AgentGlobal Real EstateReal Estate

What’s happening in Canada’s top real estate markets?

Canadian buyers are taking a breath as they wait to see where prices will land as the market normalizes, according to the Engel & Völkers 2022 Mid-Year Canadian Luxury Real Estate Market Report, a residential property analysis covering the markets in Halifax, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver.

This year’s analysis shows how Canada’s real estate market is normalizing after record highs in 2021.

National overview 

Engel & Völkers reports Canada’s premium markets in Halifax, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver are on a path toward normalization after two years of low inventory, fervent competition, and enormous price gains. 

Buyers are taking a breath as they wait to see where prices will land as the market normalizes; however the moment buyers who are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach return, the market will accelerate again simply because of the lack of supply to meet demand.

In the next half of the year, buyers are in a rare position to negotiate prices and deal terms. Some homes will still command multiple offers, but they will be fewer in number. First-time homebuyers should especially take advantage of this moment in the market. When interest rate hikes stabilize and buyers feel the market prices have bottomed out, competition will return—which could happen as early as fall 2022.

Here are some markets at a glance:

Halifax 

The $1 to $3.99 million range saw a 68.7% year-over-year increase in number of units sold.  During the pandemic, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) experienced a period of unprecedented national interest in its real estate market. Its low COVID-19 case counts combined with affordability, open space, and waterfront lots were a perfect storm for real estate.

As we enter the mid-point of 2022, minor price fluctuations in the $1 to $3.99 million market and the conventional market represent the new normal. 

In 2021, interprovincial migration accounted for 60% of Nova Scotia’s total population growth. The HRM’s population hit one million in 2022’s first quarter and is expected to continue to climb as Halifax works to attract skilled workers. 

“Working from home has become a permanent reality for many—folks are migrating to Nova Scotia to enjoy a charming, rural, and slow-paced lifestyle,” said Donna Harding, License Partner, Engel & Völkers Nova Scotia. “We continue to see buyers from Ontario, British Columbia, the U.S., and Europe — although the market has slowed in the past two months. At the same time, Halifax’s economic growth is creating job opportunities for many skilled workers, especially those in hospitality, technology, financial services, and life sciences.” 

Halifax continues to operate in seller’s market conditions as it has been for the past 24 months. Engel & Völkers forecasts a gradual shift towards slower price increases if second-quarter trends hold into the latter part of the year. Interprovincial and international migration will continue, with growing interest from boomers looking to cash out their homes and retire in Nova Scotia.

Montréal 

Average sold price for condos in the $1 to $3.99 million range climbed 14% from June 2021.  

The past two years have accelerated Montréal’s real estate market growth, establishing a new price level across the marketplace. The beginning of 2022 represented the last leg of the race, which wound down in tandem with each announcement of increased interest rates. A market balancing process is underway, marking the beginning of the journey towards normalization.   

This normalization is expected to continue for the remainder of 2022, with buyers taking a beat to enjoy summer and travel. Activity will likely return in the fall at a balanced pace, leaving behind the leisurely tone of summer. With this, buyers may once again have time to see properties and buy with due diligence, while sellers may list their homes with confidence that they will find their next home.  

Montréal is still affordable compared to other major Canadian markets, which continues to be a point of attraction for many. Rising interest rates have changed the conventional market, but premium buyers who tend to pay for homes up front rather than take a mortgage will not be affected. 

Ottawa 

Transactions of homes priced over $1 million have doubled to 18% from 9% last year.  

Canada’s capital experienced a buying frenzy during COVID, leading to the highest escalation of home prices on record. As a result, the $1 to $3.99 million segment grew to comprise 9% of the market in 2021, doubling in 2022 to 18%.

The year began strong, though price growth has recently leveled off. After reaching a high in March, home sales plateaued, signaling the arrival of normal-leaning market conditions, which held steady through to June. The average sold price landed on $1.3 million in the $1 to $3.99 million range and $4.6 million in the over $4 million segments.  

