Are the blind leading the blind in Toronto’s runaway housing market?

Deep dive small
Ready to take a "deep dive"? 

There has been a great deal of talk in the media lately about rising household debt being fueled by runaway housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver. Total Canadian household debt stood at $1.933 trillion at the end of the first quarter. Most of that — $1.268 trillion — came in the form of mortgage debt.

Our finance minister, Bill Morneau, indicated that the government is watching the housing market closely and is ready to take a "deep dive" into what is causing imbalances.

The Financial Post reported the government is looking at the impact of demographic changes in cities, different labour markets, supply issues and foreign investment. Experts are tossing around all kinds of ideas to cool the housing market: increasing the down payment required, shortening amortization periods, taxing foreign investors etc.

All this may sound hopeful but the runaway real estate markets are the ones in Toronto and Vancouver and, except for foreign investment, none of these factors address the underlying problem in these two cities.

Millions and millions of dollars and a great deal of time will be spent on conducting studies and guess what, they won't solve anything because the root cause of runaway house prices in Toronto is being completely ignored. If only the top honchos asked us - the people on the ground!

Blind bidding
Blind bidding is bad

So here is my take on what could cool the housing market in Toronto significantly and do more to reduce household debt than any other one thing; cut off the blood supply to runaway house prices by ELIMINATING BLIND BIDDING for real estate.

What is blind bidding? Blind bidding is a system of buying a house in Ontario when there are multiple bidders on one house yet none of the participants know what the other is bidding. Let's say that we are marketing a house for $899,000 and we procure one offer from one buyer for this house. In this scenario, this property will probably sell for its asking price of $899,000 as long as the seller signs on the dotted line.

But in a different scenario, let's say, we procure three offers. One offer may come in at $940,000, one may come in at $1,000,000 and one at $1,040,000. Do you see where I am going with this? Because buyers had to guess what their competitors were offering, this house sold for much more than it probably would have had the process been transparent and everyone knew what all the tabled bids were. No sold data may support this sold price yet it becomes the new benchmark. Multiply this disparity amount by thousands of transactions per year since 1996 and one can only imagine how much this has contributed to the ballooning mortgage debt.

Money
Mortgage debt could be lower

It's obvious, from my standpoint, that the current $1.268 trillion in mortgage debt would be substantially lower if we eliminated blind bidding for real estate.

The process of buying real estate in Ontario is the complete opposite of transparent. Many progressive countries in the world use a more transparent system such as open auctions. But in Ontario, where the government regulates the real estate industry, there has never been an in depth study on the effect blind bidding has on the market and the risk this system poses to the economy.

Who benefits from blind bidding anyway? You may say that the seller does, but the seller may also have a house to buy and will be on the other side participating in a blind bid as well. In addition, banks have become much more conservative with their lending practices and sometimes do not appraise a property at what the buyer has paid, putting more households at financial risk.

Bad newshttp://josiestern.com/site/wp-content/plugins/foliopress-wysiwyg/fckeditor/editor/plugins/foliopress-paste-embed/icon.png
Bad news

There isn't a single home buyer who will tell you they like this blind bidding system or that it is fair. Blind bidding is bad. Period. There is nothing positive about a blind bidding process and furthermore, it brings out the worst in people.

Sitting at an offer table with sellers, some not all, will manipulate the system. The listing agent's job is to procure the highest price for the seller. But, this system comes with many procedural problems because it propagates greed. It was greed that brought the US financial system down in 2008 and it is greed that is contributing to runaway house prices in Toronto and Vancouver.

So for example, when we have three offers, let's say, even if there is one offer that is many tens of thousands of dollars higher than the next, some sellers want to go for endless rounds of bidding to squeeze more and more money from the buyer. During a highly charged emotional process, the buyer gets caught up in the game and risks qualifying financially to purchase the house. What does this system do to household debt?

Furthermore, blind bidding is bad because it has inherent loopholes that give the unethical listing agent a great deal of power that can be used to manipulate the system. Although against the rules, a listing agent has the power to influence who buys the house by secretly revealing the highest bid to their preferred buyer or preferred agent tipping them on what to pay.

Can you see how vulnerable this system of buying real estate is? What other industry allows this kind of vulnerability? Yet the real estate industry has sanctioned a process that is unfair and has placed our economy at risk by contributing to skyrocketing levels of household debt.

It's time the government took off its blindfold and spent money looking at how to improve the process of buying real estate in Ontario to solve runaway house prices instead of looking in all the wrong places.

