January 5, 2012 -- Greater Toronto REALTORS® reported 4,718 transactions through the TorontoMLS® system in December 2011. The December result capped off the second-best year on record under the current Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) boundaries. Total sales for 2011 amounted to 89,347 – up four per cent in comparison to 2010.
“Low borrowing costs kept Buyers confident in their ability to comfortably cover their mortgage payments along with other major housing costs,” said TREB President Richard Silver. “If Buyers had not been constrained by a shortage of listings over the past 12 months, we would have been flirting with a new sales record in the Greater Toronto Area,” added Silver.
The average selling price in December was $451,436 – up four per cent compared to December 2010. For all of 2011, the average selling price was $465,412, an increase of eight per cent in comparison to the average of $431,276 in 2010.
“Months of inventory remained below the pre-recession norm in 2011. Very tight market conditions meant substantial competition between Buyers and strong upward pressure on selling prices,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.
“TREB’s baseline forecast for 2012 is for an average price of $485,000, representing a more moderate four per cent annual rate of price growth. This baseline view is subject to a heightened degree of risk given the uncertain global economic outlook,” continued Mercer.
I believe there has never been a better time to buy a home. I’ve been in the industry for 28 years as a lawyer and I haven’t seen so many positive signs for housing, whether you are thinking or buying or locking in a mortgage.
Mortgage rates at historic lows: They can’t get any lower. Four to five-year fixed mortgages at 3 per cent are unheard of. It is lower than the variable rate that most Canadians have been paying for years. Rates have nowhere to go but up, either later this year or next. If you are paying a variable interest rate, lock in now.
Canada’s appeal: This country has everything going for it — a stable banking and political environment, steady real estate market, the natural resources people want and few social tensions. That makes us a safe haven in a volatile world.
Our immigrant draw: Because of the above, we’re a draw for immigrants, often wealthy ones. When they get here, they need a home. So in my view while the real estate market may level off in some areas of Ontario, it should stay strong in most of the GTA and likely Canada’s other large urban centres as well.
Mortgage defaults: According to CMHC, over 99 per cent of Canadians pay their mortgages on time. It quite a different picture in the U.S. where 7 million homes are in foreclosure and perhaps another 7 million homeowners are under water. This represents almost 15 per cent of all homes. So while the American housing market will likely be weak for the next few years, this should not occur in Canada. Our banks are not dumping homes onto the market, so there is no downward pressure on prices.
Recourse Mortgages: In many U.S. states, if you can’t pay your mortgage, the only thing the bank can do is foreclose; they cannot sue you for any shortfall. So when homes go under water, owners give the keys back to the bank. In Canada, loans are almost all Recourse, meaning if you don’t pay and there is a shortfall, the lender can sue you for the difference. This is another reason why, in my opinion, even if times do get tough, Canadian homeowners will find a way to make the payments until things improve.
Income-to-price ratio: Another misleading statistic is that in major markets, like Toronto, the average price of a home is now 4.6 times the income of the average Canadian. This same statistic was found just before the U.S. and UK markets went into the tank. However, if you look at median incomes of Canadians against the median cost of homes, this average comes down to around 3.5, which is not dangerous. Using averages are wrong. A person receiving social assistance will not buy a home, and should not be included in any relevant statistic.
High consumer debt: The warnings about rising debt ratios must be examined carefully. The Governor of the Bank of Canada is worried that the average personal debt ratio is now 156 per cent in Canada. This means a household making $100,000 per year, owes $156,000, two-thirds of which is mortgage debt. Why is this so bad? At an interest rate of 3 or even 5 per cent, the amount needed to service the debt is manageable. Most people do not pay off their mortgages in one year. Still, this is another good reason to consolidate your debt now, at these low interest rates, and lock in.
No guarantees: Nobody can predict the future and there’s always the possibility of a major economic shock. Yet, in a U.S. presidential election year, politicians will do whatever is necessary to prevent it. If the economy goes into the tank, so do re-election chances. The U.S. is already showing signs of economic recovery.
No matter what, do not take on a monthly payment higher than what you can afford. Meet with your lender or mortgage broker in advance to figure out what you can afford before you start looking for a home. It may be the best time to buy, but you need to buy smart.
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1. Clean house at the old place. Be strong and rid yourself of anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent of your old stuff
2. Start with the bedroomIt's where you'll be spending almost a third of your time when you're at home, after all.
3. Don't buy everything all at once. Live in your new house for at least two months before you make any significant purchases.
4. Fight the urge to match. Make sure your own personal style shows through, which most likely isn't bland, beige and boring.
5. Tie everything together with color. 6. Solve practical problems inexpensively. If your kitchen cabinets are drab, for instance, freshen them with paint and change out the hardware.
*4 (6-ounce) cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
*1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, plus more for spreading
*1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
*1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon capers, drained
*1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*4 slices rustic white bread, or other dense white bread
*2 medium tomatoes, sliced, or 8 tomato slices
*4 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1. Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler.
2. Combine the tuna, mayonnaise, red onion, capers, black pepper, lemon juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until well mixed.
3. Arrange the bread slices on a work surface. Lightly spread each slice of bread with additional mayonnaise. Divide the tuna salad evenly among the 4 bread slices and top with 2 tomato slices eachs. Top with slices of provolone.
4. Place sandwiches on a sheet tray and place under broiler. Cook until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes.