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Sellers aren't panicking in Toronto's weakened housing market

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In the face of a correction in Toronto’s housing market, sellers aren’t panicking.

Even with transactions at their lowest level since the 2009 recession, sellers in Canada’s largest city have avoided listing their homes en masse in what could be a sign of confidence the market will come back. According to data released Tuesday by the Canadian Real Estate Association, new listings in Toronto fell 8.6 per cent in April from a month earlier and are down nearly 30 per cent from a year ago.

According to data by the Canadian Real Estate Association, new listings in Toronto fell 8.6 per cent in April from a month earlier and are down nearly 30 per cent from a year ago.  (Graeme Roy / THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo)

The drop has left the sales-to-listings ratio — a key gauge of a real estate market’s health — relatively stable in the face of a sharp drop in sales, which may explain why prices in Toronto continue to hold steady. Prices are up 3.1 per cent since the beginning of 2018, even as transactions plunged.

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Canadian home sales drop to seven-year low for month of April

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After plunge in early 2018, sales of high-end homes expected to post moderate gain in spring

Tumbling Toronto home sales signal a return to normal market, say analysts

“The market is actually surprisingly relatively balanced,” said John Pasalis, president of Toronto-based brokerage firm Realosophy Realty Inc. “When you’re comparing yourself to a bubble, sales can fall 40 per cent and inventory can rise and your market is still balanced.”

It’s still been a rough year for Toronto’s realtors, after federal regulators tightened mortgage qualification rules on Jan. 1 to quell a surge in prices early last year. The market is also facing a new foreign buyers tax and other measures to curb demand.

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Toronto’s real estate market is also coping with a bulk of unsold active listings, a legacy of last year’s surge in prices that prompted people rushed to sell their homes. The sales-to-new-listings ratio, while stabilized, is still at the lower end of the range over the past decade.

The ratio has averaged 0.46 over the last year, the lowest level since the recession and at the lower-end of what analysts typically consider a balanced market. But at least, it hasn’t been getting any worse.

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Year to date, sales have fallen by a third compared to the start of 2017. New listings are down just 4.7 per cent over the same period.

“It may be that people are trying to time the bottom of the market,” said Rishi Sondhi, an economist with Toronto-Dominion Bank. “They’re holding out because they think the market is going to turn around.”

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How the New Tax Law Affects Your Real Estate Business

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Tax reform should have a positive impact on the real estate sector. Make sure your business is prepared for these major changes.


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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brings big tax changes to the real estate sector, the likes of which haven't been seen since the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Fortunately, the impact on real estate businesses should be mostly positive. That said, there are some crucial changes that business owners and entrepreneurs in the real estate sector should look out for moving forward.

Related: The New Tax Law Has Made It a Great Time to Invest in Real Estate. Here's How to Get the Most From Your Investment.

Pass-through entities

You have probably heard about the 40 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21 percent under the TCJA. However, if you operate as a sole proprietor, or in a pass-through entity such as a partnership, LLC or S Corporation, the TCJA also contains a significant change to how you will be taxed.

A deduction of up to 20 percent of qualified business income is now permitted. This deduction is limited to the lesser of:

  • 20 percent of qualified business income
  • The greater of 50 percent of W-2 wages, or 25 percent of W-2 wages plus 2.5 percent of the unadjusted basis of qualified depreciable property

Congress and the IRS need to issue new rules to further clarify and explain some of the nuances of this provision, but real estate businesses should clearly benefit from it.

Related: How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls of Real Estate Investing

Depreciation

Real estate depreciation rules were already favorable, but the TCJA improved them even further. Qualifying property — including, for the first time, used property — acquired after Sept. 27, 2017 is eligible for 100 percent bonus depreciation in the year it is placed in service.

Eligible assets are those with a depreciable life of 20 years or less. This encompasses personal property, and was intended to include "qualified improvement property" defined as work done to the interior of a commercial building excluding costs related to enlargement, elevators and escalators or the internal framework. Because of a drafting error, however, it was not assigned the correct class life, so this is an important provision requiring Congressional remedy.

Remember that bonus depreciation will begin to wind down in 2023. The rate will drop by 20 percent per year beginning in 2023 until it is eventually eliminated in 2027.

Additionally, Section 179, which permits the expensing of assets for commercial properties, has been expanded. The annual limitation has increased from $500,000 to $1 million, with a phase-out beginning at $2.5 million for qualifying assets. For the first time, this provision now includes roofs, fire protection and alarm systems, HVACs and security systems.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Real Estate Is a Great Investment

Limitations on business interest and losses

The way the losses and gains from your real estate business are taxed is also impacted by the new law. For example, debt-financed real estate operations should note that any business with more than $25 million in average annual gross revenue over the prior three years will be limited in its interest expense deduction to interest income plus 30 percent of adjusted taxable income. Rental property owners and others in real property businesses can, in some cases, opt out of this rule and claim the full interest deduction, but that comes with certain trade-offs.

