Most of us would have expected the housing market to suffer from circumstances like a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic and historic inventory shortages. But, rather than a slowdown, we are continuing to experience a surprisingly robust real estate market across the country.
Market conditions like fewer available listings, changing criteria for desired homes, and record-low mortgage rates are changing the way people buy and sell homes, most likely in a lasting way. But this sustained activity, even in the uncertainty that is 2020, proves that our country still views real estate as a sound investment.
The only question now is how you can take advantage of the housing market’s “new normal.”
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Inventory (e.g., number of homes for sale) is at a record low across the country. According to statistics from RBC Economics, the majority of Canada is experiencing tighter demand versus supply than the country has seen in nearly two decades. At the end of September, there was just 2.6 months of inventory on a national basis. That restricts supply, which increases prices if demand remains unchanged.
Fewer listings creates a housing market that is advantageous for sellers for several reasons. For one, buyers have to act fast to snap up available homes. Listings now spend about 26 days on the market.
And thanks to tough competition for homes (often resulting in bidding wars between buyers), sellers are enjoying higher net returns on their listings. The average home price in September rose to a record $604,000, which translates to 17.5% more than just a year ago.
People used to base their next home purchase on commute times and school districts. Now, thanks to the pandemic shifting the locus of jobs and work, they are free to consider how and where they truly want to live. The search for these criteria is driving residents out of densely populated metropolitan areas and into the suburbs, which opens more inventory possibilities than buyers could consider pre-pandemic.
Now that the average five-year fixed rate is hovering around 1.99%, buyers are afforded more purchasing power. Consider this example. If a buyer can afford a $500,000 home by putting $120,000 down (25%), the monthly payment on a standard 25-year mortgage would be $2,210. Conversely, with a lower rate (say, 2.8%) that buyer can now afford a $600,000—$100,000 more purchasing power—at a cost of only $12 additional per month.
Despite the seemingly adverse buyer conditions, 2020 experienced a record-breaking number of home sales, CREA reports. Existing-home sales jumped 46.5% in September. With an additional 20,000 transactions logged, it was the busiest September thus far!
All of the aforementioned factors indicate that the housing market is poised to remain strong as we head into the new year. And experts estimate that these conditions are likely to last well into the new year.