Toronto Has Over 99,000 Unoccupied Homes

That’s what the 2016 Canada Census told us, and the website www.betterdwelling.com put together an awesome interactive map that highlights areas of the city, and shades them different colours according to the percentage of empty homes.

You can’t miss this, so check it out HERE.

It’s a cool, fun, feature, but after the excitement of tool wears off, the reality sets in: 4.5% of all homes are vacant.

This is a story on which everybody is going to have an opinion…

EmptyHome

Do you like Bob Ross?

Sure you do.

We all do.

And I think Netlflix did us all massive favour when they put all of his shows together in a series, and put them at our fingertips.

Wait…….you don’t know who Bob Ross is?

You’re kidding!

Were you not a child of the 80’s?  Or a stoner parent of the 80’s?

Did you have a TV with rabbit-ears, that you plugged into the wall, with no cable box or anything, and got TVO on channel 2, and Global on channel 3?

Didn’t you ever accidentally flip to TVO on channel 2 (because who actually watched TVO?) and see a guy with a massive afro painting a canvas, then keep flipping past TVO and after channel 5, or channel 6, think to yourself, “Wait a minute…….was that guy painting a mountain with trees?  I simply must flip back and see what he was doing….”

This was before “Guide” on the remote, and thus we “flippers” would just go up and down, from channel to channel.

And how many of you stopped and watched Bob Ross paint for a half hour?

Still don’t know who I’m talking about?

It’s this guy:

BobRoss

Now you remember!

Whether you were 5, 15, or 55, you watched Bob Ross in the 1980’s.  He had that kind of mass appeal.

Every day, in 25 minutes, he would start and finish a painting that would take any hobbyist days to complete.

And thanks to Netflix, we all get to relive our youth (or simply younger years…) by watching Bob paint again in 2017.

I’m addicted.

Every night when I get home, and I need to unwind, I eat my dinner in front of the TV while watching Bob Ross.

“And now comes the first big decision of this painting.”

“Where does this tree live?  Maybe he lives here.  And maybe he has a friend.”

“There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

And have you ever seen Bob Ross “beat the devil” out of a paint brush?

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen it.

So what is my point to all of this?  What does this have to do with real estate?

Well actually, very little.

I did an interview today and I spoke to the columnist about how crazy the market is, how we’re out until 11pm every night on offers, how we scramble to get from the east end to west end, or how we battle the threat of a bully offer.

She asked me, “How do you cope?  How do you do this each and every day, all year?”

I told her, quite simply, “Bob Ross.”

And you know what?

SHE KNEW WHAT I MEANT!

There’s nothing more calming than Bob Ross’ voice, or the sound of his “criss-crossing” brush strokes making “little x’s” on the canvas.  The sound of his paint-knife creating the outer-shape of a mountain gives me goosebumps.

And in this crazy real estate market, where we eat, breathe, and sleep houses and condos, you need something to take your mind away from the insanity.

It’s not just me.

It’s agents, yes.  But it’s also the poor buyers out there, that are getting beat up every single day of the week.

So folks, when you’re feeling down, turn on some Bob Ross.  I promise – you’ll mentally check out for twenty-five minutes as you eagerly await every brush-stroke that turns that white canvas into a Rossian-original.

Now, to the subject matter of today’s blog, which I’m less angry about having just watched a Bob Ross episode (see what I mean?).

The 2016 Census was released by Stats Canada, and while we could pick any number of topics to discuss amidst all that data, we are, of course, going to discuss real estate.

Within the census, some of the questions surrounded occupancy of homes, and under the “not regularly occupied” section of the census, over 99,000 people checked the box.

99,000 “not regularly occupied,” or to take that a step further, logically or cynically, “unoccupied.”

As the website www.betterdwelling.com pointed out, this is four times that of Vancouver.

The interactive tool is really neat, but those dark, red areas where 20% or more of the homes are unoccupied are a bit scary.

Can this be right?

Can the area bordered by Rutherford, Dufferin, Steeles, and the 427 really have 35.27% of homes “not regularly occupied?”

Can King West, the Fashion District, and the Entertainment District in downtown Toronto really have 20%+ of condos “not regularly occupied?”

So while the discussion points are endless, there are two questions I really want to ask:

1) Do you believe these numbers are accurate.  It’s a census, right?  How could these numbers be understated?
2) Are these numbers a cause for concern?  Is 4.5% a lot?  Does it matter whether the speculators are foreign or domestic?

And the latter point might be a whole other topic of discussion, but perhaps one we can delve into today.

There’s this idea out there that the “foreign buyer” who keeps properties empty is driving up the price of real estate.

