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Greater Toronto Area real estate approaching ‘buyer’s market’: BMO

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians hoping to buy homes have had to brave a sizzling seller’s market where waiving inspections, blind bidding, and dozens of competing offers are the norm.

Now, BMO’s chief economist says what many potential house-hunters are hoping for — a balanced or, better yet, buyer’s market — may finally be arriving.

Read more: Canada needs new homes built, but construction industry headed for retirement wall

In a new data snapshot issued by the bank on Tuesday morning, Doug Porter said there’s been a “quick fall” in the sales-to-new-listing ratio which is a key part of assessing who holds more power in the Canadian real estate market.

That ratio dropped from 76 per cent to 66 per cent last month, a level not seen since June 2020.

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The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said Monday that level is “right on the border between what would constitute a seller’s and a balanced market.”

As a result, CREA noted home prices have just seen their first monthly decline in two years.

When it comes to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) specifically, Porter raised the possibility of a buyer’s market.

“The GTA sales-listing ratio plunged to just 45 per cent in April, which is suddenly getting into buyers market terrain,” Porter wrote in the BMO snapshot data assessment.

In contrast, he said that number has been around 70 per cent over the past year, making for a “firmly seller’s market.”

“And what the ratio is now telling us is that prices are about to go from 20%+ gains to a sudden stall. And that’s assuming the sales/listings ratio doesn’t fall further in the coming months.”

Read more: Bidding war no more: How to make an offer in Canada’s cooling housing market

The decision by the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates at rock-bottom levels during the pandemic has been attributed as one significant factor fuelling Canada’s surging home prices over recent years.

But the shift in market sentiment comes as the central bank is in the midst of a series of rate hikes taking aim at rampant inflation, which has hit 30-year highs as a result of reopening economies, supply chain problems and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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A lack of housing supply has also prompted growing political pressure on governments of all levels to increase construction — a challenge, given a wave of retirements poised to hit the construction sector.

Right now, though, BMO economist Shelly Kaushik said in a separate data snapshot on Tuesday that new home construction is increasing, with the industry “firing on all cylinders.”

Whether and for how long that will continue remains to be seen.

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