Back to Real Estate News & Trends

Impact of COVID-19 on Greater Toronto’s housing market (Infographic)

Toronto COVID 19 sales activity

For most of March 2020, Canadians faced uncertainty regarding their health and financial stability. As each week went by — and the need to #FlattenTheCurve became greater and greater — the impact of COVID-19 grew. 

It came as no surprise when industry professionals, real estate boards and trade associations associated with real estate began to issue modified work requirements, or complete suspension of ‘business-as-normal.’

Real estate trade in the Greater Toronto Area was no exception.

Rather than hold open houses, Realtors and their brokerages transitioned to virtual open houses. Instead of in-person property viewings, agents began to show homes using video-chats and online tours. Offices closed. Appointments were made and completed over the phone and through email.  In the Greater Toronto Area, everyone braced themselves for in industry about to grind to a halt. But it didn’t.

To many people’s surprise, the Greater Toronto real estate market is showing few signs of slowing down, at least on paper, even as measures to #FlattenTheCurve become more and more extreme in an effort to stop the transmission of COVID-19 .

Why isn’t Toronto’s real estate market slowing down?

As we try to grapple with the immediate and prolonged impact of COVID-19 on the GTA’s housing economy, most of us look to the data — a way of quantifying the near- and long-term impact of this devastating pandemic.  

But real estate sales activity is a lagging indicator — and price corrections take even longer to adjust.

According to analysis by Zolo, the current March 2020 data doesn’t show a decrease in sales activity in Greater Toronto’s housing market. On the contrary, it shows that the market started strong. If the pandemic had not hit, it’s quite possible the GTA would’ve entered one of its hottest spring selling seasons.

Impact of COVID-19 in the short-term

What does all this mean going forward?

The Canadian Real Estate Association revealed the month of February was particularly hot for year-over-year sales, which rose 27% nationwide, indicating the busy spring buying season had started early. Similar performance was recorded for Toronto and Vancouver homes for sale; transactions rose 45.6% and 44.9% year over year in those cities, respectively. 

However, COVID-19 will impact the real estate marketplace both in the short- and long-term.

Despite this strong start, Zolo anticipates that slower sales activity will begin to show up in the data in April and May 2020.

Housing market activity can take 30 to 90 days to close, so as more buyers hold off on shopping and purchasing property, more properties will sit on the market. 

Impact of COVID-19 in the long-term

The market will bounce back.

While we can’t predict how and when, we can make an educated assumption that the real estate market across the Greater Toronto Area will recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

To get a more realistic idea of the impact of this pandemic, and how long it will impact the GTA, Zolo analyzed past health and financial catastrophes. From SARS to MERS, to the dotcom crash, the Great Recession of 2008/2009 and even the economic impact of the mortgage stress test. By examining sales, in relation to the 5-year rolling average, and sales prices, we begin to see that the real estate market can and will survive this current pandemic.

For example, the housing market in the GTA experienced a major slowdown after former provincial government introduced the Fair Housing Plan in the spring of 2017, and the federal government introduced the mortgage stress test on January 1, 2018. While the provincial plan did not directly hinder a buyer’s capacity to purchase property, it did have a psychological impact that helped cool the market. However, this situation abruptly ended after the federal government announced the new mortgage stress test. Within months housing prices shot up dramatically, before activity dropped precipitously in 2018, which prompted declines in sold prices. The impact of these measures could be felt throughout 2018 and half-way into 2019, when buyers returned to the market and home sales (and prices) began to increase, yet again. 

To help appreciate the impact of specific health and economic events, Zolo analyzed sales and house price data going back to March 2000. By examining sales activity, and comparing it to the 5-year rolling average, and average sold prices, we can see that only a few markets experienced declines amidst some of the hardest economic and health-related circumstances within the last 20 years.