Though new listings have increased, the market only has two months of inventory available for sale. This means Ottawa is still a strong seller’s market, but the conditions are not as extreme as in previous years. Houses are sitting on the market longer than they had in 2020 and 2021, and interest rate hikes have caused homebuyers to re-think their budget. But even if prices hold, homeowners have seen a significant equity increase in their properties.  

As many potential buyers and sellers enjoy their return to travel, this summer will be slower than in recent years when it comes to real estate activity. The market is expected to continue to balance and return to seasonal sales patterns for the remainder of 2022.

Toronto 

Average sold price for condos in the $1 to $3.99 million range climbed 4% from June 2021.  

Toronto’s real estate market has seen a meteoric rise in the past 25 years, with the average sold price climbing by 435%.

As the Canadian hub for many global companies, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is one of the fastest-growing areas in North America and demand for real estate is consistently climbing. With demand outpacing inventory, the average price for a detached home has surpassed the $2 million mark in 2022, making Toronto’s premium market more expensive than other major Canadian cities. 

At the end of March, Ontario’s government implemented new legislation hoping to crack down on housing speculators and level exponential price growth. The tax for foreign homebuyers was raised to 20%, and a loophole allowing foreign students and workers to receive a tax rebate on real estate purchases was closed. Shortly after, the Bank of Canada increased interest rates. As a result, Toronto has seen a decline in home prices for the first time in many years.  

“With rising interest rates, the Toronto market has shifted from the frenetic pace we’ve seen in the last number of years to a more balanced market,” said Anita Springate-Renaud, License Partner, of Engel & Völkers Toronto Central. “Homebuyers are in a better position to negotiate as they are competing with fewer offers.”  

Springate-Renaud is forecasting a continuation of the normalization trend seen in the Toronto market. The increase in interest rates has impacted affordability and buyer sentiment. As a result, rents in the region are on the rise as some prospective first-time homebuyers are unable or unwilling to take the plunge. This trend  is expected to hold steady through the second half of the year.

Vancouver 

$1 million-plus market balancing with three months of inventory.  

The COVID-19 real estate scramble continued into 2022 but was curbed in April by an interest rate hike from the Bank of Canada, which kicked off the current market normalization trend. Demand waned, and a seasonal bump in new listings helped to somewhat replenish inventory. Market activity was consistent, even if at a lower volume, and prices held as demand continues to outweigh supply.  

Due to the affordability crunch, migration towards the suburban and exurban areas is still popular, though prices have decreased from the market peak. The average sales price hit $1.7 million in the $1 to $3.99 million range and $5.6 million for those over $4 million.

“To keep housing affordable for essential professionals, the City of Vancouver will need to come up with new models for housing ownership without attempting to artificially drive prices down with taxes on owners and buyers,” said Andrew Carros, License Partner, Engel & Völkers Vancouver. “This could look like government agencies and municipalities cooperating with developers and re-thinking ownership models, zoning, and financing options.”

Engel & Völkers projects that markets will be stable and continue to balance throughout the remainder of the year. There will be a steady decline in the number of units sold while new listings will continue to grow, albeit slowly. Prices may dip in the premium markets for a temporary period, but they will ultimately hold their value through this market transition.  

There is a high potential for government interference, inclusive of new rules from the BC Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) around how long sellers must wait to sell a property before reviewing offers.

There are also talks of a potential buyer rescission period of three business days after an offer is accepted on all non-commercial properties. If these regulations are implemented, there will be a transitionary period in the market that could cause buyers and sellers to hesitate or pause. This could contribute to further disruption and slow processes within the market.

Latest Articles

Zillow: The housing market is quickly rebalancing HW+

The market is quickly rebalancing and, after two years of unprecedented growth, home values fell slightly from June to July, according to the latest market report from Zillow.

Aug 18, 2022 By