Rendering: The Harlowe
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.
When I was four years old, my mother taught me basic math. I started my love affair with numbers all those years ago. I used to ask my mom to write down a bunch of numbers so that I could add them up. To this day, I’m still angry that I got 86 per cent in one of my high school math classes, which must have been a result of filling in the wrong “scantron” line. Remember those?
I’ve pored through hundreds of thousands of numbers on the real estate market over the past 15 years. I started my career in Dallas, Texas, tracking the new home market, and you could buy a brand new single-detached house for $65,000 in 2001. Ever since then, the more data I look at, the better understanding I gain about what the numbers mean and why they change the way they do. BuzzBuzzHome now tracks extensive data on new housing communities in Canada and the United States, and it has taken some time for me to comprehend and identify trends in their unique data set. I’ll explain why this is important.
I can’t remember a time when the metropolitan level housing markets across Canada were moving at such different paces than they are today. According to data from BuzzBuzzHome, the average asking price on a per-square-foot (psf) basis for low-rise new homes (single-detached, semi-detached and townhouses) currently available in Vancouver is approximately $808 psf, meaning a 2,500 square foot (sf) house would go for $2.02 million. This price has increased 23 per cent annually.
Despite new condominium apartment prices dropping 9.3 per cent year-over-year, new low-rise pricing in Calgary is up 2.7 per cent annually to $309 psf. Meanwhile, Edmonton low-rise pricing is up 5.3 per cent to $260 psf, Winnipeg is up 3.0 per cent to $236 psf, and Montreal is up 8.1 per cent to $294 psf. However, strangely Toronto is down annually by 2.4 per cent to $437 psf.
This is an interesting result. As I present in my Spring 2016 Market Manuscript report, new low-rise home prices increased 14 per cent and 18 per cent last year based on findings from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Altus Data Solutions, respectively. How can the results be so different from the BuzzBuzz figures? This is why truly understanding the numbers is crucial.
CMHC tracks the “end-selling” price of absorbed homes, or homes that have completed and sold. This is important because they are now built, and could have actually sold nine to 15 months earlier. In addition, the home’s square footage and lot size can make a huge difference when tracking price movements in the low-rise housing market, especially when looking at the end-selling versus per-square-foot prices.
BuzzBuzzHome looks at currently available homes only, which tends to skew the results based on when new projects launch. Typically the largest homes are the last ones to sell based on their big end-selling prices, but they actually have lower per-square foot prices (psf tends to decline as units get larger).
So if a community sells very quickly and only the large homes with lower per-square-foot prices remain, it appears as if average prices are lower than they actually are in an area. Another major factor is the fact that there are very few new homes available in the City of Toronto or the inner suburbs of Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Markham.
The remaining supply is in Caledon, King City, West Gwillimbury, East Gwillimbury, Oshawa and Clarington, which are less expensive communities with larger houses (i.e. lower per-square-foot prices).
Is there really less demand for new homes in Toronto in 2016 than 2015? No. Are developers lowering their prices on low-rise new home product? No. The composition of the homes within the sample of data has a big impact on the result, and average figures can mask what’s really happening in the marketplace.
To get a better sense of trends influencing the Canadian housing market, and other data anomalies influencing housing data, download the latest Market Manuscript by Fortress Real Developments. Once you’ve read all 75 pages, you can impress your mother with your knowledge of housing data!
Fortress Real Developments partners with builders and developers across Canada, and Ben assists in evaluating the market 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.