Toronto House And Condo Markets Continue To Diverge

Prices for detached homes continued their steeply rising trend in September. Since the COVID-induced bottom in the spring, house prices have increased in each of the past 5 months and are now up 20% from April and up 13% since last September. While the rate of increase is leveling off somewhat, there are no indications as yet that the trend will reverse any time soon. Even the recent upsurge in COVID cases doesn’t seem to be having much effect. We’ll have to wait and see if a Christmas/New Years slowdown happens this year, though nothing else this year has conformed to the ‘normal’ trends of the past.

The chart shows only detached home prices, however, the same trend is also evident across other freehold properties (semi-detached and attached).

 

The story for condominium apartments is somewhat different. Similar to houses, condos got off to a very fast start early this year and suffered the same fall in prices when COVID restrictions were first introduced. Prices recovered after that, but not to the same extent as houses, and prices have been stuck in a narrow range below the early spring peak for the past five months. Condo prices in September were 7% higher than the same time last year, however, the trend right now is flat or even declining whereas the trend last year was rising.

 

The charts below put the freehold vs condo comparison into sharper relief. These charts show the inventory (months’ supply) of condo apartments and detached homes for sale over the past two years.

The condo chart on the left shows that inventory remained below 2 months’ supply all through 2019 (green line) and into the first three months of 2020 (purple line). This reflects a very hot condo market, which cooled instantly in April when COVID restrictions came into play. Inventory came back down part way over the next three months, but has been rising again for the past two months. At 3 1/2 months’ supply, the condo market is now relatively balanced but is on the verge of becoming a buyers’ market.

The market for detached houses was also strong through 2019 and into early 2020, though not nearly as hot as the condo market. As with condos, the inventory of houses for sale spiked up in April but, unlike condos, the inventory quickly came back down to very low levels by June and has stayed there ever since. The present market for houses is just as hot as the condo market was a year ago, and shows no signs of cooling off.

Why is the inventory of condos for sale rising so quickly? It turns out that it’s not because of falling demand for condos: sales in August and September were actually 7-8% higher this year than last year. What is changing dramatically is the number of condo units for sale. In August and September of 2019 there were 2,117 and 2,319 condos for sale, respectively; this year the corresponding numbers were 4,564 and 5,423 units for sale, more than double last year! There are several likely reasons for this, all of which relate to COVID-19:

  • The claustrophobia associated with living in a condo apartment with no access to building amenities and waiting lines for elevators has caused many condo dwellers to yearn for a house with more space, a back yard, and no need to wear a mask when you walk in the front door.
  • The trend toward work-at-home means that extra space is needed for home office(s), and moving to an affordable house outside the city is more palatable now that less (or no) commuting is required.
  • The rental market is miserable, and this is causing many owners of investment condos to put their units up for sale.

With a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 now upon us, it seems unlikely that these forces will abate any time soon, and so the condo market is more likely to soften than to strengthen over the coming months.