But do you distinguish between the foreign buyer who keeps properties empty, and the domestic buyer who rents them out?

Speculation is speculation, after all.

And there’s no shortage of speculators looking to get into the market.

I’m currently working with six people looking to buy condominiums “for investment.”

Four are looking for the yield, and the cash flow.  They’re looking for a typical $325,000, 1-bed, 1-bath, that rents for $1,650 per month, or even a 2-bed, 2-bath that costs $550,000 and rents for $2,700 per month.

Two are looking for “something incredibly unique,” mainly of the loft variety, that will be cash flow negative each month, but will appreciate in the long-term, ie. 15-years or more.

I believe five of these buyers started their search in 2017.

So my question comes down to whether you paint all speculators with the same brush, and whether you believe in some sense that “houses are for living” and that anybody who owns more than one is responsible for disrupting the natural relationship between supply and demand for a physiological need, or whether we can admit that people are, always have been, and always will be motivated by personal gain and self-preservation, and the purchase of real estate as an investment is as obvious as eating breakfast in the morning.

If it’s the latter, then all this talk about “speculation” in the market is sour grapes.

And whether somebody buys a property and keeps it vacant, or buys a property and rents it out, doesn’t matter.

They’re both contributing to the same cause: rising real estate prices.

I think the topic of “unoccupied homes” is a sexy one, but it’s yet another attempt to create a “bad guy” on whom we can blame for the fact that we can’t afford what we want.

I don’t think it’s a topic that’s going to go away any time soon.

And eventually, the topic of the foreign buyer’s tax will come up in Toronto too.  I don’t ever see that happening here, by the way.  I think Vancouver reacted to their market in a drastic, knee-jerk fashion, and we’ll be studying that decision in history books for a long time to come.

But this headline – “99,000 unoccupied Toronto homes” is going to get play.  There will be articles in the newspapers to come, and you’ll see a couple news pieces eventually.

So what do you make of it?

Much ado about nothing?

Or does this story have legs?

47 Comments

Post A Comment

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

  1. crazyegg says:

    Hi All,

    While this does appear alarming to the casual observer, the reader must dig deeper into the data and look at “relative” changes.

    Its so easy to look at absolutes and draw erroneous conclusions.

    According to Stats Can:
    “As a share of all housing, 8.7 per cent of Canadian homes lacked a permanent resident in 2016, up from 7.6 per cent in 2001”

    Not so bad now eh? That is not even a significant difference in the past 15 years.

    NET/NET, for the layman: the percentage of unoccupied homes has remained relatively unchanged over the past 15 years.

    The media is notorious for focusing on absolute numbers and most will fall for it hook, line and sinker.

    Regards,
    ed…

    1. Kyle says:

      Bingo! Toronto with it’s 4.5% “unoccupied” rate is well below other cities like St Johns (over 8%), Saskatoon (over 7.9%), Moncton (7.9%), Regina (over 6%). According to the bears, those other cities must clearly be hot beds of speculation where investors buy properties leaving them vacant thus driving out all the locals. Why doesn’t Betterdwelling.com write about those bubble markets on the verge of collapse I wonder?

  2. Alexander says:

    I totally agree with Kyle that those numbers are totally fishy and methodology is questionable. You can not count a non-returned slip as unoccupied dwelling. I guess somebody wants to push their agenda and create alternative facts.

    to quote …. “Cooling measures increasingly likely for Toronto housing market: RBC “…

    1. Chris says:

      …seriously? You think Statistics Canada is in some grand conspiracy, and publishing “alternative facts” in order to damage the housing market?

      You sound like the type of guy who thinks the moon landing was faked, and that vaccines cause autism.

      1. Kyle says:

        Perhaps he is referring to Betterdwelling.com? Here is a list of other centers and their “unoccupied” (aka nonresponse) rates.

        https://twitter.com/GRIDSVancouver/status/829902628351938560

        Notice how Toronto is in 7th place….from the bottom, less than twice Kingston’s rate of 11%, and behind other places like Sherbrooke, Trois Rivieres, Windsor? Pretty clear this is NOT a sign of speculative buyers driving up prices and leaving their places vacant. But something tells me you’ll still continue to believe whatever it is you want.

        Sometimes it pays to use a little critical thinking when reading articles, instead of blindly believing and defending them just because you want to believe what can be inferred from them. Both the 99K unoccupied article and the 1 in 3 never occupied article are very obvious cases of gerrymandering of data (at least it shouldbe obvious if you aren’t willfully blind),, but clearly their strategy worked on you since you’ve now twice posted links to their article.

        1. Kyle says:

          I meant less than half Kingston’s rate

      2. Alexander says:

        Chris, to quote “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” All that info should be viewed with a bit of skepticism as guys in Statistics Canada are simply a messenger BUT guys interpreting the data !!!! are not even part of the research. Just use your common sense.

        And, no, I am not a common 6 pack Joe and know a thing or two how those researches could come out with Master in Sc. degree.

  3. Cool Koshur says:

    On lighter side, this make life easier for robbers. They now know which area to target.

    I understand underlying problem is supply. But another issue is lot of people are buying multiple homes as investment to make quick bucks. To fix this. CRA needs to clamp down on these people and audit them to make sure they pay capital gains on sales of their second, third or nth property. IMHO, they should just increase the capital gains tax to 50% on sale of non-primary residence.

  4. Alex says:

    It seems like Vancouver’s tax was a huge success. Prices have dropped. So why not implement that in Toronto? If it’s already been successfully implemented then we can just copy the legislation, which makes it even easier. I don’t see any downside to a foreign home buyers tax and I would be very happy with a large tax on selling non-primary residence homes as well. If we want to get serious about slowing down the real estate frenzy in Toronto then we need to make it much more expensive to treat real Estate as an investment and not a home.

    1. Steve says:

      I’m thinking how a foreigner tax would get implemented in Toronto anyway ? Does it extend to Vaughan or markham or Ajax or Brampton or the dozens of other cities that Comprise the GTA. Would Burlington or Hamilton be included ? How about Uxbridge ? Who decides ?

      1. Alex says:

        If implemented by the city like the land transfe4 tax then it would only apply within the municipal boundaries of toronto. If durham or York want to implement one they’d need to do it themselves.

  5. Steve says:

    great article . Right now everyone is just focused on the demand side and especially the foreigner demand and it is so true that the Canadian investor is just as bad for the high prices. So if the government wants to decrease housing demand, implement a foreigner tax AND an investor tax on anyone who buys a second home.

    The true issue is supply and there just aren’t enough homes listed for sale ….. demand far exceeds supply for now . This will take time to fix unless they raise property taxes and make the cost of holding property more expensive. Until then , prices only have one way to go .

    1. Alex says:

      What is wrong to buy a second home as investment? Let’s be fair and tax all apartment buildings to death if implementing double taxation rate for investment as your guideline.

      1. Steve says:

        Did you read the article ? What David is saying is that speculation is speculation and these speculators whether domestic or foreign are the same in their contribution towards the high price of real estate in Toronto

        1. Steve says:

          In Hong Kong when prices started really going crazy (it’s all relative) in 2011 , the locals were shouting the same things as torontoians are shouting today . “Foreigners are buying up our real estate and locals can no longer afford . ” After extensive study , they took the position that Hong Kong homes should be for Hong Kong families to live – a 15 % tax was introduced for all non locals and for anyone buying a second home and any corporation buying a home . It worked to drive transactions to a halt but prices remained pretty resilient …. fact is Homeowners refuse to budge on selling price unless they can’t service the debt and must sell. Today , Hong Kong prices have gone up another 80% since the introduction of taxes. They are not going gangbusters in introducing new supply to the market but this takes time

          Toronto is not Hong Kong , but good to look at what other international cities are doing when faced with similar problems .

  6. CJ says:

    For the census, I’m pretty sure Unoccupied/Not usually occupied can include homes for sale, under reno or between owners, second homes and situations such as air bnb (as mentioned in an earlier comment).

    1. Kyle says:

      The only census survey questions that seem to even remotely indicate whether a home is occupied or not are these two below. Could it be lots of people just chose to circle one so they wouldn’t have to answer other questions?

      “IF THIS ADDRESS IS:

      a SECONDARY RESIDENCE (for example, a cottage) for ALL PERSONS who stayed here on May 10, 2016 (all these persons have their main residence elsewhere in Canada), mark this circle. Print your name, your telephone number and your main residence address. Do not answer other questions.
      a DWELLING OCCUPIED ONLY BY RESIDENTS OF ANOTHER COUNTRY VISITING CANADA (for example, on vacation or on a business trip), mark this circle. Print your name, your telephone number and your country of residence. Do not answer other questions.”

      https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2016/ref/questionnaires/questions-eng.cfm

      1. Chris says:

        That seems highly unlikely. Based on your assumption (large numbers of people are lying about residence to avoid doing the census), the entire census program is invalid and of very little value. After all, if huge tracts of people aren’t doing the census, what good is the data?

        You’ll forgive me if I trust Statistics Canada a bit more than a random guy on the internet.

