The imposition of a foreign buyer tax, stricter and more comprehensive rules and regulations, higher interest rates, and higher taxes has upended the Toronto real estate market. What was once the most dynamic sellers’ market in the history of the region in February of this year has now shifted in a much more balanced way towards buyers. A market where sellers were seeing double digit price increases and massive demand has been extinguished and now prices and sales are faltering with huge influxes of inventory hitting the market.
The talk now is of where the market will be in the medium to long term. Will prices and demand remain steady, recover, or crash? This is the grand question on the minds of professionals, buyers, sellers, politicians, regulators, bankers, and everyone else interested and affected by real estate. The best way to predict and ascertain the future is to look back to the past. The last time the market experienced a genuine, painful, and widely feared crash was in 1989. At the time speculation was rife, price growth explosive, money reasonably cheap, and demand strong.
But what triggered the ultimate inflection? What was the spark which led to a near decade long depression with a 40% real drop in prices? Ultimately, two factors broke the back of Toronto real estate. The first was a rapid increase in interest rates unveiled by the Bank of Canada to stem the inflation from the cheap money of the 80s boom and the second was a subsequently massive and sudden spike in unemployment. These two forces unleashed the early 90s recession which particularly hurt Ontario and caused 11% unemployment.
For the Toronto real estate market to crash, rates and joblessness would have to soar. The Bank of Canada has little reason to spike interest rates, as inflation is very low, and the economy is stable. Canada’s banks are healthy and sound, prices for many key commodities still remain competitive, and there are several economic sectors which are growing, particularly real estate, high tech, robotics, and advanced services. Leaving out a spectacularly sudden and damaging event, likely offshore, stability remains foreseeable in the medium to long term and jittery observers have little to fear from a full on 1989 real estate crash occurring