The Most Over-Saturated Condos In Toronto

Condos | November 9, 2020

Toronto real estate

Here’s a fun game, if you feel like playing.

Let’s start a thread in the comments section for “How Long Have You Been On TRB?”

I would love to hear from you guys, if for no other reason than to know how much we’ve grown together over the years.  I recognize the names in the comments section and some of them go way, way back.  This blog started in 2007, and McBloggert, who only posts a couple of times a year, is one of the first to comment back in 2008.  That’s a long, long time.

In those years, I recall Potato, and Devon.  I remember both Davey the J as well as Franky B.  And don’t forget Krupo.  I have a memory like a steel trap.  I might not read all the comments, but once I see a name, I don’t forget it.

In the mid-2010’sreaders like Boris were regulars.  Both Housing Bear and Long Time Realtor were staples, but seem to have mysteriously disappeared.

How about the current regulars?  Kyle has been around for the better part of a decade, if I’m not mistaken.  Appraiser since at least 2013.  Verbal Kint, depending on which handle he’s using, since around that same time as well.  Condodweller, Professional Shanker, GinaTo, Marina, Julia are also names I’ve known for at least five or six years.

Apologies to people I’m not naming, as I’m just going off the top of my head and trying to think about who’s been around for a while.

So if you’re willing, I’ll post a thread, and you can play along.  Or not.  Totally up to you, I just think it would be cool.

Why am I wondering how long people have been around?

Well, because there have been a handful of what I’d call “controversial” posts over the years, and the long-time readers might remember them.

“Problems At The Printing Factory Lofts?” from January of 2014 was a doozie.  I’ve probably mentioned this two-dozen times since then.

“The Foundry Lofts” from June of 2010 was the first massive blow-up in TRB’s history.  Letters and emails to my broker, to TREB, to RECO, and all because I gave what’s called an “opinion.”  Imagine that?  The President of the United States can make ghastly, wild, deceiving claims on the daily, but I can’t write about which buildings I like and don’t like…

Those are the two that really stick out to me, although I do recall posting about how a random cold-caller wanted me to show him a rental listing on Christmas Eve, and the readers ripped me apart for not “doing my job.”  You can read that one here: “What Did You Do On Christmas Eve?”

But there’s another post, a rather obscure one, that for some odd reason was deemed oh-so controversial by the readers:

August 9th, 2011: “The Most Over-Saturated Condos In Toronto”

This one caught me by surprise, folks.  I had absolutely no idea that the readers would take such offense to me providing market statistics.

But they did.

And it went on for days!

I was in Idaho when this drama went down.  It seems like forever ago.  Back when I didn’t even bring my laptop with me!  I just used the Dell that was at the house.  Nowadays, I cradle my laptop in my arms on the airplane like it’s my baby.  And my actual baby comes in a close second…

Read the post if you have time, and perhaps the comments too.

The idea behind the post was quite simple: I would look at all the condos in the downtown core, see how many units were for sale, and then divide by the number of units in the building to come up with a “percentage of building for sale.”

It was wild!

#1 on the list was 478 King Street West, aka “Victory Condos,” which had a whopping 34 units for sale in a building with only 175 units.  Imagine that?  Imagine 19.4% of a building for sale at one time?

#2 on the list was 28 Linden Street, aka “The James Cooper Mansion,” with 41 units for sale out of 270, or 15.2%.

Just for perspective, let’s round out the list:

#3: 15 Iceboat Terrace – 12.8%, 55 of 432
#4: 209 Fort York Bouleard – 12.6%, 48 of 380 units
#5: 21 Grand Magazine Street – 10.0%, 32 of 325 units
#6: 375 King Street – 9.9%, 30 of 304 units
#7: 80 John Street – 9.0%, 41 of 458 units
#8: 10 Capreol Court – 8.4%, 27 of 320 units
#9: 38 Dan Leckie Way – 8.2%, 33 of 401 units
#10: 55-59 East Liberty Street – 7.4%, 39 of 528 units

So how is that for perspective?