        1. Kyle says:

          Like i said below, what stat from stats canada? All we have is some “analysis” from betterdwelling.com they do not show how they came up with the 99,236 number. So my question is two fold 1) How did they come up with that from the census data when the only questions that could indicate occupancy are those two i posted, which don’t actually tell the story they’re claiming? 2) assuming it was answers to those two questions that somehow informed their number, how accurate can they really be?

          P.S. Do you honestly think everyone filled in the census, honestly and accurately? LOL

          1. Chris says:

            If you spent a moment searching for yourself, you would find the information easily. Unoccupied dwellings is calculated by taking the number of total private dwellings, and subtracting the number of dwellings occupied by usual resident. Spoiler: the answer is 99,236.

            http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/hlt-fst/pd-pl/Table.cfm?Lang=Eng&T=208&S=6&O=D

            Do I think every single person filled in the census accurately? No.

            Do I think a sufficiently large enough number filled it in accurately, as for the results to be statistically significant, and worth basing policy on? Absolutely.

            Are you honestly suggesting that your anecdotal evidence of not personally knowing of an empty dwelling (because of lawns and junk mail) is equivalent to Statistics Canada’s Census? “LOL” indeed.

          2. Ben says:

            One thing I noticed about the map provided by betterdwelling is that the highest areas of concentration for unoccupied homes are those near the universities (York, Ryerson, and UofT). Since the census forms were submitted in the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the data was skewed by the fact that many units that are normally rented out to students are empty during summer holidays, or simply skewed by students who didn’t bother to respond to the census.

          3. Kyle says:

            Thanks for providing the link Chris, that actually is helpful. However if you look at the questionnaire and then the various definitions of private dwelling, you will realize that they categorize everyone into 1 of three categories based on the following logic:

            “private dwelling, occupied by foreign residents and or temporary persons” – i.e. those that checked off one of the two questions below.
            “private dwelling, occupied by usual residents” – i.e. the rest of the people that filled out the survey
            “private dwelling , unoccupied” – i.e. every dwelling where they did not receive a survey back. Because obviously a true unoccupied dwelling wouldn’t have anyone to complete the survey. SO, there isn’t any positive confirmation that the dwelling was truly unoccupied, instead it’s just an assumption that no survey = no occupants. SO, guess where any households who couldn’t be bothered to fill in the survey fall?

          4. Chris says:

            Kyle, the response rate for this past census was quite high:

            http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/best-census-ever-stats-can-1.3739857

            Additionally, there was an interesting thread on Reddit, where people who worked as enumerators for Statistics Canada during the census talk about the lengths they go to before declaring a dwelling empty:

            https://www.reddit.com/r/vancouver/comments/5su9rr/census_counts_25502_unoccupied_homes_in_vancouver/

            All this to say, if Statistics Canada deems a home to be unoccupied, I will defer to their judgement.

          5. Kyle says:

            If you want to believe that a dwelling that did not complete equals a dwelling that is unoccupied that is your prerogative to do so. The fact remains the 99k number is actually a measure of nonresponses NOT unoccupied dwellings.

            Yes It may be anecdotal, but I know of people who spent the entire summer at the cottage, where they do not receive mail. I assure you no enumerator drove to Cottage country ensuring they completed.

          6. Drowzee says:

            The reddit thread mentions “confirmation from neighbours/building managers”, so that should cover the summer-at-the-cottage scenario. Anyway, I think it’s more interesting to compare these vacancy rates across cities and across time. For example, the GTA’s vacancy rate is lower than that of all other major cities, except Hamilton. Comparing across time, it’s almost unchanged from 2011, when it was 4.3%,

          7. Chris says:

            Kyle, I don’t know what else to say to you, because you’re not even arguing against me; you’re arguing that the census is invalid and that Statistics Canada’s methodology is flawed. I’ve given you evidence to the contrary (extremely high response rate, enumerator follow up, etc.), but you are unwilling to budge.

            So again, I resort to my original comment. You’ll forgive me if I choose to trust Statistics Canada’s research based conclusions over your anecdotal evidence.

          8. Kyle says:

            I get it Chris, some people really, really, really want to believe there are these greedy bad guys out there buying up houses and leaving them empty, driving up prices and pushing people out of cities. And that’s why they will dismiss perfectly reasonable and easily verifiable anecdotes (feel free to drive through the neighbourhood on midday Wednesday and i guarantee you will not find 1 in 10 houses without garbage bins at the curb) as some random guy on the internet, yet they will accept other random internet anecdotes (talking about BC enumerators no less) from reddit as “evidence”. Hate to break it to you but that just does not match reality.

