Toronto May home sales drop as listings surge, price gains slow

Mon Jun 5, 2017 12:58pm EDT
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By Andrea Hopkins

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Toronto's red-hot housing market cooled in May as sellers cashed in on high prices and buyers moved to the sidelines in the wake of new housing rules aimed at dampening demand in Canada's largest city, data showed on Monday.

Average home price rose 14.9 percent in May from a year earlier, well below the pace of gains seen in recent months, while new listings jumped 48.9 percent and sales fell 20.3 percent, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) said.

The sharp shift in the Toronto market comes after a 15 percent tax on property purchases by foreign buyers was introduced in April as part of 16 measures designed to cool the market due to fears of a bubble.

Real estate brokers and economists alike hailed the softening as just what the market needed.

But executives at two of Canada's largest real estate companies said sellers have been cancelling listings when they don't get their price they wanted and re-listing at a higher price in a phenomenon that could be distorting the data by having them counted twice.

"The listing shows up as a brand new listing but just in reality it is canceled and relisted. TREB can't really track that, it is very, very prevalent," said Dianne Usher, senior vice president of Johnston and Daniel, a division of Royal Lepage.

A spokeswoman for TREB did not immediately comment on whether TREB tracks re-listing data. In a statement accompanying the data, the real estate board said the surge in new listings may reflect profit-taking by sellers.

TREB data showed the average sale price was C$863,910 ($640,788) in May, with detached homes in Toronto proper fetching an average of C$1.5 million. Toronto prices have more than doubled since 2009.   Continued...

Houses back onto a park in Vaughan, a suburb with an active real estate market, in Toronto, Canada, May 24, 2017.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch