A look back at the year in real estate

As I pen my last column of 2014, the winter solstice bears down upon us and the remaining weeks of this year wind down. The winter weather has swirled menacingly around us, with a couple short volleys across the bow from Old Man Winter to rekindle memories of last December’s quick and decisive wintery incursion that preceded one of the most formidable winters we’d witnessed in a long time. ‘Polar Vortex’ famously became part of our weather glossary, invoking shivers much the same way ‘multiple offers’ does for first time buyers.

The forecasts for this winter haven’t conjured up a repeat. The common tone in these divinations is one of a more normal winter. With Christmas fast approaching, it seems to be a guessing game whether we will get a white Christmas. So while we wait on that, I thought I’d review the year that was in the Beach real estate market, and muse about what’s in store.

It certainly isn’t news that the Beach market kept in step with the ongoing rise in Toronto’s prices, actually outpacing it in most cases. According to the latest numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board for the E02 district, which includes the Beach, this healthy and robust market saw a year-over-year average price increase of just under 5 per cent for all homes types from year end 2013 to the end of November. In that same period the average price of a detached home here rose from $946,456 to $972,123. More affordable semi-detached homes saw a greater increase in average price, rising from $619,142 to $675,966.

The total sales in the Beach area should remain largely unchanged from 2013 to the end of 2014, with 797 sales on the TREB MLS system for 2013, compared to 773 to the end of this November. What is interesting is the breakdown of total sales and average prices of each month. As I’ve stated before, weather always plays a role in the ebb and flow of the Beach market. This is especially true in the cold months of January and February, and the warm months of July and August. This past year’s monthly numbers may give you some indication of what lies ahead if we see another frosty, snow laden January and February.

Traditionally January is usually the month with the least amount of sales, and 2014 certainly lived up to that reputation, with the lowest unit sales for any month this year, and a lower than expected sale price average. That’s not surprising. But February was also slow out of the gate, as the winter weather seemed to intensify. However, those buyers willing to brave the cold weather warmed the market, as average prices of homes in February this year shot up considerably over the same month in 2013. March saw a start to an increase in new listings, and an increase in sales and prices too.

It was very evident by April that the Beach market had been held off by the winter weather, even though the chilly temperatures of April kept the usual spring bloom to a minimum. Those sellers who had waited for nicer weather rushed to get their homes listed, and were generally rewarded with the year’s highest average sale price peaking at $842,306 on 87 sales. By May, more new listings sprouted, and sales hit the year’s highest monthly peak at 113 units. Sales and prices continued to be surprisingly strong through June and July. Normally the market slows into July, but not this year.

The slowdown waited until August, with numbers witnessed back in January and February. That trend continued into September. The fall market turned the corner in early October, but that surge petered out in November, when sale numbers fell to close to half of October’s, and the average sale price also decreased. December usually crawls along, and should continue in line with November’s slower trend.

2014 was a mixed bag. A slow start, an enthusiastic and energetic five months in the middle, and a slow fall season save for October. So, where does this leave the Beach market going into the start of 2015? Well, the weather and economic forecasts have their own variations. But I believe if this winter is milder than last year’s, we’ll see a quicker start in the Beach in early February, and a healthy start to 2015. Then there’s the forecast for the economy and the pressure on interest rates. That, like the weather, may call for a wait and see approach.

I’d like to wish my friends, clients, neighbours, and Beach residents a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year. Take care.

 

Thomas Neal is a well-known and respected Beach agent

tneal@trebnet.com ~ 416-690-5100

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