This entry was posted in Featured Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Are the blind leading the blind in Toronto’s runaway housing market?

  1. Keith says:

    What is the solution?

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      In my opinion, the solution is to revamp the current system of buying real estate with a more transparent one. The current blind bidding process is not working, it is unfair and it is risky. The corruption that is inherent in this process and in buying real estate in general can be seen through what is happening in Vancouver. Their government should be ashamed for allowing a system that breeds such corruption.

      Reply
      • Very interesting proposal… Google faced a similar problem. In Google’s case, they had to come up with a solution that encouraged advertisers to outbid their competition while keeping per click costs from rising further than the market can sustainably bear – insulating them from migration off of their platform.

        They chose an auction system where bidders would determine the max they are willing to pay for a keyword and the highest bidder won BUT the price paid was actually $.01 higher than the second highest bidder.

        Now, Google also adds a number of other factors into determine ad order based on link quality and other metrics which complicates the economics further but this is the general principle.

        When there is limited inventory (in the case of real estate, you’re bidding on a single home – unlike the stock market where you’re bidding on one out of several thousand shares) the “real value” of a home isn’t truly determined by the max that a single person is willing to pay. Your example is a good one – but here’s a better one. If a home gets 20 bids and 19 of them range between $890K and $910K but one outlier bid is $975K, that buyer probably could not turn around and sell the home for $975K if for some reason they were immediately forced to. That home is worth around $900K, not $975K.

        I don’t think this type of solution would permanently dampen housing price increases in Toronto, but it would certainly help.

        There are lots of macro-economic factors at play here. Principally, the fact that there are only 500K or so building lots in a city that has nearly 3 MM people in a region (GTA) expected to grow by 40% in the next 20 years. Supply and demand dictates that prices will rise and when you compare Toronto home prices to those of Manhattan and San Francisco for example, you quickly see how affordable this city really is. We published an infographic that shows home affordability based on home price to income ratio. I’m happy to provide a link if it’s OK with Josie but didn’t want to do so without asking.

        And all this doesn’t even take into account the inevitable migration of businesses and people fleeing our friends down south if Donald Trump steps any closer to the presidency :)

        Reply
        • Josie says:

          Michael feel free to post any link. I really appreciate your input.

          Reply
        • Josie says:

          You are absolutely correct about the example you gave where 19 buyers offer between $890K and $910K and one offers $975K. If this buyer had to turn around and sell the house, he/she would not likely sell it for $975K. Aggravating the matter is they could not recoup the cost to sell and the other costs incurred to buy like land transfer tax.

          Reply
          • I would love to do a retroactive analysis on how winning bids compare compare to other bids on a home. I wonder if bids take the shape of a normal distribution curve or if they typically take on some other shape. It would be really revealing if we could ever get a data set like that to play with. Until then, this is just conjecture: the case above may very rarely exist – or it might be extremely common. we just don’t know

          • Josie says:

            Michael I don’t need a study to reveal the results. If you ask me or any other active listing agent in Toronto, you will learn that winning bids are, many times, much higher than the next highest offer. It isn’t unusual for one to be tens of thousands of dollars higher. This data will never become available because real estate rules dictate that prices on offers can not be revealed.

          • michael says:

            I know… a guy can dream though, right?

            Seriously, it does seem quite intuitive that this would be the case. and that’s a real problem

  2. Jake says:

    I like the idea however it was reported that in Australia, where houses Sell under true transparent auctions, you’ll get the same net effect because emotions will get in the way.

    Example I’m bidding against five other people, now that I KNOW your bid, I’ll do that much more to up it if I really want to win.

    There really is no solution but i like your way of thinking.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      It may be true that emotions get in the way with transparent auctions as well, but at least, every buyer knows how much higher their bid is than another buyer. Also auctions can not be controlled by insiders like the listing agent or the seller. In addition, no one buyer can be given preference over another etc. So an auction system eliminates many problems that are inherent in our current system.

      Reply
      • Jake says:

        I wholeheartedly agree an open system is one we should definitely have or try, but I also think that open data (which is coming very soon) will give buyers more power as well in making decisions.

        However, until supply goes up and mortgage rates do too, whatever system we have, we’ll still have unaffordable housing for the great majority.