If you're on the opposite side of the scale with an overall tax loss, a new loss limitation rule allows only $500,000 for joint filers ($250,000 for single) to be used to shelter non-real estate income such as wages, interest, dividends and capital gains. These provisions will likely have the largest impact on qualifying real estate professionals.

Related: Sell a House and Pay $0 in Taxes With This Tip

Final points

There are many other pieces of the tax law that could affect real estate companies and investors. Section 1031 like-kind exchanges for real estate (but not for personal property) remained intact, but the taxation of carried interests, doubling of the estate and gift exemption and changes to some popular tax credits could affect your real estate holdings, taxes and financial planning.

In order to ensure you're getting the most out of your corporate and individual taxes — in real estate and elsewhere — make sure to work with a tax professional well-versed in these changes. The sooner you review these changes with a professional, the less likely you will be caught off guard when the 2018 tax filing season rolls around.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Ottawa real estate firm Minto looks to create real estate trust

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One of Ottawa's biggest landlords is looking to convert to a real estate investment trust, a move that would allow investors to cash in on the rent it charges for suites across the city.

Minto Properties announced Wednesday it's seeking to create the trust, which will include 22 properties across the country, including 14 here in Ottawa.

Other properties are in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.

Real estate trusts allow investors to essentially buy shares in residential properties, giving them a cut of the rent payments the company receives from tenants.

Carleton business professor Ian Lee said this is a chance for Minto to take the buildings, which are valuable assets, and get some money to potentially move in another direction.

"It appears they have decided to focus on a different part of the real estate market," he said. 

"Usually, when you're selling off your entire portfolio, as they announced they are today, that suggests a change in strategic direction."

No changes likely for renters

In their prospectus to investors, Minto claims its properties are 98 per cent occupied and charge an average monthly rent of $1,358.

Lee said this isn't really going to change anything for renters.

"It's just as if the name of the company collecting your rental cheque every month has changed and you're indifferent," he said.

The move still has to be approved by regulators, but in a release Minto said it could eventually add more units to the 4,279 included in the initial offering.

CBC reached out to Minto CEO Michael Waters, but he declined to comment as the process unfolds.

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Toronto Real Estate Leads The Country In Average Price Declines, Saint John Pops Higher

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The average sale price of Canadian real estate is falling, and fast. Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) numbers show the average price of a home is down 11.3% in April 2018. Most of the declines are being attributed to the country’s largest and fastest falling real estate market – Toronto. Yeah, I haven’t heard of it either.

Average Prices

The rumors are true, average prices aren’t great for determining how much you’ll pay for a home. When the range of distribution for sales is normal, the average price is a very effective measure. However, when the range of distribution is wide, it will tend to skew higher and lower, depending on extremes. That is, extremes to the high and low of prices can skew the number in either direction. It’s still a useful indicator if you know what you’re looking for.

The average price can be a useful proxy for dollar volume, and upgrade flow. After all, CREA only deals with resales. Usually people that sell will be upgrading, buying a more expensive home as well. This typically sends the average higher. If people are selling, but have no plans on buying again in this market, you’ll see the average slide. Who sells and doesn’t plan on buying again you might be asking? At least a quarter of people planning to sell in Toronto this year.

Vancouver Has The Highest Average Sale Price In Canada

Vancouver, Toronto, and Fraser Valley are still the priciest markets in the country. Vancouver has the highest average sale price at $1,067,266. Toronto comes in second with an average sale price of $804,584. Fraser Valley is in third with an average sale price of $780,736. These markets have remained in the same order for quite some time.

Average Sale Price of Canadian Real Estate (April)

The average sale price of all homes in Canada by major CREA regions. In Canadian dollars.

Source: CREA. Better Dwelling.

Toronto Has The Fastest Dropping Average Sale Price

Saint John, Saguenay, and Victoria had the fastest rising average sale prices compared to last year. Saint John had an average sale price of $199,136, an increase of 22.9%. Saguenay had an average sale price of $202,729, a 15.8% increase. Victoria had an average sale price of $703,592, an 11.9% increase. The first two cities are seeing huge growth, but are still cheaper than the national average. Victoria has been on a tear, but it also has one of the biggest drop in sales-to-new listings in the country.

Toronto, Thunder Bay, and Hamilton regions are the fastest falling compared to last year. Toronto saw the average sale price drop to $804,584, a 12.6% decline. Thunder Bay had an average sale price of $217,745, an 11.9% decline. Hamilton – Burlington saw the average sale price drop to $569,490, an 11.3% decline. Toronto and Hamilton-Burlington saw huge gains last year, so a drop was expected.

Canadian Real Estate ASP Percent Change (April)

The percent change of the average sale price (ASP) of all homes in Canada by major CREA regions.

Source: CREA. Better Dwelling.

The average decline in prices across the country is being attributed to B-20 Guidelines. The Guidelines subject uninsured mortgage borrowers to undergo a stress test. This reduced the maximum size of a mortgage people could borrow. Some have claimed the stress will have minimal impact on borrowers. However, the Bank of Canada estimates over 81,000 buyers last year would have been impacted by the new rules.

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