With the first few days of 2019 under our belt, we can now look back and see what an interesting and tumultuous year 2018 has been for the real estate market in Prince Edward County (“the County”). There is no question that this last year has definitely been a year of adjustment following the correction that occurred in the spring and summer of 2017 with the introduction of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan and related messaging from the provincial government that the overheated real estate market needed to be reined in. Moreover, subsequent contributing factors including a series of successive interest rate hikes and the imposition of the stress test which significantly tightened qualification requirements for financing had a marked impact on affordability, and combined to throw cold water onto the market, and restore a sober sense of reality to both buyers and sellers. Having said that, while sales are down across the County, much like most other real estate markets in Southern Ontario, the intricacies of the market are a little more complex and nuanced as buyer demand has remained remarkably strong and steadfast in the County as reflected by the impressively robust sale price trajectory that has continued to break new bounds and set new thresholds throughout the year.

 

 

The statistics published by the Quinte & District Association of REALTORS® (“the Quinte Board”) for December are further confirmation that 2018 marked a return to reality from the frenzied market experienced the preceding year, and to some extent can be characterized by regrouping, adjustment and taking stock. Sales were down over 46% from last year with only 15 properties changing hands compared to 28 in December 2017. With the year at an end, a compilation of the sales numbers for each month as reported by the Quinte Board shows that sales of properties across the County for all of 2018 totalled 532 which is 19% fewer than sold in 2017, the year previous. Clearly, that demonstrates a moderation in the market year over year, and is confirmation that the market correction that occurred in urban centres such as the Greater Toronto Area and neighbouring markets clearly had an impact on the County, but interestingly as suggested other market indicators qualify this conclusion or are evidence of ongoing strength and sustainability in the area.

 

Listings, for instance, remained in relatively short supply and there was little sign of distress selling in the market, or a rush to unload real estate in the County. Despite a year-end boost in listings with 60 properties coming onto the market in December compared to 35 last year in the same month, year over year there was only a 5% increase in new listings in 2018 with a total of 1240 compared to 1181 in 2017 when supply and inventory were remarkably tight. With the decline in sales, however, year-end inventory was up with 382 properties in the County available for sale compared to 207 last year at this time.

 

But price is probably one of the most interesting indicators as to the state of the County real estate market and stands as confirmation of stable interest and demand in the County. There was a dip in the average sale price in December coming in at $282,800 compared to $418,996 last year, constituting a drop of over 32%, but as discussed in previous market reports, in a smaller market like the County where only 15 properties changed hands, the particular cross-section of properties that sold in a given month inevitably has a disproportionate impact on the numbers, and results in larger statistical swings. When spread over the entire year, however, a clearer picture comes into focus. Despite a slower start to the year when three out of the four months of the first quarter registered a negative year over year price differential, each of the successive months for the rest of the year, (with the exception of December), racked up impressive price gains. This contributed to a boost in the annual average sale price of over 11%. Specifically, the average sale price for properties in the County for 2018, calculated on the basis of the average sale price reported for each month by the Quinte Board, came in at $422,732 compared to $379,445 for 2017.

 

Finally, those properties that did sell took only three days longer on average to sell (70 compared to 67) than they did last year when market conditions were much more heated and frenetic, and supply was even tighter.

 

All of these indicators taken together suggest that despite some calming and moderation over the last year, the County real estate market is stable and has legs going into 2019. Broader economic conditions continue to be generally favourable with positive economic output and job creation over the end of last year and extending into the new one. While the cost of borrowing is likely to continue to increase over the long term, (though potentially not as quickly as earlier anticipated), the County is well positioned to weather potential market upheaval given its relative affordability, and its status as a preferred destination to live and invest.

 

Prepared by,
Richard Stewart, Vice President & Legal Counsel

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