        Reply
        • emotions definitely do get in the way in open auctions which is why open bidding systems are so good at maximizing the price for difficult to value goods like art, antiques and memorabilia. There’s a reason why record setting sales for baseball cards always happen at auctions and not at a store-front. Homes share a lot of these characteristics – primarily that there is a lot of emotional attachment to the product in these cases.

          a closed system where the winning bidder actually pays a small increment above the second highest bid regardless of how big the gap is between the two bids solves both of these problems. This is essentially how google manages their adwords bids.

          Reply
  3. Larry Z says:

    Supply and demand is the underlying dynamic, along with favorable interest rates and other smaller things. Bidding wars are not *causing* the problem.

    He has no solution…and there isn’t one. Even in transparent bidding you can still play people against each other. May shave a few percent off the final price but isn’t going to have a net impact on the state of the markets.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Thank you for your feedback. This blog does not say that blind bidding “causes” household debt. It says that eliminating blind bidding would lessen household debt.

      This blog addresses micro problems in runaway markets such as Toronto and Vancouver and not a macro problem which would involve the whole country.

      I agree that higher interest rates would cool the housing market but the government is concerned that raising interest rates will further cool markets in Canadian cities that do not need cooling. Therefore, if we are addressing the real estate markets just in Toronto and Vancouver, eliminating blind bidding would lower the household debt burden.

      I don’t know if you are or are not a realtor but there isn’t one you could speak with that would not agree that blind bidding is bad and increases household debt.

      Reply
      • Larry Z says:

        Thanks for the reply. A few things:

        1. I’m an MBA with family in real estate biz and a former commercial and personal lender with a major financial institution.

        2. Rising HH debt isn’t a problem unless it’s risky debt and is in danger of not being serviced. If it’s not risky debt then we don’t need to focus on reducing it, necessarily. An example of risky debt is lending 90-100% of value of a home or escalating debt service ratios. Job loss or a pullback in market values then cause a collapse. This is what the problem was in the US and luckily Canada is more conservative. As long as appraised values remain accurate and not arbitrarily inflated our risk to the banks and country are still there but much more minimized and not a reason to panic.

        3. I don’t agree with the notion that ‘greed’ caused the collapse in the US housing market in 2008 although it did play a part in the magnitude. There was a huge secondary market created to trade debts that where actually bad so, that delayed the inevitable and did get a few institutional investors rich. The root cause was lending practices which in the US just weren’t properly/conservatively regulated as they are in Canada. As for selling for the highest price you can possibly get, then, we’re all guilty of greed. Whether we sell our used car or something on ebay our goal is to get as much as we can for it. Most of society won’t leave too much money on the table in favor of being charitable, for example.
        If you insist on going hard on the ‘greed’ angle then I blame buyers as well. They overpaid for large houses they clearly couldn’t afford with their salary and suckered banks into issuing the debt. I could argue that too many of the middle class and above want it all now and live beyond their means, which the banks in turn enable. Takes two. The concept of ‘greed’ is a slippery slope. I pinpoint banking/lending regulation as the separator between experiences in the US and what two cities in Canada may face.

        4. While the article starts with a conversation of HH debt , it goes on to say “….All this may sound hopeful but the runaway real estate markets are the ones in Toronto and Vancouver and, except for foreign investment, none of these factors address the underlying problem in these two cities.”
        This paragraph is on the topic of ‘runaway real estate prices’ and not HH debt…so therefore the line about the ‘underlying problem’ then refers to runaway prices and not HH debt. The following paragraphs then single out bidding wars as the problem. So the way the post is written, it singled out bidding wars as the cause of runaway prices…not just HH debt. It may not be your intent but that’s how you wrote it.

        So net net the metric of HH debt will continue to grow as prices rise and the country grows. Not a problem unto itself, unless it’s bad lending practices. That’s the watch out.
        There’s lots of money out there. So as long as there is strong down payment or insurance against same and demonstrated ability to service the debt, we don’t have a major issue.
        The narrative as I see it is more about how investors and the wealthy are pouring money into Toronto and Vancouver, leaving working people without those kinds of resources unable to access to the limited supply currently on the market in those cities.

        Reply
        • Josie says:

          Thank you Larry for your input.

          Reply
        • Josie says:

          To answer your point number 4 Larry: It’s the National Post that reported the government wants to cool the housing market because runaway real estate prices are contributing to higher household debt. My point is that to do this, start with eliminating blind bidding wars that often result in offers for any one property having a disparity of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousand of dollars in many cases. If it was a more transparent system, the disparity may not be so high. And if it were, then it is an open system where everyone knows what they are up against and what they are getting themselves into.

