“Toronto continues to be the No. 1 place to invest or look for real estate in Canada from an investor standpoint, both domestic and foreign,” Altus Group’s vice-president of data operations Ray Wong said while discussing the Top-10 2019 CRE transactions in the GTA with RENX. “It was sort of a continuation of 2018.”
Topping the charts in 2019 were a development land transaction and a multiresidential portfolio sale.
Toronto city council approved the East Harbour Master Plan in 2018. It provides for 10 million square feet of commercial development including office, hotel, retail, institutional, entertainment and cultural space.
“The urban landscape will continue to be in demand, as well as opportunities for expansion and growth, especially on the commercial side and residential side,” said Wong. “So, that created quite a buzz in the marketplace based on that acquisition.”
Late in December, Starlight Investments closed on a major portfolio deal, acquiring 44 multiresidential high-rise buildings from Continuum REIT for $1.735 billion. The majority of the sites are spread across the GTA, though some of the properties are also located in Hamilton and Ottawa.
In all, Starlight acquired 6,271 units in the buildings, which include towers at 2450 and 2460 Weston Rd., 125 Bamburgh Circle and 77 Roehampton Ave., among others.
Meanwhile, the Atrium on Bay acquisition ranked third. H&R REIT (HR-UN-T) sold the 1,079,870-square-foot office and retail complex to KingSett Capital & TD Greystone Asset Management for $640 million.
“It’s such a good asset to have,” said Wong. “It’s always been a well-performing asset.”
Investment activity declined in 2019
Speaking of performance, though final numbers are not yet available the overall volume of investment activity decreased across Canada during 2019. The Toronto region also saw lower investment, but not for lack of interest from investors.
“It’s not because Toronto capital wasn’t available,” Wong said. A combination of factors contributed to the lower numbers, including a “limited number of opportunities” available to purchasers and the scale of properties on the market.
There was also more caution from potential buyers.
“What we were finding with some of the investors is that they were a little bit more selective . . . on the assets and the properties that they bid on.”
Wong contrasted the current environment to 2017 when “we saw a number of bidders in the marketplace.” At that time, he said, there was “a lineup of buyers” for assets coming onto the market.
“You still have a few buyers, but not the same amount of buyers,” Wong said.
Toronto industrial remains hot sector
Industrial properties continued to be prized assets in 2019, with two transactions on the Top-10 list.
“The GTA industrial vacancy rate is less than one per cent,” Wong said, noting for Q3 it was at 0.8 per cent.
With escalating rents and continuing demand for e-commerce space, the industrial sector “continues to do well from both the tenant perspective/investor standpoint, as well as the owner-users.” As a result, there is record buyer interest.
“It’s the first time, third-quarter 2019, that industrial has hit over a billion dollars of transactions. So, it shows you the amount of demand there is for industrial assets in the GTA.”
It’s also an asset class that is consistent across the country.
“You’re also seeing that in Vancouver,” he said, adding the West Coast city’s industrial vacancy rate is hovering in the two per cent range.
“So, industrial has performed well across the board, just because of the growth of e-commerce and the demand for warehouse distribution space.”
Here are the rest of the Top-10 GTA transactions, according to Altus data:
Oxford Properties Group and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) sold Dynamic Funds Tower for $473 million. The 650,000-square-foot downtown Toronto complex was acquired by GWL Realty Advisors (50 per cent), Investors Group (25 per cent) and OPTrust (25 per cent).
“That’s a core downtown asset,” said Wong, noting there are “very low office vacancy rates downtown.”
The Dynamic Funds Tower complex includes: Dynamic Funds Tower at 1 Adelaide St. E., a 30-storey LEED Gold-certified office tower; 20 Victoria St., a nine-storey boutique office building; and 85 Yonge St., a three-storey retail building.
Sixty-one acres of residential land was sold to Aspen Ridge Homes by Celestica for $348 million.
“That’s the old IBM Celestica site,” said Wong. He called the redevelopment site a “fantastic parcel” due to the Metrolinx Crosstown LRT expansion along Eglinton and Don Mills.
Aspen Ridge Homes’ Crosstown plan encompasses 18 condo buildings and 30 townhome buildings housing more than 10,000.
It’ll also boast 300,000 square feet of office space, restaurants and cafes, more than five acres of parks and playgrounds, and a large community centre.
Gazit Globe created a joint venture with Dori Segal’s Gazit TripLLLe Canada and a private investor to purchase this low-rise office and complex at Yonge Street and York Mills Road in December for about $240 million from Manulife Investment Management.
Sitting atop the York Mills subway station, the 570,000-square-foot complex includes about 35,000 square feet of retail.
It’s situated in a neighbourhood which is undergoing major redevelopment and intensification, with seven active multiresidential projects on the go and several more planned.
TD Bank Group purchased a 30 per cent stake in this 1.2 million-square-foot office tower, which remains under construction by Cadillac Fairview, for $229 million.