We’re sitting here in November of 2020 talking about the state of the condominium market and how things are looking less than stellar, to say the least.

I’ve written quite a few articles lately, on different subjects, which underscore the plight that many condo-sellers experience out there today.

But look at the stats above.

Is there any way that the market in 2020 is anywhere near what it was when I wrote this post?

I spent the last week combing through the downtown core looking for buidlings with double-digit listings.  Why double-digit listings?  Well, in my mind, that’s a lot!

But here’s the irony: we’ve accepted the 2018, 2019, and early 2020 condo market as normal, so when we look back at this post from 2011, or consider the condo market where it is now in November of 2020, we feel that these represent outliers, when in fact, they may not be.

Think about what the condo market was like in February of 2020.

A new listing would come out at 95 Bathurst Street for $499,900, probably worth in the high-$500’s, but that was the prevailing listing strategy at the time.  This new listing was not only the sole listing in that building, but it was one of perhaps a handful in the area that week.

So with only 4-5 new listings for $499,900 units, and demand for such condos at an all-time high, that silly little condo would end up with 18 offers, and it would sell for $625,000.

That happened every single night in January and February, and through the first half of March.

On March 16th, 2020, I was reviewing offers on a Regent Park listing.  Priced at $499,900, we received 13 offers, and sold for $625,000.  The very next day, a “state of emergency” was declared in Ontario, and the world, and our market, changed forever.

Fast-forward to November of 2020, and instead of seeing that one unit for sale in a Regent Park building, there are eight.  And instead of having thirteen offers from thirteen buyers, the seller will be lucky to get thirteen showings inside of the first two weeks.  He or she may only get a handful.

That’s how our market has changed from February to November, and as a result, we’ve gone from seeing zero or one condo up for sale in a building to seeing five, six, or ten.

So with that said, which buildings currently have the most units for sale?

Absolute, or relative?

I mean, “Ice Condos at 12 and 14 York Street have a whopping forty-six units for sale, but in two buildings, with 1,343 units combined, that’s only 3.4%.

So while on an absolute basis, 46 units might seem like a lot, I think it makes more sense in the context of a discussion about market saturation to look at relative bases.

I looked about five hundred downtown condos, and there were 87 that had 10+ units for sale.  Those made it into my spreadsheet, and I then found the number of total units for sale in each building to come up with a relative percentage.

Some buildings may have had 10 units for sale, but on a relative basis, it was next to nothing!  For example, there are 10 units for sale at “Musee” at 525 Adelaide Street West, but since there are a whopping 1,311 units in the building, that’s only 0.8% for sale.

I won’t spoil the surprise here, so let me tell you this: the 2020 version of this theme contains data that is nothing like the 2012 version.  You’ll note that right at the onset with the #1 building on the list…

#1: 22 Leader Lane, aka “King Edward Private Residences”

11 units for sale
143 units in building
7.7%

This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

I’ve been in a handful of the units here and I’ve never seen a layout that I liked.  Apologies to anybody that owns in here, and I’m sure your condo is amazing.  But it seems to me that the nicer units are the hotel suites, and the dog units, ie. the ones facing the interior courtyard (which is filled with pigeon shit and the kitchen staff smoking cigarettes) were turned into condos and sold in pre-construction to investors.

The maintenance fees on these units are huge too.

11 units for sale isn’t a lot on an absolute basis, but the fact that 11 out of 143 are for sale today is somewhat telling.

I feel as though many units in here are owned by investors (if not a majority…) so perhaps with AirBnB dying off and rental prices declining, we’re now seeing units flood the market?

#2: 1121 Bay Street, aka “Elev’n Residences”

11 units for sale
146 units in building
7.1%

Another boutique building springs to the top of the list, and this seems to be the trend.  You might think perhaps a grotesque, 600-unit building would see more units for sale, but to place near the top of the list, we’d have to see 40+ units for sale, right?

While “Elev’n Residences” has a silly name, it’s relatively unspectacular otherwise.  It’s a 17-year-old building at Yonge & Bloor, a popular rental spot, close to U of T and the hospitals.