          Reply
  4. Barry Lebow says:

    This summer commences my 49th year in real estate and I have lived through the Land Speculation Tax in April of 1974 which killed the real estate market and a time when I was trying to market 33 homes that I had bought for renovation and resell. The provincial government’s intervention was not necessary as interest rates saw first mortgages rise to 12% and that alone killed the market. The market found its own level. I was wiped out at that time, but worked hard to pay off my creditors which I did over the coming next years.

    Then I lived through the collapses of the 1980s and then again the 1990s. In most cases, interest rates killed the markets. Greed was yet another factor. My appraisal firm thrived during the bad decades as we were in court constantly for clients due to allegations of fraud, improvident sales, etc. We worked for a few of the largest builders who sued everyone who did not close as buyers just walked away.

    Today, this is new ground, we have never experienced anything like today. We can estimate that the current market action started in 1997 which makes it 19 years, a run that no one has been through before and therefore, we have no true answers because the predicted crashes did not occur. Interest rates are so low that it beyond veterans scope to grasp. Will they rise? Some day but will we see 10% again or higher and that question can only be answered by world economic conditions and how our federal government copes. Not a political statement but Canada did not fare well under the last Trudeau and we now have another Trudeau who seems to have learned from his father. I worry more about the federal government causing action that will impact the market than anything else. Of course, we have the left wing Liberals in Ontario and I do not put it past them to bring in another form of a land speculation tax or whatever. So, government action scares me.

    This market also has been fueled on ignorance. Ignorance of the past. The buyers in their 20s to early 40s have never experienced a down market. They have never experienced mortgage rates of double digits. They believe that 2.5% is normal and they even try to better that. A large percentage of the Realtors are also younger and have no memory of the past. To this large group, buyers and their agents, the market can go only one way – up. Interest rates will stay low and buying into the million dollar range does not matter, they can carry it – but can they? Will they?

    I look at this market like a rubber band that keeps stretching and stretching. Eventually it reaches its most expanded points and there are but two options, it has to snap back or be torn apart. No market can sustain upward pressures forever.

    But, nothing matters for the market will correct itself because of one major factor that few discuss – demographics. We have the Baby Boomers in their sheer numbers and they are the largest group of single family homeowners. They are now pushing into their early 70s and homeownership for this group over the next decade or so will change. More and more homes must come onto the market and at today’s prices, how many buyers are there? The demographics are out of balance. The Baby Boomer sell off cannot be ignored.

    For me, I have made fortunes on the way up, lost them and more on the way down. I have learned that few actually know when the peak is reached and most accurate observers in the past have had lucky guesses. It will take about six months of a market correction to know that it is happening and then, everyone is an expert.

    Me, I am just going to make my money, get my piece while I can and not worry about what is behind the door for there is nothing there that I can control, it will take control of me eventually.

    My 2 Dollars which when I started was around 2 Cents.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Barry you are a legend and I appreciate your input.

      Reply
    • Larry Z says:

      Great great points. I agree with practically all of it.

      I believe in letting market forces do their thing. I am very OK with some regulation (debt service ratios, down payment %) but I’m not a fan of market interference by the gov’t

      I agree the imbalance is supply/demand based. Actually many scary things will happen as boomers age. Yes, one of them will be a glut of housing pouring onto the market. As well, younger people don’t seem to care about space as much as location, so the big homes in the burbs will be really at risk.

      The run up isn’t sustainable and the question becomes will the correction happen with force or more gradually over time. I’m hoping it’s the latter as buying money slowly dries up and interest rates edge up over time. Something causing a shock to interest rates (e.g. a more rapidly tanking dollar) will mean tragedy for a lot of people…and the markets.

      Don’t know when or how…but it will happen.

      Great perspective.

      Reply
  5. Simon Giannini says:

    Great article, Josie, with great comments from Barry, of course, and Larry Z, who I think, nails it.

    The system isn’t perfect, but I’m against any governmental intervention. The market is stronger and more organic than us, and it will find it’s own balance. We have a strong demand, no supply, and it is what it is. . .

    . ..as Barry said, those are my $2.

    Simon Giannini
    Broker, Royal LePage
    30 Years In Real Estate

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Thank you for your comment Simon. I feel strongly that the process of buying real estate can be improved. Blind bidding is not transparent, it is not fair and the system can and should be revamped.

      Reply
  6. Vivek says:

    Great article and very informative and respectful comments. Thank you Josie and others for sharing your expertise and thoughts/fears.

