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President's Toronto Star Column

TREB President's Column as it appears in the Toronto Star.

New mortgage rules have affected home sales

December 14, 2012 -- A moderate number of resale home transactions took place throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in November, with 5,793 homes changing hands. This represented a 16 per cent decrease from 6,908 sales in November 2011.

In Toronto 2,308 transactions took place last month compared to 2,952 sales a year ago - a decline of nearly 28 per cent. Meanwhile 3,485 homes changed hands in the 905 Regions, a decrease of more than 13 per cent from 3,956 sales in November 2011.

A key factor that has influenced the dip in sales experienced in recent months relates to the changes in mortgage lending guidelines that came into effect in July. The changes reduced the maximum amortization period from 30 years to 25 years and set a purchase price ceiling for government backed insured mortgages at one million dollars. These regulations have resulted in some households putting their decision to purchase on hold while they save up more money for a down payment and/or experience an increase in their income. Adding to this situation in the City of Toronto is the additional upfront Land Transfer Tax, which takes money from home buyers that could otherwise be used to offset the high costs of home ownership.

While sales decreased year-over-year in November, a modest overall price increase was reported, with the average price of a GTA home reaching $485,328. This represented an increase of 1.6 per cent compared to a year ago.

The 905 Region, with an average price of $463,779, showed a price increase of four per cent compared to a half-percent decrease in the City of Toronto average home price, which was $517,866.

The pace of average price growth in November was slower than what was experienced for much of 2012, especially in the low-rise segment of the market. This was largely due to the fact that the mix of single detached homes sold in the City of Toronto this past November changed relative to last year. Specifically, the share of homes that sold for over one million dollars was down considerably.

While the mix of home types sold may have changed, market conditions remained tight for low-rise home types. This is evident when we consider the MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) for the GTA. The MLS® HPI tracks the price change for benchmark homes – in other words: a home with the same attributes over time. When we look at price through this lens, we find that the benchmark price for major home types was up by 4.6 per cent in the GTA as a whole and 3.9 per cent for the City of Toronto.

News on the employment front was positive in November, as the Toronto seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 8.2 per cent, from 8.6 per cent the previous month. Interest rates remain largely unchanged, with a five year fixed mortgage rate of just over three per cent continuing to be available.

At this time of year I am often asked whether it is prudent to list one’s home for sale over the holidays, and there are in fact, many benefits to doing so. Consider that those viewing homes at this time of year are more likely to be serious buyers. As well, homes often look their best when they are decorated for the holidays, and a favourable emotional response to a property often prompts an offer.

I encourage you to talk to a Greater Toronto REALTOR® about the many other factors you should consider before choosing to make your next move and in the meantime, be sure to visit for all of the latest updates on the market.

Ann Hannah is President of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 35,000 REALTORS® in the Greater Toronto Area.

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