GTA home sales plunge 67% in April as COVID 19 pandemic freezes real estate market

TORONTO — Home sales in the Greater Toronto Area plunged 67 per cent in April as unprecedented COVID-19 social distancing measures and economic uncertainty affected sales and new listings, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board reported Tuesday.

“Past recessions and recoveries do not necessarily provide the best guide as to how the housing market will recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” TRREB chief executive John DiMichele said in a statement.

“A key factor for the housing market recovery will be a broader reopening of the economy, which will result in an improving employment picture and a resurgence in consumer confidence.”

Provincial, local and federal officials say they’re making cautious plans to relax or remove restrictions that were put in place in mid-March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has been blamed for more than 1,300 deaths in Ontario.

In the meantime, Ontario continues to restrict non-essential business activities to reduce the chances of spreading the virus from person to person.

“The necessary social distancing and economic impacts associated with COVID-19 clearly impacted home sales and listings throughout April 2020,” added TRREB president Michael Collins.

He said TRREB members have used live video streaming to replace in-person open houses “and I would expect the use of these innovative techniques to increase as some level of social distancing remains in place for the foreseeable future.”

TRREB said there were 2,975 residential transactions in the GTA in April, compared with 9,005 transactions in April 2019. New listings fell to 6,174 from 17,212 in April 2019, a decline of 64 per cent.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, TRREB said April home prices in the GTA fell 11.8 per cent from March.

Prices for renters were also down for the month, with the average one-bedroom rent falling 2.7 per cent to $2,107, and the average two-bedroom rent falling 4.1 per cent to $2,705.

April’s sales in the City of Toronto fell nearly 68 per cent year over year, while the average price fell 2.5 per cent, to $881,424 in April 2020 from $904,199 a year earlier.

Condo rentals were down on a year-over-year basis in April, falling 57.9 per cent for one-bedroom units and 54.4 per cent for two-bedroom units.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020.

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