    Reply
  7. Jake says:

    Josie

    To your point about he 975K buyer, that is also true if they had to sell at 910. They can’t recoup either way and NO system prevents this if you’re forced to sell asap after you bought (a difficult predicament)

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      No system can prevent this. You are right. But a transparent system is better than one that is not. I am all for transparency. Anything but that breeds corruption.

      Reply
  8. Jake says:

    I don’t know how to reply to specific posts obviously.

    Larry:

    The boomer Sell-off will (and has) fueled a massive shift in wealth from tens to hundreds of thousands to the younger buyer.

    Second, that sell-off is being eaten up by foreign demand for land to replace old housing stock.

    I’m not worried about that shift but I appreciate your many decades of knowledge on the subject.

    Reply
  9. Bruce says:

    Thanks Josie & Val,

    As always – an ethical, balanced, reasonable and experienced approach. It is appreciated.

    Today TD bank is telling us, yet again, the market is ripe for a correction. I seem to recall other banks issuing the same warning over the past several years and they are still waiting for the bottom to fall out.
    There are many factors fueling the runaway market but isn’t it true that the Toronto and Vancouver markets are different from the overall housing Canadian housing market.

    * An interesting addition to this conversation – Currently the city of Toronto is the only major centre worldwide where you can buy a home under one million. This provides for offshore investment interest as well as local interest.
    Is the market playing catch up to other major centres?
    It appears this is an additional factor which encourages buyers to spend more just to get into the market before they are priced out forever.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Since 1996 the market has been rising, but not for 20 years straight. Every few years we have had what I refer to as a “period of pause”. These pauses can happen at any time and nobody can predict when.

      For example since 2001 we have had four periods of pause that saw prices drop by 10 to 15% within a six month period each time.

      1. Just after 9/11 the market dropped substantially over unforeseen events.
      2. In 2008 when the financial crisis took hold.
      3. In 2010 after the introduction of the HST.
      4. In July 2012, when Flaherty introduced mortgage rule changes to cool the housing market.

      I think we will see a more moderate increase in the market. Moderate because prices in central Toronto are now out of reach for many first time buyers who start the domino effect and these high prices can not be sustained solely by foreign buyers. But I do believe there will be another “period of pause” caused by government intervention in the foreseeable future. Then, when interest rates start to climb – watch out slippery slope.

      Reply
  10. MIke M says:

    Here is the real issue:

    Demand – The largest cohort of single family home buyers in history (Baby Boomers) are all still living in single family homes. The second largest cohort (and almost as large as the Boomers) is the Echo Boom/Millennials. This group is now entering their early 30″s and also want to own that single family home. Add the perfect recipe of low Canadian dollar and foreign investors want in too. There has never been the demand for single family homes as their is right now.

    Supply – Vancouver has a geographical limit with Rocky Mountains; the GTA now has a politically imposed limit with the so called Greenbelt. Regulations imposed to limit sprawl.

    A combination of the highest demand in history limited supply and prices rise.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      You are absolutely correct Mike. Demand continues to be very high driven from various sources. Today while I was doing an open house an international traveller came in and said “Toronto real estate is very cheap”. It’s hard for Canadians to wrap their mind around this idea but our real estate has caught the foreign buyer’s attention (for awhile now) and this just aggravates the demand side.

      Reply
  11. Andy says:

    Josie,
    I appreciate your article. I was a buyer in the current market, and blind bidding is a very troubling process. It led us to lose out on many homes that we thought we could afford.
    With all do respect, though, you have perpetuated this blind bidding process, by holding back offers on homes. What prevents you from being more transparent in situations when you have multiple bidders today? Many of your homes sell for several hundred thousands over asking.
    I ask you to lead the change – if you are so passionate about this current issue.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Andy thank you for participating in this discussion.

      The practice to “hold back” on offers is not one I or any one particular agent created. Because the market is so active and there are so many buyers looking at any one house, this practise of “holding back offers” started to ensure that enough time was given to the marketing of a house and not to sell it to the first person that sees it and risk being sued by the seller for under selling their home.

      With regard to your point about having the power to change the system – as realtors we have to abide by the rules that govern us. These rules currently forbid us to disclose the particulars of an offer to any other buyer. Therefore the current rules make this impossible unless an agent wants to risk being fined or even lose their license.

      The system has to be changed by the people in charge. Altenatively, buyers have the power, in numbers, to apply pressure for a change to the system.