“We have it as ICI land, but that’s the new office building that Cadillac Fairview is building,” Wong said, noting TD will also be the anchor tenant in the building.
TD Bank Group will occupy 840,000 square feet over 33 floors of the downtown tower, which is now owned 50 per cent by Cadillac Fairview and 20 per cent by Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO).
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan will occupy 340,000 square feet in the now fully leased, 46-storey building valued at approximately $760 million.
The 911-unit Rossland Park property in Oshawa was sold to Q Residential by H. Kassinger Construction Limited for $220 million. The property includes about three dozen townhome, low-rise and high-rise buildings in a 50-acre park-like setting bordering Rossland Road between Wilson Avenue and Ritson Road.
“That deal is just representative of the demand for multires in the market,” Wong said, adding “even in Oshawa, there’s sizable demand for that type of asset.”
AIMCo purchased this suburban Richmond Hill data centre property from a joint venture between Urbacon Properties Limited and Summit Industrial Income REIT for $215 million. It’s part of a larger development at the Barker business park site, which currently includes two data centres but is designed to contain as many as five of the facilities at full build-out.
The 118,135-square-foot property is located near Highway 404 and Elgin Mills Road East.
10. 2200 Yukon Court
Another major industrial transaction: DSV Solutions Inc. sold the 1.1 million-square-foot Milton property for $180 million to London Life Insurance Company (45 per cent), GWL Realty Advisors (25 per cent), Canada Life Insurance Company (20 per cent), and Canada Life Assurance Company (10 per cent).
Real estate sales show signs of 'uptick' – Times Colonist
The province’s phased-in approach to restarting the provincial economy seems to have had an effect on the Victoria real estate market.
Figures released Monday by the Victoria Real Estate Board show sales, inventory and some prices rose in conjunction with the second phase of the provincial restart plan.
Last month, 457 properties changed hands in the region, and while that’s a 46 per cent drop from May of last year, it’s a big jump from the 287 homes sold in April.
“We are still down in terms of sales [year-over-year], but we were up from April, and we saw a real uptick after May 19, when Phase 2 was implemented,” said Sandi-Jo Ayers, president of the board. “We are feeling cautiously optimistic based on the numbers from last month. And our home prices have seen a slight increase from last month as well.”
There were 2,544 active listings for sale at the end of May, up from the 2,305 available at the end of April. That is still well off the more than 3,000 available in May last year.
The benchmark price of a single-family home in the Victoria core last month was $885,400, up from $884,600 in April. Year-over-year, however, the price was down from $863,000. The benchmark condominium price in the core last month was $534,300, up from $533,600 in April, and $516,400 in May 2019.
“I’d say we have seen a trickle of activity, not a tsunami. People are being cautious,” said Ayers, who noted buyers want to ensure they are employed and that they can qualify for the kinds of homes they want.
Indications are Victoria’s real estate market could avoid some of the pain other markets in Canada will face this year, she said. “We believe the way B.C., the Island and the community have responded to the health crisis and our market being local, [real estate] has responded in a healthy way as well here,” she said. “Victoria is such an attractive place to live, it’s safe and the way we responded to this health crisis is catching people’s eye and they may start to think this is a good place to retire or move.
“We firmly believe we are on the radar now.”
The short-term outlook is likely to remain cautious, but Ayers said they expect to see a lot of local movement ahead of the fall school opening, and with local buyers moving up and down in the market.
Dramatic drop in Greater Victoria real estate sales in May – CHEK
There aren’t as many for sale signs up and far fewer properties are selling, as the Greater Victoria real estate market sees the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our real estate market is responding to the health crisis,” says Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) president Sandi-Jo Ayers. “For the month of May, that was a very tough month and April was as well.”
May saw a dramatic drop in the number of sales, down a whopping 46 per cent from last May, with just 457 properties selling.
“It’s surprising it’s only 46 per cent,” says Tony Joe of RE/MAX Camosun. “That sounds strange but when you think about it, we were a 58 per cent reduction in the month of April and I think many people sort of wondered if real estate would go to zero or close to zero.”
Inventory was down 15.7 per cent compared to last May, but that had prices holding steady.
Condo prices only dipped 3.7 per cent, with an average price of just over $453,000.
Single-family home prices were actually up 2.3 per cent to almost $876,000.
“The other surprising thing too is we’re seeing cases of multiple offers or bidding wars out there, which you would never expect in a time like this,” says Joe.
With restrictions easing in the last two weeks, agents say viewing requests are increasing and they’re actually getting lots of interest from Lower Mainland and Toronto buyers.
“We really are trying to be optimistic,” Ayers says. “We see we have a lot of people that want to move here, they want to sell, they want to buy and realtors on the street are talking about how busy they are getting.”
If you’re buying or selling, it will look different in phase three, with more virtual open houses, online tours, and masks and gloves for in-person showings, as well as minimizing the surfaces that are touched as real estate tries to rebound.
