It’s been just over three months since the province of Ontario declared a State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while this time may have felt never-ending for many, things are starting to return to ‘normal’, especially now that the majority of the province has begun Stage 2 of reopening the economy.
In this time, we’ve seen millions of Canadians lose their jobs, businesses close, and major real estate markets take a hit, with sales activity down across the country – though market conditions have stayed relatively similar to those in 2019.
As the daily COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline and more restrictions are lifted, Altus Group has released its latest Housing Report, which provides a better picture of the pandemic’s effect on both the Canadian and Greater Toronto Area (GTA) housing markets. The survey was conducted in early April when Canadians were starting to adapt to emergency orders and work‐at‐home arrangements.
Despite the emergency orders in place, Altus Group’s latest survey found that homebuying intentions on a national level have been “encouraging” and that Canadians are still buying homes and, most importantly, home buying intentions haven’t fallen off and are similar to the same time in 2019.
Here in Ontario, Altus data revealed that both builders and potential buyers stepped to the sidelines in April as the pandemic unfolded. As a result, Altus says most planned new project launches were put on hold, sales programs for existing projects moved to virtual or by-appointment-only models, and short-term homebuying plans were disrupted by employment uncertainty, as well as the challenges of stay-at-home routines.
A recent report from BILD and Altus found that nearly 500 construction projects have been delayed throughout the Toronto-area due to the pandemic, of which, 276 were located in Toronto alone.
In April, there were fewer than 800 total new home sales in the GTA, down 80% from a year earlier, and the lowest April since Altus Group started tracking the market in 2000 (with record April lows for both single-family and condominium apartment units).
The pattern was very similar for the combined areas of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) outside the GTA, with a “crashing end” coming in April to the stronger year-over-year performance in the first quarter, as total new sales dropped 78% from last April.
According to Altus, while apartment building sales in March felt the immediate impacts of COVID-19, combined sales “rebounded” in April. In April, while sales were up in the GTA, a portion of this rebound was largely due to one sizeable $300.2 million transaction, consisting of three properties in Hamilton, Cambridge, and Kitchener for a total of 750 units.