Housing Market in Toronto

Average Sale Price for the month of March (as of March 26, 2020): $1,050,651

  • +26.57% when compared to average sale price for March 2019

When compared to:

  • Dotcom Bubble Burst (2000):
    • Average monthly sales for 2000 was 2,060 — 1.2% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for the year was $278,742 — a year-over-year decrease of 0.47%
  • Peak of SARS (2003):
    • Average monthly sales for 2003 was 2,709 — 14.9% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2003 was $299,067 — a year-over-year increase of 1.70%
  • Global Recession (2008 – 2009):
    • Average monthly sales for 2008 was 2,494 — 12.4% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2008 was $387,034 — a year-over-year decrease of 11.69%
    • Average monthly sales for 2009 was 2,938 — 1.9% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2009 was $440,766 — a year-over-year increase of 13.88%
  • Peak of MERS (2013):
    • Average monthly sales for 2013 was 2,174 — 4.8% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2013 was $542,155 — a year-over-year increase of 9.54%
  • First year of mortgage stress test (2018):
    • Average monthly sales for 2018 was 2,504 — 15.8% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2018 was $761,850 — a year-over-year increase of 2.85%
  • Start of COVID-19 (2020):
    • Average monthly sales, only up to March 26, 2020, was 2,753 — 21.4% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average sales price, up to March 26, 2020, was $1,050,601 — a year-over-year increase of 26.57%

Housing Market in York Region

Average Sale Price for the month of March (as of March 26, 2020): $970,921

  • +6.32% when compared to average sale price for March 2019

When compared to:

  • Dotcom Bubble Burst (2000):
    • Average monthly sales for 2000 was 785 — 5.6% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for the year was $278,722 — a year-over-year increase of 5.68%
  • Peak of SARS (2003):
    • Average monthly sales for 2003 was 1,122 — 18.6% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2003 was $335,707 — a year-over-year increase of 6.37%
  • Global Recession (2008 – 2009):
    • Average monthly sales for 2008 was 1,062 — 12.9% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2008 was $427,945 — a year-over-year increase of 2.47%
    • Average monthly sales for 2009 was 1,362 — 9.1% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2009 was $440,790 — a year-over-year increase of 3.00%
  • Peak of MERS (2013):
    • Average monthly sales for 2013 was 1,342 — 0.2% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2013 was $620,832 — a year-over-year increase of 4.92%
  • First year of mortgage stress test (2018):
    • Average monthly sales for 2018 was 1,039 — 29.5% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2018 was $969,423 — a year-over-year decrease of 3.23%
  • Start of COVID-19 (2020):
    • Average monthly sales, only up to March 26, 2020, was 1,263 — 7.5% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average sales price, up to March 26, 2020, was $978,434 — a year-over-year increase of 7.39%

Housing Market in Durham

Average Sale Price for the month of March (as of March 26, 2020): $660,230

  • +9.01% when compared to average sale price for March 2019

When compared to:

  • Dotcom Bubble Burst (2000):
    • Average monthly sales for 2000 was 628 — 1.4% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for the year was $180,159 — a year-over-year increase of 5.55%
  • Peak of SARS (2003):
    • Average monthly sales for 2003 was 778 — 11.6% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2003 was $219,771 — a year-over-year increase of 7.25%
  • Global Recession (2008 – 2009):
    • Average monthly sales for 2008 was 743 — 7.7% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2008 was $274,647 — a year-over-year increase of 0.84%
    • Average monthly sales for 2009 was 793 — 0.4% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2009 was $279,409 — a year-over-year increase of 1.73%
  • Peak of MERS (2013):
    • Average monthly sales for 2013 was 877 — 8.7% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2013 was $356,651 — a year-over-year increase of 6.64%
  • First year of mortgage stress test (2018):
    • Average monthly sales for 2018 was 752 — 18.6% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2018 was $592,737 — a year-over-year decrease of 3.84%
  • Start of COVID-19 (2020):
    • Average monthly sales, only up to March 26, 2020, was 824 — 8.7% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average sales price, up to March 26, 2020, was $658,039 — a year-over-year increase of 11.1%

Housing Market in Halton

Average Sale Price for the month of March (as of March 26, 2020): $909,199

  • +8.54% when compared to average sale price for March 2019

When compared to:

