Bidding Wars and Bully Offers? Toronto Housing Market Showing Surprising Signs of Life

In the second week of January, a two-bedroom semi-detached home in Toronto’s east end hit the market with the pleasantly low asking price of $349,000. One week later, it had done something that properties all around the city had seemingly been struggling to do: bring in offers — and lots of them. A whopping 33 aspiring buyers put in a bid on the Emmott Avenue home, with the lucky winner paying $250,000 over asking.

Toronto-based realtor Anya Ettinger took notice of the sale, recognizing it as part of what seemed to be a pattern of reasonably priced starter homes experiencing a significant influx of demand over the last few weeks. She points to another two-bedroom home, this time at 107 Roseheath Avenue, that sold on January 10 for $976,000 — $177,000 over asking — after garnering 18 offers. Although Ettinger says she began to notice the uptick in market activity in the city’s east end, she’s now seen it all across Toronto.

“One of my colleagues listed a house in Leaside yesterday and they’ve already had 31 showing requests and an offer, so I think it’s starting to pick up generally across the board,” Ettinger tells STOREYS. “It’s showing in showing activity, open house activity, and offers. One of my colleagues had an open house last weekend for a starter home in the west end, in Corso Italia, and they had about 200 people through the open house and they got 11 offers.”

John Pasalis, President of Toronto-based brokerage Realosophy, has similarly observed an increase in market activity, pointing to a house in East York that, on January 29 — one week before it was scheduled to start taking bids — received six bully offers in one day, as a prime example of this.

“The last week or two is really when we noticed a lot of showings, bully offers, houses with five, six, seven, eight offers, and some aggressive sale prices,” Pasalis said. “It’s obviously still early in the year but this is how the year is starting, and my instinct is it’s going to be like this probably for the next month or so because this is the period when listings are usually low. We’ll see if that slows down as we move to the spring.”

Pasalis notes that because of the limited number of listings — December saw just 4,074 homes come on the market across the entirety of the GTA, a 21.3% year-over-year drop — the increase in demand has not necessarily translated into an increase in sales. And although activity certainly appears to be up, Pasalis says it’s nowhere near the ultra-competitive levels seen early last year.

Like Ettinger, he says the highest levels of competition can be seen in the sub-$1M market, but it’s by no means limited to that segment.

“One of our agents competed on a $2M home in Richmond Hill that had six offers and 60 showings,” Pasalis said. “There are homes that are not as desirable that are sitting on the market, but the ones that are nice are getting a lot of interest.”

This is a big change from the dreary market outlook that plagued Toronto — and much of Ontario — in the later half of 2022 as buyers’ purchasing power continually shrunk thanks to rate hike after rate hike from the Bank of Canada (BoC).

And it’s not just agents who are seeing a shift in activity. Mortgage broker Drew Donaldson says January brought in an influx of clients looking to make a purchase. “Compared to Q4, it was a noticeable uptick in business for us,”

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