RE/MAX | Is the Toronto Real Estate Market in Trouble? – RE/MAX News
Since COVID-related closures and social distancing took effect in Canada, life as we know it has been put on pause within the city of Toronto. As one of the hottest real estate markets within Canada, many have speculated on the impact that the public health crisis will have upon this market. While it is impossible to make a definitive prediction of how Toronto’s real estate market will weather this storm, there exists a great deal of optimism that any COVID-19 impacts are expected to be temporary.
Below, we take a look at the pre-crisis market and current conditions within Toronto, to better understand the basis of the optimism, and why Toronto is poised to make a triumphant return as one of the country’s hottest real estate markets.
A Strong Start to the Year
In the first quarter of 2020, Toronto was gearing up for a spring market like no other. Demand heavily outweighed the supply of homes for sale within the Greater Toronto Area, and the aggregate price of homes was $866,211, a 7.5-per-cent year-over-year increase. These skyrocketing prices were most apparent within the condominium submarket, where values had shot up 8.8 per cent year-over-year.
Toronto Market Reaction to COVID-19
With social distancing measures imposed to prevent the spread of the virus, Realtors across the city, and the country, have been adjusting to a new normal for conducting real estate transactions. While the real estate industry was deemed an essential service and permitted to continue to function by the Government of Ontario, open houses came to a halt. In response, real estate agents have gotten creative, using interactive 360-degree tours, or live-video sessions to showcase homes to prospective buyers. When in-person tours must take place, agents are taking extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of their clients and themselves. It goes without saying, deals are no longer being sealed with a handshake.
The impact of COVID-19’s spread and social distancing measures upon the Toronto real estate market didn’t reveal themselves in the numbers until the second half of March. Going into March, in fact, the Toronto market was still on fire. According to Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) statistics, sales volumes had climbed 49 per cent across the GTA compared to the same period in 2019. By the second half of March, the tables turned and home sales dropped 15.9 per cent compared to the same two weeks of 2019.
Home prices, however, remained strong by the end of the month, with the average sales price for March up to $902,680 – an impressive 14.5-per-cent spike over March 2019. RE/MAX brokers in some of Canada’s key housing markets agree that prices are expected to hold steady, at least for the next few months. Despite softening sales activity since the outbreak, those who have listed their homes on the market are well aware of the sales prices in February and early March, and thus are continuing to hold their price and wait out the current crisis, until the wave of demand returns. Panic sales – in which sellers price low to get their home off the market – has yet to be seen within Toronto.
Stable Market Balance
According to Jason Mercer, TRREB’s senior market analyst, the buyer-seller relationship has remained consistent throughout the outbreak, and this factor helps to explain why Toronto’s market may not be in trouble after all. While sales volume has dipped, so have listings. Since the levels have been following the same trajectory, it’s unlikely that the market will flip to resemble a buyer’s market anytime soon. Mercer confirms that there are still a similar proportion of buyers vying for each remaining listing, and as long as this trend continues, there will be little incentive for sellers to budge on their price points.
A Little Less Optimism for Toronto’s Landlords
COVID-19 has dealt a sharp blow to Toronto’s landlords, particularly those operating short-term rentals, who now find themselves over-leveraged and vulnerable. Many real estate investors were reaping the benefits of Airbnb-style short-term rentals, where the profit margin was so much greater than a traditional lease. With the closing of the US/Canada border and the imposed stay at home measures, the demand for short-term rentals disappeared overnight, and now some investors are left scrambling to find tenants for their vacant spaces.
Toronto’s pre-crisis vacancy rate was two per cent, making the process of securing an available unit an incredibly cutthroat process for hopeful renters. Toronto also took the top spot as the most expensive rental market in the country, with a one-bedroom unit averaging $2,213 in rent per month (April 2020 National Rent Rankings from Rentals.ca).
Since the closure of non-essential businesses across the city in late March, many tenants are struggling to make rent payments. This will inevitably put downward pressure on demand for a brief period of time, even after protection measures have been lifted. This extra supply flooding the rental markets, coupled with depressed demand levels, means there is potential for average rental rates to decline within the Greater Toronto Area. This anticipated drop in rent prices and competition may translate to a less stressful home search for new renters, post-crisis.
On the other hand, some experts are warning that we shouldn’t count on this rental price relief; it is possible that following the pandemic, some buyers who had put their purchasing plans on hold may be reluctant to jump back into the housing market, and may elect to rent instead. This may help to balance out any loss in rental demand, preventing any significant drops in average rental price.
So many of these potential outcomes are dependent on how quickly life within the city can return to a level of normalcy. Toronto is already starting to see the re-opening of businesses, and if everything unfolds as public health experts are forecasting, we can hope to see a slow return to activity within the Toronto real estate market by this fall. Once a sizeable portion of those who are temporarily unemployed are able to return back to work, consumer confidence will bounce back and the demand that has fuelled the Toronto housing market for so long, will resurface.
Until then, keep yourself and your loved ones safe, and sane. This too shall pass!
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