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Not even real estate is immune from the impact of the coronavirus

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The novel coronavirus may have started as a health scare in China, but now that it has spread to more than 100 countries, its economic impact is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The contagion has sent global stock markets into panic mode, with a record plunge on Monday and soaring volatility ever since.

Housing markets in Canada and Australia, however, appear undeterred by the jitters. In fact, they have even taking encouragement from recent rate cuts implemented to combat the crisis.

At the same time, home-refinance applications in the U.S. have surged by 79 per cent, as per the U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association’s refinance index.

But is real estate really immune from the impact of the coronavirus, which was officially deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday?

Some real estate sectors are clearly more vulnerable than others. The surge in cancellations for tourist travel is not only affecting airlines but also hotels and others in the lodging industry.

The next week is usually one of the busiest travel seasons of the year as families travel during the March break. Already, cancellations are at an all-time high, something that is putting stress on the hotel industry, and one could see that part of the market come under pressure if conditions pressure.

Some investors, meanwhile, expect REITs to do well in times of uncertainty because, with long-term leases, landlords are likely to enjoy more stable cash flows than manufacturers and others who are more sensitive to short-term declines in the demand.

In addition to office and large retail real estate, where tenants usually have longer leases, investors are reportedly favouring purpose-built rental housing and self-storage real estate.

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These are the most competitive real estate markets in Ontario right now

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If you've been tinkering with the idea of giving up your rented pad to buy a home, now might be a decent time — at least in Toronto.
Competition among buyers in Canada's largest city has cooled significantly over the past year, according to the real estate brokerage and analysis firm Zoocasa, with figures now suggesting that Toronto is no longer a "seller's market" but a "balanced market."
"Housing competition heated up this fall across major Ontario markets despite new pandemic restrictions being rolled out by the Ontario government to slow the spread of COVID-19," reads a new report released by Zoocasa on Thursday.
"There was an annual uptick in home sales across the province with several real estate boards including the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reporting a record-breaking month of sales in October."
True as this may be, there were still a few Ontario cities in which the sales-to-new-listings ratio (SNLR) showed less, not more competition among buyers.
All of them are in the Greater Toronto Area.
In terms of the SNLR, anything above 60 per cent suggests a seller's market. An SNLR between 50 and 60 per cent depicts a market where supply and demand are relatively balanced. An SNLR under 40 would mean a buyer's market.
There are currently zero buyer's markets in Ontario based on this metric.
"Our findings show that 30 of the 35 markets included in our analysis exhibit strong sellers' market conditions, where high demand and a low number of new listings meant that buyers faced strong competition for listings," notes Zoocasa.
"This is up from 27 markets that exhibited sellers' market conditions in October 2019. The remaining markets all exhibited balanced market conditions, and notably, each of these balanced markets is located within the GTA."
Toronto's SNLR as of October 20202 was just 45 per cent, according to Zoocasa, down from a seller's market rate of 66 per cent during the same month in 2019.
And yet, demand for detached homes has been steadily rising since the pandemic hit in March — so what gives?
"It's important to keep in mind that these figures are influenced by condo market activity, where sales have declined amidst the pandemic while new listings increased by more than double (109 per cent) year-over-year," explains Zoocasa.
Of all 35 cities ranked, only Toronto, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Markham and Mississauga could be considered to have balanced markets as of October 2020.
The rest of Ontario, meanwhile, "exhibited strong sellers' market conditions in October, with an SNLR of 80% or more."
Four markets, in particular, saw a marked increase in demand with SNLR rates of more than 100 per cent detected. They are: Sudbury (SNLR of 100 per cent), Niagara Falls (105 per cent), Thunder Bay (108 per cent) and St. Catherines (112 per cent).

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Formerly a sellers’ market, Mississauga real estate market more balanced during pandemic

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With restrictions still in place for many parts of Ontario, and three regions once again in lockdown–with the possibility of more joining them–many people are looking to upgrade their living situations.

Throughout October, the Ontario housing market has seen significant competition among buyers, and there was an annual uptick in home sales across the province.

Several real estate boards, including the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, reported a record-breaking month of sales.

Zoocasa has been tracking housing competition across 35 Ontario real estate markets during October by reviewing sales and new listings data for each region.

This data is used to determine the sales-to-new-listings ratio (SNLR), which indicates whether a market is a buyers’ market–SNLR under 40 per cent–a balanced market–SNLR between 40 per cent and 60 per cent–or a sellers’ market–SNLR over 60 per cent.

According to the findings, 30 out of the 35 markets exhibited strong sellers’ market conditions, such as high demand and a low number of new listings.

This is up from the 27 markets that favoured sellers in October 2019.

Additionally, 14 of the 19 GTA markets favour sellers. Mississauga was one of the five markets that exhibited balanced conditions–there were 943 sales and 1,665 new listings which resulted in an SNLR of 57 per cent.

This represents a pretty significant shift from last year, when Mississauga’s SNLR was 73 per cent–a sellers’ market.

The decline has been attributed to the fact Mississauga is a condo-dense market, which means it has a higher volume of listings, while sales saw a decline due to the pandemic.

“Going into 2021, I expect more competition in the first quarter, as sellers that were able to wait on the sidelines or were undecided may begin to list their homes,” Evelyn Anders, a Zoocasa agent in Toronto, said in a recent release.

“Depending on its effectiveness, the COVID-19 vaccine is likely to have a ripple effect on housing market conditions, particularly in dense urban centers like Toronto, that may see demand re-emerge across all market segments,” she continued.

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Another record-breaking month for real estate sales in London region

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The string of record-setting months for real estate sales continues in the London area.

The London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) says 854 homes were sold in November, an increase of more than 33 per cent compared with the same month in 2019.

That makes it the best November for the organization since it began tracking figures in 1978.

“This is the third consecutive month of record sales, demonstrating how robust the housing marketplace is right now,” said Blair Campbell, LSTAR 2020 president.

“We continue to see increases in average sales price across the region in a market with historically low supply.”

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The average price for a home in the region climbed by more than 28 per cent to $536,178.

The biggest year-over-year increase was in London South, where a home is almost 34 per cent HIGHER compared with 2019.

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