Photo: Mike Beltzner/Flickr

January was a “soggy” month for the Greater Toronto Area’s housing market, as sales and prices were roughly flat from a year before — but it wasn’t without encouraging signs, comments from a leading economist suggest.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), 4,009 homes changed hands in the GTA last month, representing an increase of 0.6 percent from January 2018. Over the same period, the average price climbed 1.7 percent to $748,328.

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In a response to the TREB data published today, BMO Senior Economist Robert Kavcic sums up the current market climate: “All in all, the Toronto market is still soggy, but continues to gradually stabilize.”

TREB President Garry Bhaura also sees some positive in the latest numbers. “It is encouraging to see the slight increase in January transactions on a year-over- year basis, even with the inclement weather experienced in the GTA region during the last week of the month,” says Bhaura in a statement.

“The fact that the number of transactions edged upwards is in line with TREB’s forecast for higher sales in calendar year 2019,” he adds.

Activity in the detached-home segment picked up by 3.5 percent, although condo transactions were down 2.4 percent. “The level of activity is still well below that seen through most of the cycle, and the market balance still looks relatively soft,” says Kavcic.

Detached home values remained depressed, as the average selling price of $941,488 was down 2.8 percent annually, but condo prices were up 7.9 percent on a year-over-year basis, averaging $548,176.

With many unable to afford ground-oriented housing, condo units remain the only choice for some homebuyers. This has made the segment more resilient to the broader weakness that has knocked the market off of previous highs.

Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis, says, “Given housing affordability concerns in the GTA… we have seen tighter market conditions and stronger price growth associated with higher density low-rise home types and condominium apartments, which have lower average selling prices compared to single detached homes.”

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