Why is 7.1% of the building currently for sale?  If I had to guess, I’d say coincidence.

#3: 320 Richmond Street East, aka “The Modern”

18 units for sale
343 units in building
5.1%

Now, this is interesting.

I see no reason why this particular building should have so many units for sale all at the same time.  As with 1121 Bay Street, I might simply chalk this up to coincidence.

This is an 8-year-old building on the northwest corner of Richmond and Sherbourne.  It’s historically been a great value play, since King Street condos cost more than Richmond but are only two blocks north, and if you’re okay with this location, it’s a newer version of 313-323 Richmond Street which is directly across the road, and doesn’t contain the Tim Hortons which attracts many of the undesirables from Moss Park.

Immediately east of this condominium, there is a Honda dealership which is going to be a condominium development, no doubt about it.  I would have bet money that there would be a condo on site by now, but the land has traded hands a few times and nobody has broken ground.  Perhaps this is a reason why a few people in building are looking to cash out?  Half of the units available for sale are east-facing…

#4: 20 Richardson Street, aka “Lighthouse Tower”

15 units for sale
300 units in building
5.0%

Here’s our first unregistered condo on the list.

I’m actually surprised that there aren’t more units for sale in here.

Guess how big the largest unit in the building is?  863 square feet.  Do you THINK this building was targeting investors in pre-sales?  Yup…

#5: 197 Yonge Street, aka “Massey Towers”

33 units for sale
695 units in building
4.7%

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll remember a blog post I did back in 2012 simply called “Bird Poop.”

Here are some pictures of the once-beautiful, once-proud heritage building from 2012:

Time flies!

That was 2012, and you can see in the first photo the advertisement “Coming Soon From The Mid $200’s.”

Here we are in 2020, and the condo is complete and 33 units are for sale.

This might only be 5th on the list, but these are near impossible to move right now.  The prices are ludicrous, with some units at $1,300 per square foot without parking or locker, and how is a seller expected to move a unit, say, for $699,900 when there are eight other units for sale at the same price?

Tell me I’m being unfair, but I don’t sell pre-construction condos for exactly this reason: that people pay tomorrow’s price, today.  In this case, it wasn’t even tomorrow’s price, since these prices weren’t really attained.

From here, it’s a whole lot of the same.

#6: 225 Sackville Street – 12 of 282, 4.3%

#7: 170 Bayview Avenue – 14 of 332, 4.2%

#8: 80 John Street – 15 of 378, 4.0%

#9: 390 Cherry Street – 13 of 328, 4.0%

#10: 215 Queen Street W – 10 fo 256, 3.9%

Consider that in 2012, the #10 building on the list had 7.4% of units for sale, but in 2020, there’s only one building that can top this.

I find this fascinating, considering the feel out there in the downtown condo market is saturation, and yet we’re nowhere near where we were in 2012.

Since 2012, prices have obviously risen substantially, so obviously, the level of saturation back then failed to have a negative effect on the market.  To be fair, prices were a lot lower on an absolute basis back then, and even with higher interest rates, I think affordability was greater.

Whether or not the level of saturation that exists today will continue into 2021 remains to be seen.

But either way, this is worth monitoring.

Now, what is the level of saturation in the lease market?  That’s another story entirely…

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50 Comments

        1. David Fleming

          at 9:18 am

          Hi Julia! Good to see you on here again.

          Yes, you were the first Julia. We go back quite a ways!

          The midtown-Julia will probably chime in shortly. Ask Chris how to deal with two people using the same name! 🙂

        2. Julia

          at 7:16 pm

          This is the other Julia – I would say it was 2008 for me as well.

    1. RPG

      at 9:02 am

      This is fun!

      I stared reading around 2011. I saw your ad at the corner of River and King at the old jog leading up the Bayview extension before it was closed up. I wondered what a “realty blog” was, and voila.

