weekend, and although this advice holds true for some properties, it shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule. After all, the rules of Real Estate are constantly changing. It wasn’t too long ago that holding an offer night in an area like Pickering would have been considered absurd by most agents, but this spring it has become fairly common practice.
Not listing prior to a long weekend has become an unwritten rule and usually results in a large increase in listings the following week. And while it’s true that some buyers have dashed off to New York, gone fishing, or have turned the weekend into a never ending bender (aka gone fishing), many home buyers stayed local hoping for an extra day to put towards their home search. Those dedicated Home Buyers staying in the city were likely disappointed with their lack of open house options.
The dramatic increase in listings that we are seeing this week could spell disaster for some Sellers, leaving them questioning what went wrong when they fail to attract the desired sale price for their home. Sure, if you have the most desirable home in your neighbourhood the increase in competition is unlikely to impact you; competition for those properties is less of a concern and exposure to a maximum number of Buyers is more important. For everyone else, the fact is Home Buyers are only able to give consideration to a limited number of properties in any given week. When you list on a week with a lot of inventory your offer night will attract fewer Buyers since they are spread out over multiple properties.
Opportunistic Buyers should take note of the increase in inventory and aim to see as many homes as possible this week. Those waiting for the summer or late fall months, where the average price for a home tends to be lower than the busy spring, might be surprised to see value in quality spring listings. Your Realtor can’t always predict how many listings are going to hit the market on any given week, but a little analysis, care, and strategic thinking should help you list your property at a more opportune time, leading to a higher sale price. Sellers should make sure their Broker gives proper consideration to these market dynamics. Staging is often seen as the top priority when selling, but I would argue that strategic guidance and analysis from your Realtor can be equally as important.
Are housing costs more than they were in 1985
Anybody who reads this Blog probably knows that I don’t like it when people sensationalize Real Estate news, and that I prefer to look at past results to help us make better decisions. Which is why I love this article by Jason Heath in the Financial Post on whether homes cost more now than they did 30 years ago. This is a great read that goes nicely with my recent post on whether Toronto Can Afford Million Dollar Homes. It provides a great comparison to what home buyers were facing in the 1980s and looks at Toronto specifically which helps readers digest information specific to their location.
We are often inundated with simple data and bold statements which, I think, leads to great misinterpretation. For instance, our Bank of Canada Governor made headlines in December stating that Canadian home prices could be seen as overvalued by as much as 30%. Many people could have immediately taken this information and localized it; for Toronto Home Buyers, this might have created the expectation that home prices were due to drop in 2015. In actuality, the opposite has happened in Toronto as we see home prices – especially for single family detached homes across the GTA – continue to head higher and higher.
Toronto’s Real Estate industry produces some great headlines, but knowing that a home attracted 25 offers or sold for $200,000 above asking price provides less market insight than you think. Even headlines coming from the experts can be misguiding if we don’t look into cause and effect.