The Art of the Upsize in a Downturn

by Heather McDowell on 05 Jun 2023

The real estate market in Canada has been hot for many years, with low-interest rates fueling the demand for housing and making it more affordable for first-time buyers to enter the market. However, this resulted in a boom in development and resale, which ignited competition and led to skyrocketing prices. Unfortunately, families who require more space due to merging families, unexpected pregnancies, or caring for an ailing person cannot postpone their plans for a property upgrade until the market has completely recovered. 

Speaking to a lender or other financial experts can help those buyers better understand their financial situation and help them succeed amidst a down-trending market. For example, experts suggest that one advantage of considering an upgrade in the current market is less competition for properties. The cold winter months also mean fewer buyers in the market, creating hotter deals for those actively searching. With this in mind, proactive and knowledgeable buyers can use the lessening of competition to secure their dream property without breaking the bank. Though super low-interest rates may be a thing of the past, buyers can still take advantage of opportunities in the current market. It simply requires informed and proactive decision-making that takes advantage of the current market conditions. Read the full article:

Low-interest rates fueled the housing industry's demand for many years and made it more affordable for first-time buyers to enter the market. However, as buyers rushed to get in, it sparked a boom in development and resale across the nation, which fueled competition and skyrocketed price growth.

Fast forward to March 2, 2022, when the Bank of Canada announced its first of seven increases to the overnight rate, which subsequently impacts the interest rate offered by lenders. From March 2nd to December 7th, a difference of just over nine months saw our nation’s overnight increase by a total of 3.75%.

Family Situation is at Critical Mass

With Canada being in the midst of a recess…ahem… ‘economic downturn’ and economists’ predictions of one final (hopefully!) interest rate hike being announced, it may seem like a fool’s errand to consider a residential upgrade. 

Don’t be quick to write off a property upgrade as impossible; there is some food for thought for buyers’ consideration.

The first and perhaps the most important consideration of all is that family situations, unfortunately, don’t consult the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate before reaching critical mass. 

Whether you’re unexpectedly expecting, ready to merge two families or need to bring an ailing individual into your home, these things rarely follow the Bank of Canada’s interest rate announcements. 

Oftentimes, some folks-- timid by some folks' measure, and cautious by others-- will wait until they’re bursting at the seams to make a move. We find this particularly true in times of high-interest rates. This may not be the best strategy as rates may continue to rise, as we’ve seen in recent months. 

There’s also the homefront contingent to contend with.  Whether the initial problem that got someone to think ‘expansion’ was a frail loved one, merging families or a pending bundle of joy, without a little space, the problem will worsen and rest assured tension will rise, potentially even reaching a fever pitch. Like a child holding their breath, buyers in need of an upsize can’t wait on the sidelines indefinitely; in the end, both need to come up for air.

Take a Hike

Canadian-American motivational speaker Brian Tracy is famously quoted as saying, “Every great move forward in your life begins with a leap of faith, a step to the unknown”. While he likely didn’t specifically have real estate in mind when making this decree, I’m going to have to disagree with him, nonetheless. 

Frequently, we have a whole conversation about something with ourselves before placing a single foot forward. Too often, we allow the balcony hecklers in our brains to talk us out of an idea without fully exploring it. Canadian Real Estate Wealth gives you full permission to tell the Statler and Waldorf of the theatre in your mind to take a hike while you reach out to your mortgage broker to investigate the feasibility of an upgrade. Knowing your financial situation may not only bring pleasant surprises but it may also mean that you have to borrow way less than expected. 


Time for Expert Opinions

Time for Expert Opinions

Canadian Real Estate Wealth reached out to the Condo House’s own Tony Sbrocchi and Aleksandra Nowak, experts in the craft of real estate in Toronto on why speaking to a lender in this market is advantageous to someone looking to upsize their family home in this market.

“An experienced lender will be able to guide you through the process and help you understanding where you are financially. This can be the difference when making that offer. Being able to commit in a market that has been down trending can be what makes your offer more appealing and help make the move a reality.”

There you have it. We’ve consulted the experts and our advice is to rely on expertise to help you navigate this challenging market.  Getting out of the guessing game might just bring you into the property upgrade your family so desperately needs.

Another reason that now may be the perfect time to consider an upgrade is lesser competition. Remember in May and June of 2021, when we were hearing stories of 58 offers on one property and everyone was calling foul as they got priced out of the market? 

Well, the tables have turned; it’s no longer a seller’s market in most places in the Province of Ontario. Buyers have more leverage by far than at any time since COVID-19 in terms of actually being able to purchase their happily ever after. 

Global pandemic notwithstanding, seasonally speaking as well, the cold months mean hotter deals for buyers. Canadian home buyers tend to hibernate in the winter. Like a groundhog coming out to see his shadow, house shoppers, too, pop their heads out of their caves to assess their environment. This is the best time for serious buyers to leverage that hibernation of others. By using the lessening of competition to set their own terms of purchase and coming from an informed financial perspective, buyers may be able to have their cake and eat it, too.

By the Numbers

When we look at the statistics on any real estate board, the overall narrative is the same; units sold are down and the average sale price is down.  A quick peruse of Toronto’s Real Estate Board shows us that December 2022’s sales were down by 48.2% in comparison to December 2021’s numbers. 

“But lean in Upsizers, because here’s the good stuff; the sold price in Toronto was down over $100,000.  This means that more properties are in the range of affordability for people. To put it another way, in July 2022 the average price for a detached home in Stonegate/Queensway, upscale suburb of Toronto, was $2028,566. Fast forward to Dec 2022 and that price was significantly lower, coming in $1,335,000. In essence, savvy, well-informed buyers can get more bang for their proverbial buck in this market than at any time since COVID-19’s global pandemic began.”

Nowak and Sbrocchi  of The Condo House were able to provide us with some framework beyond that statistics. These two incredibly talented REALTORS ® provided Canadian Real Estate Wealth readers exclusively with the wisdom of the field experience gained from their years of eating, breathing and sleeping Toronto Real Estate. Here are their insights on how upgrading in this market just makes good sense.

“With the decline in values over the last 10 months, the higher priced homes took the bigger brunt of it. When we see 30%+ price adjustment in homes, the bigger the price tag was, the bigger the opportunity is to upsize. Seize the opportunity!”



 Professional Realtor Holding House Model

In Conclusion

If the call of greater square footage is one that has gone from a whisper to a roar, phone your lender. Then, throw on your parka and toque and head to your dream community to take advantage of the seasonal dip in buyers and the lower average selling price per square footage. The last step is to daydream about not having to share bathrooms and all the extra elbow room you’ll have at Thanksgiving this year.

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