Toronto area home sales hit record high in 2016, average selling price soars

TORONTO _ The Toronto Real Estate Board says 2016 was a record year for the country’s largest real estate market, with sales climbing 11.8 per cent from the previous year.

That’s as sales last year in Vancouver, another one of the country’s most closely watched real estate markets, fell 5.6 per cent compared with 2015.

TREB reported the average home price in the Greater Toronto Area soared to $730,472 last month, up 20 per cent from December 2015.

The board said its members had 113,133 residential property sales through the MLS system last year, including 5,338 in December.

December sales were up 8.6 per cent compared with a year ago, despite a tight supply of properties for sale.

The board’s MLS house price index _ which adjusts for the different types of properties _ was up 21 per cent in December from a year earlier.

“A relatively strong regional economy, low unemployment and very low borrowing costs kept the demand for ownership housing strong in the GTA, as the region’s population continued to grow in 2016,” TREB president Larry Cerqua said in a statement Thursday.

The board said upward momentum on pricing accelerated as the year progressed and the overall average selling price for the calendar year was $729,922 _ up 17.3 per cent compared with 2015.

Another factor affecting prices was a constrained supply of active listings, which hit a 15-year low in December.

“Total new listings for 2016 were down by almost four per cent,” said TREB’s director of market analysis, Jason Mercer.

Mercer added that government rule changes and policy debates have focused on high demand but “what we really need is more policy focus on issues impacting the lack of homes available for sale.”

In October, the federal government made a number of changes aimed at stabilizing the country’s real estate markets, including requiring stress tests for all insured mortgages.

The stress test change is intended to ensure that Canadians don’t take on larger mortgages than they can handle, particularly in markets such as Toronto and Vancouver where affordability is stretched.

On Wednesday, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported that the composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver, as measured by the Multiple Listing Service home price index, was $897,600 last month.

The result represented a 2.2 per cent drop over the second half of 2016, but a 17.8 per cent increase compared with December 2015.