Pocket listings cut into MLS sales

Greater Toronto Area Realtors reported 7,765 transactions through the Toronto MLS system in March – that’s down 17 per cent compared from the 9,385 recorded a year early. It also means that for the first quarter of 2013, sales came in at 71,678, representing a 14 per cent slide from a year ago.

Realtors are blaming the slowdown on an ebb in demand, pointing more directly to the mortgage rule changes ushered in last year.

"While some households have put their decision to purchase on hold as a result of stricter lending guidelines or the additional Land Transfer Tax in the City of Toronto," said Toronto Real Estate Board President Ann Hanna, “other households simply haven't been able to find the right house due to a shortage of listings in some market segments."

Still, industry experts such as Tahani Aburaneh, author of bestseller Real Estate Riches is asking investors to look beyond the MLS system in order to score properties that remain very much in demand.

“For multifamily investment properties, investors will have to look at pocket listings and other private sites to get those listings,” she told CREW online at the recent Toronto Investor Forum. “A lot of Realtors are now keeping them off of the MLS, because they are in high demand and they sell easily.”

In some cases, the move also allows real estate agents to get a lock on the entire listing or share it in-house with colleagues representing the buyers.

But no matter how you slice it, says experts, investor purchases are helping lift sales prices even as volumes fell in March.

The average selling price for that month was $519,879 – up by 3.8 per cent compared to March 2012. The average price in Q1 2013 was $508,066, or 3.2 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2012.

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