    2. Patty

      at 11:07 am

      Since 2012. I moved from Toronto to Kelowna, BC in 2017 but am addicted to this blog. Keep up the great work. If I return I’ll definitely.

    3. Daniel

      at 12:06 pm

      Hi David,

      I’ve actually been reading off and on since 2009 or 2010. This might sound creepy but I’ve enjoyed watching you grow as a person. You used to write about nightclubbing and dating and now you write about children and parenting. The backdrop for your blogs is your personal life and it’s quite a unique forum. Thanks for the continued content.

    4. Condodweller

      at 3:19 pm

      I think I found your blog through a google hit when I was searching for something RE specific and one of your blog entries came up as one of the few results. This would have been 2013/2014 or later.

    5. Julia

      at 7:17 pm

      This is the other Julia – I would say it was 2008 for me as well.

    6. Jimbo

      at 7:27 pm

      I think 2012 but most likely 2013 with a small break in reading.

    7. Marty

      at 9:35 am

      Just under 1 year I think. I’ve only been in Toronto for coming up on 2 years now.

      I think I ran into it more or less organically, via twitter.

      M.

    8. TOPlanner

      at 12:54 pm

      2011, after coming across your real estate column in The Grid TO (RIP). Commenting on occasion (when I have a planning opinion… (: or a different viewpoint!) for the last few.

    9. cyber

      at 10:16 am

      Probably around a decade, hard to remember when I was NOT a regular reader

    10. Joel

      at 11:20 am

      Has to be around 7 years for me. I definitely remember the Printing factory lofts and that was 6 years ago.

    11. natrx

      at 8:26 am

      Probably around that time.. 08 or so. I was at a credit rating agency (the financial ones) so was always browsing different sites on the markets in general.

  1. Chris

    at 8:11 am

    I think since late 2016 or early 2017? There are some Chris comments from earlier that people have pointed out to me, but I don’t believe they’re mine. As we saw the other day, there’s no shortage of Chrises.

    1. Condodweller

      at 3:31 pm

      I have read that even if they approve and start using the new vaccines it would take a long time to supply the world. In Canada, they have already talked about prioritizing front line workers and vulnerable populations. In Europe, I heard it would be at least the end of 2021 by the time it’s available to the majority. In several places, it is being manufactured ahead of approvals so that if they are approved at least some will be available immediately.

      The question will be how willing people will be to become guinea pigs at first. I know I won’t be standing at the begging of the line to be vaccinated. It might be a tough decision for the high-risk population. Do you risk dying from the virus or perhaps from the side effects and complications of the vaccine?

      One would think that as the vaccine becomes available and things start to reopen things will return to the status quo. Unless interest rates also return to pre-covid levels in which case prices might as well. The next few months may be a great time to buy a condo while prices are low.

      Then of course there is the unknown of whether or not the WFH movement will remain.

      1. Natrx

        at 8:27 am

        This is the first mRNA vaccine. This is different than the traditional vaccines we’re used to. So yes, take your gamble. I know I won’t be in line.

  2. Kyle

    at 9:11 am

    Since late 2009. And even after all that time this blog still remains the best place to get information on Toronto RE.

    1. Bal

      at 12:07 pm

      Housing stocks see split reaction on coronavirus vaccine news, as mortgage rates jump…..

    2. Appraiser

      at 12:59 pm

      Ho-Hum indeed. Five months behind the real estate market.

      ‘Bout time if anyone’s ‘askin…

      …illustrates quite clearly what people value most – their home.

      1. Chris

        at 1:47 pm

        S&P 500 breached record highs in early August. NASDAQ did so in late June. DJI hasn’t quite yet.

        Where things stand now:

        TRREB October HPI +10.8% YoY
        S&P500 +13.43% YoY
        NASDAQ +41.19% YoY
        DJI +6.88% YoY

        From when you warned of a bull trap, on April 7th:

        TRREB HPI +3.17% ($870,100 in April 2020 to $897,700 in October 2020)
        S&P500 +45.40%
        NASDAQ +62.25%
        DJI +40.84%

        https://torontorealtyblog.com/blog/join-the-conversation-qa-session-episode-2/#comment-118577

        1. Bal

          at 3:19 pm

          Chris – I think there is no comparison for stocks and real estate if we are buying a house to live in…

          1. Chris

            at 3:57 pm

            Bal, as I’ve said before, I’m discussing real estate from an investment perspective.

            The buying vs. renting shelter decision is chock-full of other considerations, which make broad sweeping generalizations in either directions completely inappropriate.

      2. J G

        at 8:02 am

        What a joker, thinks RE market is a leading indicator compared to stock market

    3. Natrx

      at 8:35 am

      Yet the CEO dumped millions of stock on that say day lol. Yea, we know where this is going.

  3. GinaTO

    at 2:48 pm

    Since 2011, I believe. Then I went back and read all the archives. And still here. 🙂

  4. Condodweller

    at 3:40 pm

    Yes, while listings are up it doesn’t look like it’s the sky is falling scenario just yet. I really don’t get why people buy pre-construction at inflated prices.

    Those buildings where people are asking super high prices are likely because they paid “future” prices for them and they are trying to recover their cost.

    Look at this new Sky Tower at the foot of Yonge. Apparently, 500sqft units started at $800k. I mean anyone who bought preconstruction during the last few years or took possession recently will be underwater out of the gates if they need to sell.

    1. Professional Shanker

      at 7:51 pm

      I thought if you had purchased pre-con in 2017 and earlier you would be above water? 2018/2019 – not guaranteed.

    2. BHT

      at 9:11 pm

      Sky tower probably wont be ready until 2026/early 2027

      So i mean, weigh that for what its worth – but a long term hold.

      People buying pre con at 1500 a sq at church & shuter area on the other hand….is a different story.

  5. Bean

    at 10:25 am

    2015/2016 ish. When I found the blog David was married, had no kids, and lived in a condo with a very large terrace. Does that timeline work? I’ve never commented before.

  6. Moonbeam!

    at 12:29 pm

    I’m definitely one of David’s earliest and most devoted blog readers! and Pick5 too!
    I enjoy reading all the commenters too!

  7. Libertarian

    at 3:42 pm

    I think I’m approaching 8 years.

    I know most people have already responded, but I think it’d be good if people gave their philosophy about real estate. Mine….

    I own my home, but think there is nothing wrong with renting – as long as you’re saving for the long-term. Financial literacy is more important that the “rent vs. own” debate.

    Like David, I am not a landlord. It’s not for me. I think there are easier and faster ways to invest my long-term savings.

  8. Krupo

    at 1:27 am

    Long enough to earn a shoutout, thanks for the hello

    One of my CA friends introduced me to your blog and you helped us find our place a few short years later. We never really did get that housing crash people were expecting for 20 years. Maybe a pandemic would do it.

    Turns out problem love Toronto too much for even that to make a significant dent in houses.

    On your laptop and baby: get the baby to ride on your shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Baby secured with one hand, laptop in the other. 🙂

  9. Scott

    at 8:25 am

    Since right now, but I’ve been lurking over the years, since you sold my parents a condo at 1801 Bayview back in ’06.

  10. Resident

    at 1:04 pm

    #9: 390 Cherry Street – 13 of 328, 4.0%

    hah, 390 Cherry is going to get a lot worse. Everybody is looking to sell or get out because the building is falling apart, after years of mismanagement. Owners are taking steps to replace the board, but even in the best case it will take a long time to get things back to normal. The elevators are always broken, the garbage chute too, recently the front door and parking lot entrance doors were broken. Would-be buyers are taking one look at the lobby and turning around.

  11. Michelle

    at 9:13 am

    What’s your thoughts on low to mid level mid town Toronto pre construction condos? ie. Avenue & Lawrence area

  12. Luc Houle

    at 4:37 pm

    First time reader, absolutely love what you’re doing here. Just curious if you’ve included Midtown in your research? I see a lot of units going up at E Condos and Art Shoppe.

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