  • Dotcom Bubble Burst (2000):
    • Average monthly sales for 2000 was 785 — 5.65% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for the year was $252,007 — a year-over-year increase of 6.13%
  • Peak of SARS (2003):
    • Average monthly sales for 2003 was 178 — 31.9% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2003 was $306,542 — a year-over-year increase of 8.99%
  • Global Recession (2008 – 2009):
    • Average monthly sales for 2008 was 307 — 12.5% higher than from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2008 was $417,811 — a year-over-year increase of 2.49%
    • Average monthly sales for 2009 was 372 — 21.2% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2009 was $427,775 — a year-over-year increase of 2.38%
  • Peak of MERS (2013):
    • Average monthly sales for 2013 was 566 — 27.5% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2013 was $579,363 — a year-over-year increase of 4.22%
  • First year of mortgage stress test (2018):
    • Average monthly sales for 2018 was 653 — 9.3% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2018 was $850,206 — a year-over-year decrease of 4.41%
  • Start of COVID-19 (2020):
    • Average monthly sales, only up to March 26, 2020, was 666 — 7.9% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average sales price, up to March 26, 2020, was $939,533 — a year-over-year increase of 10.83%

Housing Market in Peel

Average Sale Price for the month of March (as of March 26, 2020): $887,024

  • +20.79% when compared to average sale price for March 2019

When compared to:

  • Dotcom Bubble Burst (2000):
    • Average monthly sales for the year was 1,109 — 2.1% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for the year was $211,480 — a year-over-year decrease of 1.05%
  • Peak of SARS (2003):
    • Average monthly sales for 2003 was 1,575 — 19.3% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2003 was $257,404 — a year-over-year increase of 5.63%
  • Global Recession (2008 – 2009):
    • Average monthly sales for 2008 was 1,463 — 11.1% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2008 was $326,964 — a year-over-year increase of 1.67%
    • Average monthly sales for 2009 was 1,597 — 0.3% decrease than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2009 was $356,871 — a year-over-year increase of 9.15%
  • Peak of MERS (2013):
    • Average monthly sales for 2013 was 1,539 — 1.8% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2013 was $449,584 — a year-over-year increase of 5.51%
  • First year of mortgage stress test (2018):
    • Average monthly sales for 2018 was 1,350 — 18.3% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2018 was $700,891 — a year-over-year increase of 3.32%
  • Start of COVID-19 (2020):
    • Average monthly sales, only up to March 26, 2020, was 1,333 — 16.0% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average sales price, up to March 26, 2020, was $887,024 — a year-over-year increase of 20.79%

Housing Market in Simcoe

Average Sale Price for the month of March (as of March 26, 2020): $596,458

  • -0.80% when compared to average sale price for March 2019

When compared to:

  • Dotcom Bubble Burst (2000):
    • Average monthly sales for the year was 1135 — 5.51% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for the year was $194,293 — a year-over-year increase of 18.00%
  • Peak of SARS (2003):
    • Average monthly sales for 2003 was 143 — 13.6% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2003 was $253,305 — a year-over-year increase of 21.10%
  • Global Recession (2008 – 2009):
    • Average monthly sales for 2008 was 122 — 8.4% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2008 was $273,217 — a year-over-year decrease of 15.36%
    • Average monthly sales for 2009 was 137 — 1.0% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2009 was $287,199 — a year-over-year increase of 5.12%
  • Peak of MERS (2013):
    • Average monthly sales for 2013 was 181 — 15.9% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2013 was $385,967 — a year-over-year increase of 4.86%
  • First year of mortgage stress test (2018):
    • Average monthly sales for 2018 was 201 — 6.1% decrease from the 5-year rolling average
    • Average annual sale price for 2018 was $623,873 — a year-over-year increase of 3.23%
  • Start of COVID-19 (2020):
    • Average monthly sales, only up to March 26, 2020, was 343 — 39.7% higher than the 5-year rolling average
    • Average sales price, up to March 26, 2020, was $596,458 — a year-over-year decrease of 0.80%

Impact of COVID-19 on Greater Toronto’s Housing Market

Given these historical patterns, Zolo is confident that the GTA’s housing market will eventually stabilize — what is currently unknown is how long this recovery will take and the long-term impact this pandemic will have on the housing sector.

Please include attribution to https://www.zolo.ca with this graphic.

Impact of COVID 19 on Greater Toronto's housing market   Infographic

Share this infographic — Impact of COVID-19 on Toronto’s housing market — on your site

Additional reading to help homeowners and renters during the COVID-19 outbreak:

Image of Romana King

Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.