Lots of realtors are sitting around in their offices staring hard at their phones right now. It doesn’t matter how busy they were last year, the fear in January is always the same: I’m done for, the gig is up, and how the heck am I going to pay the mortgage. That’s the thinking.
I’ve been at this a dozen years now and I know the fear is irrational. The first few days in January are typically, predictably quiet. But then one morning usually before the middle of the month, the phone will start to ring, or the inbox will flash some modest alarm, and away we go again.
This year those calls began on Thursday. And if this isn’t a false start, some outlier jumping the gun, Cheri and I are ready to go and looking forward to it.
What sort of year will it be? That’s the question, isn’t it? There are some new mortgage rules in place, some stress tests (in every sense of the word) that will have some buyers dropping out of the bottom of the market, and others able to afford less than they were in December. A pre-approval to see where you stack up is a good idea.
Last year inventory levels were lower than we’ve seen them, and anxious buyers competed for anything decent that arrived on the market, and that drove prices up. Instead of the normal 3-4% increase Kingston sees, prices were up about 7% last year.
All that competition for houses made it feel more like Toronto for a while, and we had some clients offer on four or five houses before finally winning in competition. Buyers were sometimes settling for less than their dream home, and that’s never good.
It also meant that some sellers worked themselves into a speculative lather and put their homes on the market at inflated prices. Occasionally that worked, but buyers and their realtors aren’t stupid and those inflated properties more often than not just sat around with the sign out front eventually falling asleep on the lawn. You can imagine how those sellers felt.
If we had to predict (and we’ll admit that this vision is as much wishful thinking as it is data analysis) we’d likely go for a more normal, balanced sort of year. With the new rules shrinking buyers’ budgets, and rates likely rising some more, we can’t see so many of them willing to pay over the odds for their homes. And we’d be surprised if we didn’t see more houses come to the market this year. Some of those who sat out last year’s relative madness will stick their head out the window and decide it doesn’t look too bad out there at all.
We think some areas will prove hotter than others. There are always lots of good people looking to move into the McBurney Park area. And the area west of Division up to and beyond the old Memorial Centre will continue to change. As students resist walking that far to class and investors decide to sell their student rentals, we can see families moving into those old red brick homes and fixing them up. Kingscourt is more and more popular too. And with the new high school being built at its northern end we imagine that families will want to be close to that and will add on to those sweet modest homes.
Mostly, though, we don’t know how it will turn out and anyone who says they do has a better crystal ball than we do. What we do know is that we’re excited, seriously, and we’d be thrilled to help if a move is in your future this year.