            I’ve proven that the methodology is actually just a measure of nonresponses, maybe they tried really hard to compensate but in the end it’s still based on an assumption that leaves lots of room for doubt. And just because the Canada-wide response rates are high, does not mean Toronto neghbourhoods’ response rates are high. Secondly even if you were to believe their numbers, a dwelling unoccupied on May 10th 2016 is completely different than this fallacious belief that speculators buying houses and leaving them empty are the cause of rising prices. As Drowzee points out the nonresponse rate (lets call it what it really is) is consistent to 2011 – i.e. prices rising in the last 5 years is NOT explained by increased speculation from people leaving homes empty. In fact anyone who has lived in this city for a while can tell you as prices have risen, the exact opposite has happened. The city is MORE occupied as opposed to empty, and the city is MORE filled-in rather than hollowed-out. If you look at the other census data, you see MORE people are living in the City, rather than being pushed out. In the last 20 years, about the time when prices started to rise, there has been the creation of several new neighbourhoods teeming with people (Canary District, Distillery District, Cityplace, King East, King West, Liberty Village, etc). None of these neighbourhoods existed back then. King street is now one of the most populated corridors in Canada and in many respects over-occupied, twenty years ago no one lived on King until Barbara Hall changed the zoning. I hear similar claims of Toronto, being bought up by speculators who leave their properties empty, not only does that make 0 economic sense, i’ve yet to see anyone actually point out real live cases, it’s always based on some dubious assumptions such as counting lights at night time or assuming nonresponse means no one lives there.

          9. Chris says:

            Kyle, I’m dismissing your anecdotes because they are not a substitute for data.

            If we’re basing conclusions off anecdotes, I personally know a few families who live in Toronto suburbs, and own condos downtown, that are sporadically rented. They have expressly said that, between strong tenant protection laws, the hassles of being a landlord, and the wild price appreciation, they are alright with the condos sitting empty for extended periods of time.

            An earlier analysis by Better Dwelling corroborates this, finding that one in three resold homes in Toronto were listed as “never lived in”.

            https://betterdwelling.com/city/toronto/1-in-3-homes-listed-for-resale-in-toronto-havent-been-occupied/

            I don’t think there is some sinister force of greedy bad guys causing parabolic price appreciation in Toronto. I think it is financially illiterate Canadians who believe that real estate will never go down. So they plow way too much of their net worth into housing, leverage themselves to dangerous levels, and push prices ever higher.

            You can make as many arguments as you like to justify Toronto’s current price point, but the fact remains that many organizations and economists have, repeatedly, declared it an unhealthy market.

            CMHC even said last month “Price acceleration in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and Hamilton indicates that home price growth may be driven by speculation as it is outpacing what economic fundamentals like migration, employment and income can support.”

            http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/cmhc-market-conditions-1.3953358

            And just as a fun side note, have a read of this article from the Globe and Mail in 1988. During that Toronto real estate bubble, they had a lot of the same talking points as the bulls today (low supply, world-class city, growing population, etc.)

            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CgqlLhjWkAAz852.jpg

            Can you guess what came next? Have a look for yourself:

            http://www.torontohomes-for-sale.com/4a_custpage_2578.html

            As Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

          10. Kyle says:

            We can agree to disagree. I have no issue with you dismissing my anecdotes because their not data, but lets be very clear that neither is your reddit “evidence”.

            As for the 3 to 1 article, that is called cherry picking data. Notice the data is a one time snap shot taken “earlier this month” on an article printed in Dec?

            And i always find it interesting that those who missed out on the real estate gains, call those that have benefited from it financially illiterate. Let’s be clear the don’t buy real estate because it’s over valued and instead invest your money has a been a losing strategy and is also arguably more financially illiterate. HINT: it isn’t either or.

            And just because many (perennially wrong) organizations and “economists” make the same tired debunked arguments over and over again doesn’t make them any less wrong. Being right isn’t about strength in numbers.

            Please also stop with the irrelevant comparisons to 1988, by now we’ve firmly established we’re not reliving the late 80’s.

          11. Chris says:

            Kyle, the evidence I pointed to is Statistics Canada. I used a couple quotes from Reddit to show that your assumptions about their methodology may be incorrect. Don’t confuse that with my using “Reddit Data”.

            Of course it’s going to be a snapshot; home listings are taken down once the home is removed from the market. As it’s an analysis of listings, it’s impossible to go back in history. That doesn’t discredit the fact that 1 in 3 listings at the time claimed the home as un-lived in. You’re once again using your feelings to argue data.

            Real estate can make up a part of a balanced portfolio, but as I said earlier, the issue is people speculating on continued appreciation and funneling their entire net worth into housing.

            Additionally, it’s pretty well documented that, over the long run, equities outperform real estate. TD predicts real estate to rise by 4.4% annually over the next two decades, while equities rise by 7.0%:

            https://www.td.com/document/PDF/economics/special/LongRunRateOfReturnForCanadianHomePrices.pdf

            So you not only don’t believe Statistics Canada, but also don’t believe the Bank of Canada, the CMHC, the OECD, the IMF, The Economist, and legions of individual economists? Boy, I sure hope you’ve got some impressive credentials to back up a position statement like that.

            Their warnings and metrics (price to income ratio, indebtedness, use of HELOCs, etc.) are not debunked by any means. Just because something hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean you can ignore the warnings. Using your logic, you should keep smoking and drinking, because your doctor’s warnings are debunked seeing as you aren’t dead yet.

            Yes, we’re living in 2017. Yet the similarities to 1989 are apparent.

            Or, maybe me, all the organizations, the economists, the housing naysayers, etc. are wrong, and you’re right; Toronto Real Estate will be the one asset class in the history of economics to churn forever upwards, without ever suffering a downturn!

            But personally, I wouldn’t bet on that narrative.

          12. Kyle says:

            Nice try, but let me correct you. You said, “I’ve given you evidence to the contrary (extremely high response rate, enumerator follow up , etc.)” i.e. YOU are the one who included as part of your “evidence”

            I have no issue with the use of a snap shot, it has nothing to do with my feelings. My issue is using a snapshot from December, anyone who actually stops to think would realize people who occupy their homes don’t want to list them heading into the holidays. While those that don’t occupy their homes don’t care. So obviously the ratio of unoccupied homes for sale at that time are going to be skewed at that time of year.

            Meanwhile those “financial illiterates” have been wiping the floor with the so-called financial literates for the last two decades. So maybe you so-called literates should reconsider your qualifications to preside over such literacy.

            I don’t care what TD predicts, they’ve been way off for the last decade. As well arguing the long term real estate returns are lower than long term stock returns, only works if you can mooch housing for free. Not to mention real estates much lower volatility and better tax treatment.

            In case you haven’t realized yet, credentials don’t determine who’s right or wrong, history does. And if you compare my track record against any of theirs, i’d say it’s a pretty obvious victory for me.

            They have totally been debunked over and over and over. The test for debunkedness isn’t whether something has happened yet or not, otherwise using your logic, the tooth fairy exists,we just haven’t seen her yet. The true test of debunkedness is whether the underlying logic holds water. And those silly little metrics you hold dear have been proven leakier than a sieve time and again and again and again.

            Hate to deflate your hopes, but our current economy is as close to being the polar opposite of the late 80’s as you can get. In the late 80’s we had an inventory overhang, with developers building on spec. Today we have an inventory shortage with over 95% of units pre sold. In the late 80’s we had ridiculous double digit inflation today, we are below the 2% target. In the late 80’s they had to raise interest rates from already ridiculous levels to fight inflation. Today they are talking about another cut from the historically low rates.

            I never said the market will go up forever, but if you want to remind people about that one time 30 years ago when a bull said something bullish right before the downturn, perhaps its also fair that i remind you of the umpteenth time one of the IMF, Economist, CMHC, OECD and IMF and their regurgitates such as yourself have said something bearish, right before being utterly humiliated by a market that smashed all previous records. Like you all said last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that , and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that…..But by all means don’t bet on it. Your loss.

          13. Chris says:

            Yes, as evidence to support Statistics Canada’s data (which really shouldn’t need any support, seeing as they’re a widely respected source). If you want to debate semantics, find someone else.

            The 1 in 3 stat article was posted Dec 1, 2016; when it refers to earlier this month, it’s presumably referring to November. If you really think it’s skewed, why not ask Better Dwelling to re-run their analysis come Spring?

            Those silly little metrics have proven reliable in previous housing crashes. You just have this unshakeable faith that this time, it’s different. And nobody is saying mooch housing, we’re saying buy within your means or rent (price to rent ratio in Canada is upwards of 180%).

            Interest rates are already heading upwards. The US Fed already had two raises in the past two years, three more predicted for this year. This directly impacts the cost of borrowing in Canada, and puts pressure on the BoC to follow suit.

            Supply shortage is another myth. Toronto (CMA) grew by 344,976 people from 2011 to 2016, ~69,000 people annually. According to CMHC, Toronto CMA had 42,287 housing starts in 2015 and 39,027 in 2016. From the 2011 census, Toronto has an average of 2.8 people per dwelling. So, with 69,000 people arriving each year, we’re building housing to fit 109,000-118,000 people. What supply shortage?

