GTA Condo Sales Fail to Pick Up Steam During "Busy’" Fall Market

Written By — As the founder of Strata.ca, Robert is one of Ontario’s leading experts on the GTA condo market. He is also the Broker of Record at Slate Realty.

After a typically slow summer, there was one thing GTA realtors had been hoping for — a sweeping rush of activity marking the start of the highly-anticipated fall market. But already several weeks after Labour Day, it appears condo sales haven’t exactly taken off during what’s supposed to be a very busy time of year.

There was a blip of activity with 767 transactions during the week of September 13th. But sales have been trending downward in the days following, signalling that the hot fall market hasn’t actually happened, yet.

As we close out the month of September, the GTA has so far logged about 2,480 sales. That’s still a ways off from the 3,113 sales in August, albeit during the dead of summer when Ontarians are usually preoccupied with other things. September’s tally is also well below the 3,101 transactions during the same time last year.

Strata.ca realtor Alex Hood has noticed the market is quieter than usual this September, which he describes as “generally bustling” in previous years. He thinks it’s because Ontarians are still busy navigating post-lockdown life.

“We basically entered a beautiful summer with the lifting of many COVID restrictions, allowing people to embrace some of the joys we had all missed,” says Hood. “As we keep climbing out of lockdown, lots of real estate priorities are being put on hold, and we’re seeing the impact of that well into the fall.”

Sam Massoudi, also an agent at Strata.ca, thinks emerging from lockdown also comes with a sense of uncertainty for many people. And it’s not necessarily uncertainty about the real estate market. But rather, what their post-pandemic careers will look like.

“My clients are still deciding whether they need space for a home office, or if they need to move closer to their company’s actual office,” says Massoudi. “If my clients have to coordinate with their spouse or they have kids, that decision gets even more complicated and can take much longer.”

Out of reach, out of mind

Toronto City Skyline in the evening

Despite a non-existent start to the fall market, condo prices have never been higher. The average cost per square foot is $797 or roughly $703,000 in the GTA, having plateaued since March when prices hit their peak. But while current condo owners may have watched happily as property values soared, sidelined buyers have never found a wagon in which to hop on.

“The fall market hasn’t happened yet because housing prices are simply out of reach for most people,” says Strata.ca broker Cliff Liu. “You have no choice but to bury your plans if it doesn’t make sense to spend 1.1 million on a 2-bedroom townhome.”

But Liu believes if buyers are priced out, it’s often because sellers have unrealistic expectations. He says some of his clients have made “low-ball” offers on properties that have been sitting on the market for nearly 200 days.

“And even still, sellers aren’t flinching,” adds Liu, who thinks they may be forced to re-adjust their prices regardless if the fall market refuses to kick in.

Downtown drops, 905 levels out

Aerial view of Toronto Neighbourhood

Condo sales in Toronto’s downtown core have failed to regain traction following a March peak, which could also indicate why the fall market has yet to ramp up.

“Those who were looking to make big real estate moves this year already did so during the spring market,” says Hood, who notes there were 1,033 condo sales in March. “But monthly sales have been declining ever since with barely 500 transactions so far in September.”

The same narrative is playing out in the GTA suburbs, which appears to have levelled off following a mass exodus of Torontonians to outlying communities with lower prices.

Oshawa, for example, is reporting 29 condo sales in September; down 52% from its peak of 61 sales in March. And further out in Hamilton, there have only been 39 transactions in September compared to an average of 72 sales every month since March.

Still though, Hood believes there’s time for the busy fall market to finally kick in. It’s just happening a few weeks later than usual.

“When I call my stagers and photographers, they’re actually quite busy,” he says. “So I’m expecting this pickup to happen very soon.”

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