Rebound in condo sales 'miraculous'

The city's condominium market experienced a "miraculous" rebound during the third quarter of this year, new data shows, just as luxury home sales also edge higher. More new condos were sold during that period than in the first two quarters combined, said Ben Myers, executive vice-president of Urbanation Inc., which tracks the Toronto condo market. And on the resale side, numbers hit a record high.

Mr. Myers called the rebound "nothing short of miraculous," a sign the recession's grip on the condo market has eased dramatically.

It was quite shocking to us," he said yesterday. "We certainly didn't anticipate this type of increase because there hasn't been a lot of new site openings, but the market kind of caught up to where pricing was. People that had been sitting on their hands for a long time finally got into the market."

New unit sales jumped by 56% from the last quarter, at 4,617, which also marks a 16% increase over the same period last year. On the resale side, 4,854 units sold, representing a 29% increase over the third quarter of 2008, and an all-time high.

The numbers come after months of depressed activity, and are spurred, experts say, by lower pricing and historically low interest rates.

Michael Polzler, executive vice-president of Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada, said agents have seen a "very busy" market, and many of the buyers are young Torontonians.

"Usually the first step in home ownership is to purchase a condominium. What a lot of young people are realizing is they really can't rent for less than they can own for," Mr. Polzler said.

The average price per square foot for new condos, which has remained relatively flat over the past year at about $475, slid closer to $430 for new projects launched in the third quarter, Mr. Myers said.

A substantial portion of sales were at existing sites, he said, noting the number of new condo units opening in the third quarter this year was significantly lower than last year -- about 1,750 compared to about 4,500.

In addition to setting a new sales high in the resale market, Mr. Myers said, this quarter also marked the highest sales-to-listings ratio on record.

"Most of the stuff that's being put out there is getting sold," he said. Units are taking about 27 days on average to sell within the Toronto census market area, data from Urbanation shows.

In the luxury home market, a new report from Re/Max shows a steady acceleration in sales in most regions of the Greater Toronto Area. The year-to-date figure for 2008 stood at 1,687; this year, it is to 1,706, and Mr. Polzler said that difference will increase as the year continues, particularly since the final quarter of 2008 was exceptionally poor.