      Reply
  12. Jake says:

    Perhaps revealing offer prices then will set a precedent?

    I know of another Realtor who blogged about the prices offered on a loft they had for sale. Out of the respect of the fact that this is your blog I will not post the information here, but I can’t say for sure that this realtor is not a rule breaker and would certainly abide by any legislation. Yet they posted it and you’re right in that case, it did show a much greater disparate s out of the respect of the fact that this is your blog I will not post the information here, but I can’t say for sure that this realtor is not a rule breaker and would certainly abide by any legislation. Yet they posted it and you’re right in that case, it did show a much greater didifference between prices.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Jake I can’t comment about what you are saying. All I know is that we, as realtors, can not discuss the particulars of any offer. So certainly we can not be sitting at an offer table and disclose the prices of the offers being submitted. Maybe you are referring to an agent who blogs about an incident that has happened but is not disclosing an address.

      Reply
  13. Jake says:

    I’m referring to an agent who disclosed all of the bids on a property that they sold.

    NOT while the offers were rolling in, but AFTER the property was sold firm.

    Is that allowed?

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      No we can not discuss the submitted bids if the address and the party to the transaction can be identified.

      Reply
  14. Al says:

    Another factor in the real estate bubble is the impact of foreign buyers who have penetrated certain areas in unprecedented numbers. For these buyers, seeking to acquire assets in a safe haven, cost is not a major impediment. While they represent a small percentage of overall purchasers, blind bidding combined with the comparable transaction basis for property valuations ensures that prices accelerate upwards. Each bid that is 5 or 10 percent above market ensures that subsequent bids are 5-10 percent above market. Compound that excess margin over the course of a boom cycle, and you wind up where we are now.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      I agree with you that foreign buyers have applied upward pressure on prices. This is an area that the government should look into. Australia just announced “it would impose new taxes on foreigners buying homes as concerns grow that a flood of mostly Chinese investors is crowding out locals and killing the “Great Australian Dream” of owning property.” Look at what is happening in Vancouver and you will see streets that have become ghost towns because homes are owned by people who don’t occupy them and use them just as an investment. This is a problem on many levels.

      Reply
  15. Kevin O'Neill says:

    In a true auction system, the need for real estate agents changes dramatically. No need to “know the market”. And a lot more admin work is expected. People with history of home buying in Australia ask “what am I paying this commission for if they don’t take care of the mortgage and all the paperwork?” We wouldn’t purchase a car without knowing the prices of all the models and all the features. Why should we make the biggest purchase of our lives this way?

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Kevin thank you so much for your input. My article was not suggesting auctions specifically. That was just an alternative example. It was also not about the need for realtors or not. It was about transparency and how important transparency is.

      Reply
  16. Toronto owner says:

    Josie – thank you for this posting. I think it is a very important issue and appreciate a credible and experienced voice such as yourself making these comments.

    I would urge you to encourage your colleagues in the industry to speak up about this issue as well. As the Federal government embarks on its deep dive into the market, it is crucial to bring attention to these types of microeconomic and behavioural issues, as well as the macro factors.

    There are many challenging issues with respect to residential real estate prices in Toronto, Vancouver, and elsewhere in Canada. Microeconomic factors are generally overlooked by commentators and market analysts, but are a critical part of the picture.

    The health of the Canadian housing market has deep ramifications for the economy at large. There are also numerous ways in which the residential real estate market is supported by public policy (for example: the very existence of the CMHC, tax exemption for gains on principal residences, and the implicit government guarantee of the solvency of our major banks). For these reasons, Canadians have a right to demand a housing market that functions and sets prices in an efficient and orderly manner.

    The power of markets comes from their ability to aggregate information in order to establish prices; the worse the information, the less well markets will function or determine efficient prices. While this challenge is not confined to Toronto or Vancouver, the problem of disorderly markets is most acute in those markets, as anyone who has tried to buy a house in Toronto or Vancouver in recent years can attest.

    Measures to improve both price and bid transparency are long overdue.

    Reply
    • Josie says:

      Thank you for this articulate commentary. I couldn’t agree more with everything you have expressed.

      Reply
  17. Love this article very informative.

    Reply
  18. michael says:

    Hey… following up on this: for anyone wondering how the sold to list ratio has changed over time by neighbourhood, we did a quick analysis on our website. It’s pretty wild to see how prevalent the “above list price” sale has become.

    link to wishpad.ca

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting