Big Data with Big Ben Photo: James Bombales

The following is a guest column by Ben Myers, Senior VP Market Research and Analytics at Fortress Real Developments. Fortress Real Developments partners with builders and developers across Canada and Ben assists in evaluating the market and projects that Fortress engages in.

There has been a lot of talk recently surrounding the Toronto Real Estate Board’s (TREB) crack down on their members’ use of real estate transaction data. TREB wants to keep the data private and maintain their competitive advantage when it comes to evaluating a property’s worth. The power of comprehensive and accurate data is of the utmost importance, and TREB is doing everything necessary to keep their stats out of the public’s hands.

With that being said, I’m very grateful that the folks at BuzzBuzzHome for giving me access to their ‘Big Data’. Any additional information I can get my hands on only assists in my understanding of the Canadian housing market. I need to know what the latest trends are, and where demand is headed (or not headed, which is just as important). We are constantly looking at new sites with new partners, and I want to be on the ball.

BuzzBuzzHome sent me data on how long their users spend looking at projects in specific municipalities in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario last month versus last year. Where are people doing the most research? What are the popular cities and towns? Users were spending the most time looking at projects in Richmond Hill, Markham, Burnaby, Vaughan and Richmond (BC) in February. Amazingly, there were three Greater Toronto Area (GTA) suburban municipalities in the top five, and seven more in the top 15: Oakville, Burlington, Ajax, Milton, Mississauga, Caledon, and Pickering. The Toronto area is poised for another strong year of new housing activity. In 2014, new homes sales overall jumped 40 per cent (per RealNet), and new high-rise condominium sales increased 50 per cent (per Urbanation).

The time on site can be influenced or skewed by how many new home projects there are in each municipality, how much information BuzzBuzzHome has on the individual projects in those municipalities, in addition to how well promoted and marketed many of these projects are by their developers, which drives eyeballs to the website. Therefore, it is also important to see how the interest in the municipalities has changed compared to last year, so I ranked the municipalities one through 50, and compared their rankings in February 2015 to February 2014. The municipalities with the biggest ranking jumps were all located in the ‘905’ area of the GTA! Caledon, Richmond Hill, and three Durham Region locations: Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa. I’m beginning to think GTA new home prices will soar in 2015.

Time on Site BuzzBuzzHome

The biggest rankings declines belonged to Newmarket, Port Coquitlam, North Vancouver, Calgary and Kingston. It was no surprise that Calgary made the list, but it was a surprise that Edmonton did not. The recent oil price declines have halted many buyers’ new home searches in Alberta.

In my last Big Data with Big Ben article, I asked for the public’s opinion on what would happen with new home prices in the Calgary Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in 2015. I published the results in my latest Market Manuscript, a robust 50-page report on the state of the Canadian housing market and select metro areas where we have active development projects: approximately 64 per cent of respondents felt new home prices in the Calgary CMA would decline in 2015, while 36 per cent said they would increase.

The housing market might not be as bad as BuzzBuzzHome News readers think, in the Market Manuscript I plotted the last five major oil price declines against new home prices, and surprisingly new house prices declined in just two of those instances. My report summarized a ton of independent forecasts, and the results were not that bad either, population and employment and still expected to grow, housing starts should top the 10-year average for the CMA, single-detached house prices are expected to rise, as are rent levels for private apartments.

In conclusion, I do hope real estate board data becomes available to the public, because data and knowledge is power, and we need more informed Canadians when it comes to real estate data and interpretations.

Please have a read over The Market Manuscript (download it here) to become more informed on this country’s housing markets, and keep checking back with BuzzBuzzHome and Big Data with Big Ben as we continue to review the trends and happenings in the new housing market in Canada.

Fortress Real Developments partners with builders and developers across Canada, and Ben assists in evaluating the markets overall and projects that Fortress engages in (Twitter: @benmyers29). Follow his blog posts and commentary on the Canadian Housing Market at www.fortressrealdevelopments.com/news or for more info on real estate investing, go to www.fortressrealcapital.com.

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