What are the characteristics of the new pre-construction condo buyers in Toronto’s property market? These buyers buy out the most and best condo units in the condo building towers during the pre-sales period from the hundred of new condo builders across Toronto area.
Close to 50 per cent (50%) of the mortgages then rent their condo units to the existing large pool of available renters by leasing their units. An acute shortage of available apartment rental units is existing in the Toronto area for more than ten (10) years. The vacancy rate of rental apartments in the Toronto area is close to one per cent (1%).
The pre-construction condo buyers are mostly local immigrants aged between 40 to 60 years, as per a report by Shaun Hildebrand, senior vice-president, Urbanation, and Benjamin Tal, senior economist, CIBC Capital Markets. About 10 per cent of condo investors are foreign buyers.
Many of the investors are buying real estate as a retirement investment or a way to help their children to get a foothold on the property ladder.
“The majority of these buyers will keep their units in the rental market. so they are providing a much-needed service by adding rental supply in the absence of traditional rental development,” said Hildebrand.
Most investors use a minimum down payment of 20 per cent on a pre-sale unit. They watch the price of the condo grow in the four or five years the builders take to build the towers and then they rent their units to cover the cost of holding them while they pay down their principal.
It is important to understand the buying behaviour of the condo investors because it plays an important and stable role in Toronto’s housing market.
The study, called “A Window Into the World of Condo Investors”, suggests that condos are going to be an increasingly challenging investment to pursue and manage as expanded rent controls and rising interest rates take hold.
“Condo investing is by no means a sure thing. Even though investors have enjoyed very strong price appreciation in the point of pre-sale and closing, which is about five (5) years, some have actually found themselves in negative cash flow and many in greater than $500 a month,” said Hildebrand.
“It’s certainly going to be difficult for the market to repeat the type of price appreciation that we’ve seen the last few years,” Hildebrand said.
2017 year will go down as the year of the condo in the Toronto region. Condos accounted for 80 per cent of new home sales even as the number of new apartments ready for occupancy hit a five-year low.
That pushed re-sale prices up 26 per cent and rents climbed 9 per cent, according to the report.
Yet, 44 per cent of investors that took possession of their units in 2017 are seeing their rental income fall short of their mortgage payments and their building maintenance fees.
Even those coming out ahead are only netting about $360 a month on average.
That’s not cause for alarm, said Hildebrand because the investors’ assets have appreciated significantly before they even take possession of their apartments.
The average re-sale price of units in newly registered buildings was 51 per cent higher than the pre-construction price per sq.ft.
Even if every investor who took possession of their unit lin 2017 and is losing $500 a month on the property, decided to sell, that would only amount to 1,400 condos or 9 per cent of the new supply across the region. Factor in re-sale condos and it would still be only 3.4 per cent of the market, say the authors.
The report’s findings are based on the sales and rental data of 4,000 pre-sale condo transactions and focus groups of agents who handle the early pre-construction sales that provide developers with the cash they need to move ahead on their buildings.
Foreign investors tend to see Toronto condos as a safe haven for their money.
But the agents in the focus groups said there was overall confidence among investors that interest rates will remain relatively low and rents and prices will continue to appreciate
It would take a severe recession or interest rate hike to really shake investors, they said.
The buildings that are complete in the next two or three years after 2017 will appreciate and offer the same high returns investors have enjoyed lately, say the authors of the study. But when a larger supply comes on the market in 2021 rents will need to be 17 per cent higher than they are now even if interest rates stay the same for investors to cover their carrying costs.
Source: Toronto Star
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