GTA homebuyers continue to look west in search of affordability
Homebuying patterns in the GTA have increasingly shifted west over the last five years, particularly to Halton Region and west Toronto, according to a new report from ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada.
“Growing demand for affordable housing buoyed new construction and contributed to rising market share in Halton Region (from 2013 to 2018),” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Product was coming on-stream at a time when the GTA reported its lowest inventory in years and skyrocketing housing values were raising red flags. Freehold properties in the suburbs farther afield spoke to affordability.”
In analyzing sales trends in nine Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) districts over the past five years, ReMax notes that Halton Region – comprising Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills and Milton – captured 10.1 per cent of total market share in 2018, leading with a 2.3-per-cent increase over 2013. Toronto West, meanwhile, climbed almost one per cent to 10.5 per cent. Toronto Central rose close to two per cent to 18.7 per cent of total market share, while Simcoe County jumped 0.6 per cent to 3.1 per cent. The gains came at the expense of perennial favourites such as York Region (down 3.2 per cent to 15.3 per cent); East Toronto (down 1.7 per cent to 9.3 per cent); Peel Region (down 0.5 per cent to 20.6 per cent); and Durham Region (down 0.3 per cent to 11.5 per cent). Dufferin County remained stable over the five-year period.
The quest for single-detached housing at an affordable price point has sent throngs of Toronto buyers into the Hamilton housing market over the past decade, ReMax says. The spillover effect has stimulated homebuying activity in most areas flanked by Toronto’s core and Hamilton. Burlington, in particular, soared between 2013 and 2018, with home sales almost doubling and average price climbing 50 per cent to $769,142.
Window of opportunity
But with such strong growth in Burlington, how long will this market remain an affordable option?
“The communities in the west will still be affordable compared to Toronto proper, but what we are going to see is a continued uptick in demand for more of the outlying communities like Brantford, Waterdown, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and even as far-reaching as London and Niagara,” Alexander told HOMES Publishing. “What will really impact the growth of these markets, outside of availability and affordability, will be the underlying transit systems and investments in local economies, as people still have a need to be connected to the GTA core.”
The upswing in new construction has contributed to the changing landscape. New housing starts in Halton Region averaged 3,100 annually between 2013 and 2016. In Simcoe County, just north of Toronto, new residential builds averaged close to 1,860 annually from 2013 to 2017. During the same period, almost 39,000 residential units came on-stream in Toronto’s downtown-central waterfront area, while another 56,855 were active (approved with building permits applied for or issued and those under construction). Another 6,000 units came on the market in North York and Yonge-Eglinton.
In Toronto’s west end, affordability has been a strong influence in helping Millennials redefine mature neighbourhoods such as The Junction, South Parkdale, Bloorcourt and Dovercourt Park through gentrification. Average price for the 8,000 plus homes sold in 2018 hovered at $755,658 – although the 10 districts within Toronto West range in price from $557,000 in Downsview-Roding, Black Creek and Humbermede to $1.2 million in Stonegate-Queensway.
“Freehold properties remain the choice of most purchasers in Halton Region and Toronto West,” says Alexander. “The same is true to a lesser extent in Toronto Central, but condominiums continue to gain ground. Just over one in three properties sold in the GTA was a condominium in 2018, and that figure is higher in the core. As prices climb in both the city and suburbs, the shift toward higher-density housing will continue, with fewer single-detached developments coming to pass.”
Toronto Central has seen rapid growth over the past five years, with Millennials fuelling demand for condos and townhomes in developments such as City Place, King West Village and Liberty Village. This cohort has also been instrumental in the gentrification of Toronto Central neighbourhoods such as Oakwood-Vaughan and Dufferin Grove as they snap up smaller freehold properties at more affordable price points, ReMax says.
Baby Boomers have also been a major influence in Toronto Central, selling larger homes throughout the GTA and making lateral moves or downsizing to neighbourhoods close to shops, restaurants and amenities. Close to 15,000 properties were sold in 2018, with average price of $932,416, up almost 40 per cent since 2013. Properties within Toronto Central averaged 20 days on market and ranged in price from $709,660 in Bayview Village to $2.5 million in York Mills, Hogg’s Hollow, Bridle Path and Sunnybrook.
With an affordable average price point of $611,628 – and a range of $528,942 to $746,332 – younger buyers, empty nesters and retirees have flocked to Simcoe County in recent years. New construction in Adjala-Tosorontio, Bradford West, Essa, Innisfil and New Tecumseth has allowed the area to capture a greater percentage of the overall market between 2013 to 2018.
“As the Millennials move into their homebuying years, they will displace Baby Boomers as the dominant force in the GTA’s real estate market,” says Alexander. “Their impact on housing will have a serious ripple effect on infrastructure in the coming years, placing pressure on transit systems, roadways, local economies and their abilities to attract investors and new businesses, parks and greenspace development.”
The upswing in demand over the next decade is expected to re-ignite homebuying activity in Toronto East, York, Peel and Durham Regions. These areas still carry significant weight, despite the factors that have impacted softer performance in recent years, such as affordability, lack of available housing and fewer transit options.
GTA west vs east
As the west end of the GTA continues to see growth and price appreciation, a leveling effect will likely come into play (with the east region),” Alexander told HOMES. “Toronto’s GDP and the thriving economy will continue to attract people, so while affordability may continue to decrease, desire is unlikely to waver. That said, the current and next generation of homebuyers are taking this factor into account when they are making their decision to purchase – sacrificing space for lifestyle and convenience. As they look to the greater GTA, if affordability becomes more leveled out between the west and the east, it’s likely that we will see more dispersion across the entire region as people’s desire to be connected to the GTA core remains strong.
GTA east areas such as Durham region currently don’t have the same appeal as the west. “The West end of the GTA has a greater diversity of communities that are attracting a diverse range of buyers. In the past 10 years, there has been significant focus on the growth and development of these regions, whereas historically, Durham has not traditionally been viewed in this same regard. With the boom in areas towards the east, like Prince Edward County, and the affordability leveling out, we will likely see the tide begin to turn.”