SIGNS OF LIFE RETURN TO HOUSING MARKET

Two weeks ago, late on a Saturday afternoon Barbara Warren took a quick look at an open house around the corner from where she lived. Seventy-two hours later, she'd gone from casual browser to having a signed purchase agreement closing in 90 days.

"It was that fast," says Warren, who admits to a few frissons of buyer remorse.

That's not to say she hadn't already thought through the merits of buying. As the purchaser and owner in her household - her husband is an artist, woodworker and makes props for the movie business - she had been monitoring the market, weighing the financial merits and had already decided the right time to buy might be at hand.

Warren, 51, originally purchased a starter home in 1993, a townhouse on St. Clair Ave. E. near O'Connor Dr. in East York.

"Since then, I have been watching the Toronto real estate market, and as we all know, it's been kind of stupid up until about the last six months," says Warren, a tax consultant for a large chartered accounting firm. "I realized that the amount by which my house was appreciating, versus the amount by which prices were increasing on the kind of house I would want to buy, they were not keeping pace. In other words, I was falling behind."

The house she has bought is what's known as a topper: a postwar detached bungalow with an added second floor. It appealed to her because of the tasteful design and the price. She got it for $585,000, down about 10 per cent from an original list price of $649,900.

One market signal that reinforced her decision was the Saturday Star's feature that tracks house prices - "What They Asked, What They Got" - at the back of the classified section and online.

"I watch that and, for years and years, it was that they got over-asking (price), and for about the last three to four months, it's consistently been that the price fetched was less than the amount asked," she says.

Other factors playing into her decision: historically low mortgage rates and a feeling that the market might pick up.

She could be right. The disturbing economic uncertainty is far from over, but the Toronto Real Estate Board's figures for last month show 6,171 sales of existing homes, representing a smaller 7 per cent decline from a year earlier and an average house price of $362,052, down only 4.8 per cent from March 2008.

Realtors and observers of Toronto's housing market are reporting definite signs of life - as long as there have been price adjustments.

SOURCE: YOUR HOME.CA/THE STAR.COM

Jackie Dall'Orso

Jackie Dall'Orso

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Miller Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage*
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