            Nobody is doubting that Toronto real estate has had a good run for the past two decades, since hitting a low in 1996. However, if you put all your eggs into real estate, it was a gamble; one that paid off, but a gamble nonetheless. If, in 1997, if someone had decided to put all their eggs in Apple stock instead, they’d be up 16,908% today. That’s also a risky and unwise strategy though. If someone had invested in an S&P500 index in 1997, they’d be up 193% today. I’d hardly call that “wiping the floor”.

          14. Kyle says:

            “If someone had invested in an S&P500 index in 1997, they’d be up 193% today. I’d hardly call that ‘wiping the floor'”

            Not sure why you’re bring up individual stocks. You were arguing “it’s pretty well documented that, over the long run, equities outperform real estate.” Equities (with an ‘s’, as in the broad market). Anyhow if someone bought the average Toronto house in 1997 they’d be up 345.43% tax free and that’s assuming they bought the thing with cash and no leverage, plus it provided shelter for 20 years. If you had put the equivalent into the S&P 500 you’d still have to subtract the equivalent of 20 years rent. If that isn’t wiping the floor i don’t know what is?!?!

            LOL, I can tell that pointing out how flawed and dubious all your bear memes are, how utterly futile those silly little metrics you cling to are and how incredibly crappy those economists are is really deflating your hopes, because this is about the weakest retort i’ve ever heard in my life, “If you really think it’s skewed, why not ask Better Dwelling to re-run their analysis come Spring?”. So perhaps you should fire up the old Netflix and enjoy a little Bob Ross and keep telling yourself that you’re more financially literate.

          15. Kyle says:

            And by the way, there is currently less than 1 month of inventory available. Those 2015 and 2016 housing starts are already pre sold and won’t be completed until 2018-2019, by which time another 69 – 138K people will have arrived and be looking for places to live.

          16. Chris says:

            Spicy, Kyle. I like it. You’ve got a lot of skin in this game, eh?

            Oof, but unfortunately, your financial illiteracy is showing. The S&P500 index is an index of 500 stocks, not an individual stock. So yes, this would count as equities (with an s, as in the broad market). By comparison, buying Apple, the other example I gave (which returned over 16,000%), would not be buying equities (not plural, as in a single stock). Have a read:

            http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/indexfund.asp

            While you’re in learning mode, could be worth working on your math skills too. From TREB, Dec. 2016 average Toronto home price was $730,472; it’s tough to peg down the exact number from their chart, but looks like average home price in 1997 was approx. $200,000.

            http://www.trebhome.com/market_news/housing_charts/images/Chart7.jpg

            That equates to a 265% increase. Maybe your calculator is broken (or you forgot to subtract 1 after you divided, who knows).

            This return doesn’t take into consideration maintenance, insurance, and property tax; it also omits interest paid on a mortgage (although, in your scenario, our hypothetical person bought with cash, so this isn’t a factor; but for most people it is).

            Not to mention, this is a pretty flattering calculation, as it assumes you bought in right after one of the biggest downturns in Toronto real estate history.

            Anyways, I’m not trying to say that buying a home 20 years ago was a bad idea; a 265% return is nothing to scoff at, even if the market climbed 193%.

            But I’m talking about now, and into the future. Anyone who puts themselves massively into debt today, counting on more years of >20% annual appreciation, are likely to be disappointed.

  7. Kyle says:

    It would be nice if they provided their exact methodology or a link to the Stats Can data. Cause the numbers don’t add up at all. They’ve identified my neighbourhood (High Park) as being 5-10% unoccupied. I don’t know of a single house that is sitting empty, with over-grown lawn and junk mail piling up.

  8. Joel says:

    I think with the changes that we are seeing in downtown a lot of these properties are likely being rented on air bnb. This is providing income and a service for people visiting the city.

    An empty house is still paying property taxes for services that it is not using. This is beneficial to everyone that lives in Toronto.

  9. Libertarian says:

    It’s funny how you mention….”that “houses are for living” and that anybody who owns more than one is responsible for disrupting the natural relationship between supply and demand for a physiological need…”

    I made that comment the other week, although I was being sarcastic. People were talking about filling in the lake so that we can build more housing. Instead of doing that, we could limit home ownership to one property – that would free up more than enough housing for everybody.

    1. Joel says:

      Why limit peoples ability to invest? No one would have a condo to rent if people were not allowed to own multiple homes.

      1. Libertarian says:

        It wasn’t a serious idea. As I wrote, I was being sarcastic.

