Nobody wants to be the one to trumpet the end of summer, but, alas the end is nigh. The upside is that September means the start of NFL season, the kids get back to school—and out of our hair—and the busy fall real-estate market gets underway.
July and August are certainly slow months: The summer of 2012 saw sales dip from 10,850 and 9,422 in May and June, respectively, to 7,570 and 6,418 in July and August, but the last two weeks of August in particular are an absolute dead zone. A handful of decent properties did hit the market this year—like a bungalow on Athlone Road that recently sold for 113 per cent of its asking price—and, in some cases, the real gems were still able to bring in five or six offers. But, for the most part, the real-estate market has been asleep for a month now.
All that is about to change. Every year, the day after Labour Day, the Toronto real-estate market explodes like clockwork. Buyers revisit the reality of house-hunting, something they put off during Toronto’s two best weather months. For sellers, it’s time to reap the rewards of readying their properties, inside and out, for sale. The fall boom is very much a chicken-egg situation: Buyers don’t get down to business until the listings are in abundance, but sellers don’t list their properties until the buyers start looking.
So what does this phenomenon mean for the fall market? There’s more choice, for one. Buyers could come across as many as four or five options that satisfy their search criteria each week; you’d be lucky to find one in August. Hate on me if you like, but here’s the best advice I can dole out: Prepare to be in deep competition for a quality family home. You’d be naive to think that when a beautiful, renovated house within your price range hits the market that, magically, you’re the only person in the sprawling metropolis of Toronto who’s going to stumble on the deal and submit an offer. By readying yourself for a frenzy now, you won’t be disappointed later.
As with school, I’d suggest doing your property homework in advance. Pack up the car on a Sunday afternoon—this weekend, even—and drive around neighbourhoods you’ve been eyeing, making note of the styles of homes you like, the locations of parks and relevant points of interest, proximity to retail, and other important infrastructure. Starting your search in September without running any home-background checks means you’ll have to spend four to six weeks gathering information, and, by that point, you’ll have reached the winter of your real-estate discontent.
As far as market predictions go, mine may not be of the variety house-hunters want to hear. The fall will be the same as this past spring—we’ll see scads of multiple-offer scenarios on family homes, quality condos sold after just two to three days on the market, and I expect that prices will continue to rise. I wish climbing costs weren’t the case, but they will be as long as Toronto’s available housing inventory continues to lag behind the staggering demand for it. With respect to condos, I’ve been seeing a lot of one-bedroom deals coming onto the market as new developments have increased the proportion of one-bedroom units to sell to investors. So I expect the condo market to remain as is—no increase, no decrease.
If this summer seemed to whip by, remember that the fall market moves just as quickly. We get two harried months in September and October before the market slows in November, then dies out almost completely in December. After all, in November, sellers figure, “We’re only six weeks away from the busy spring market! Why not wait?”
Finding a place to rest your head (and all your stuff) in the fall means being exceptionally diligent and organized in your search. Scouting out a home is a huge time commitment, but if you plan on spending 10 to 15 years in the property you buy, then a painful few weeks of grunt-work is worth it.