        More than anything, I was criticizing gov’t policies. So when somebody wrote that the gov’t should fill in the lake, I suggested the idea of limiting investing instead. Neither idea would be good gov’t policy.

  10. Chris says:

    99,236 empty dwellings. From the 2011 Census, the average dwelling in Toronto is 2.8 persons. So these unoccupied dwellings could theoretically house 277,861 people.

    It’s hard not to see a problem with this. It pushes people out of cities, hollows communities, increases urban sprawl, clogs routes of transportation, etc.

    While some of this is foreign owners, a large chunk of it is Canadians speculating on real estate. They buy a home or condo, and are in no rush to rent it out, because it’s appreciating by 10-20% per year. On a $500,000 condo, that’s a gain of $50-100k. With those kind of gains, many are probably ok to forego the earnings (and hassle) of being a landlord, and thus the home sits unoccupied (earning more per year than the average Canadian worker).

    The problem comes if/when appreciation slows, or reverses, and people try to realize their gains by selling. Speculators looking to cash in, baby boomers looking to fund their retirement, overleveraged millenials realizing they will be underwater, etc. Supply surges, demand withers (because who wants to buy into a depreciating asset?), and, well, Economics 101 tells us what happens next with price.

    1. Scott V says:

      Sorry, you’re making false assumptions.

      Investors are not buying houses or condos and leaving them vacant in 99% of cases, because that’s a way to make less, not more. As an investor, you want to earn rent, preferably to make money off your investment, but at least to cover as much of your carrying expenses as possible. The only reason for an investor to leave a property vacant is because ‘you’ plan to sell/build/renovate it.

      There isn’t that much “speculative”/flipping activity in most Toronto neighbourhoods.

      1. Chris says:

        Please explain to me the cause of 99,000 empty dwellings?

        I will concede that some are AirBnB, however this number is low. According to http://www.alltherooms.com, there are 1,828 listings in Toronto on AirBnB, 800 of which are full homes/apartments (as opposed to rooms within someone’s home).

        Some dwellings may be unoccupied because of renovations or current sales. According to http://www.zolo.com, there were 4,091 sales in Toronto in May, 2016 (when the census took place). I don’t have a number on renovations taking place, that would force someone out of their home, however I suspect it is low (and Statistics Canada explains in their definition that if a home is unlivable due to construction or renovation, it is not considered an unoccupied dwelling, but rather an unoccupied marginal dwelling).

        So that leaves over 90,000 unoccupied dwellings, unaccounted for.

        You say investors aren’t leaving homes vacant, do you have any data to back this up? Yes, it results in decreased cash flow, but it also reduces wear on the dwelling, and some investors may not want the hassle. As I explained in my original post, if you can gain a large amount through appreciation, it can disincentivize renting the dwelling.

        Finally, according to CMHC “Price acceleration in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and Hamilton indicates that home price growth may be driven by speculation as it is outpacing what economic fundamentals like migration, employment and income can support.”

        So, sorry, but I question your assumptions.

    2. Ben says:

      Sorry but the stuff you are saying just isn’t happening. No investor is going to deliberately leave a fully functional house or condo empty for an extended period of time. But, there are plenty of times when landlords are in between tenants, and I think that is largely what is being captured in this number.

      I am one of the landlords that added to this statistic. We moved into our new house and was preparing our previous dwelling, a condo-townhouse, to be rented out when the census came around this year. I completed the census for the new house and for the condo, I marked it as unoccupied. Within the next month, our condo was rented out.

  11. Appraiser says:

    “10 reasons why homes sit vacant.” The article refers specifically to Vancouver, but the same applies in T.O. Much like the “natural” unemployment rate, there will always be and have always been homes and people in transition.

    “Why, what’s the matter,
    That you have such a February face,
    So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?” ~ Williams Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-real-estate-10-reasons-why-homes-sit-vacant-1.3050680

  12. Francesca says:

    I live in Markham and even here there is an issue with empty homes, especially in the Unionville area as highlighted by this local article from yesterday. It’s not just hearsay I actually know people who tell me there are empty houses on their street so it seems it’s not just condos sitting empty but houses too. The “foreign buyer” mainly from Asia is getting the blame for buying homes up at a premium and then having them sit empty until they are redeveloped, if they ever do get redeveloped. Hope it doesn’t get as bad here as it is in Vancouver where entire streets are now half empty. I’ve seen it first hand when we visited my in laws in Vancouver last spring.
    http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/7107758-markham-tree-cut-spurs-demand-for-higher-fines-developer-blames-jealousy-/

TWEETS