In a city stacked with cookie-cutter condos, Chris Parry has a rare window on the world.
The 400-square-foot rooftop patio is Parry’s favourite “room” in his west-end condominium townhouse and one of its biggest selling features.
Until this week, things had been a little wet and frosty on his third-floor perch — so wet that it’s the first April he hasn’t been able to oil the wood decking, put out plants and hang his hammock.
More importantly, Parry has been delayed by weeks in listing his place at King and Niagara Sts. for sale, all because of the weather.
“The rooftop is one of the biggest upgrades in my unit and one of the reasons I bought the place,” says Parry. “If I didn’t want to show it off, the place would have been listed two months.”
Thanks to one of the dingiest Aprils in recent memory, this much-anticipated spring real estate market has been, at least until now, far more soggy than sunny.
Across the GTA, proud homeowners like Mel Mills have been frantically watching the Weather Channel and pressing their realtors to hold off listing — in Mills’ case, until he could open the pool at his Glen Abbey home and the expensive landscaping on his ravine lot was in bloom.
In the end, Mills had to make do with buds and slapped up a for sale sign last week. He was finally able to finish off exterior painting late this week, just as the buds were giving way to a few blooms.
“We really shouldn’t have listed it yet,” says Mills. “When all the leaves and flowers are in, our backyard is completely secluded. None of that is showing off. We’re missing out on one of the big selling features of our home.”
Weather is always “a very large factor” in kick-starting the peak spring house-buying spree, says Queen’s University real estate professor John Andrew.
Many sellers aren’t keen to list until they can make top dollar from the tens of thousands they’ve plowed into decks, pools and backyards. Buyers aren’t interested in house hunting, and chances are slim they’ll trip across a great house unexpectedly while out on their bike when it’s cold and wet.
“Even if things start to pick up this weekend, April is done,” says Andrew. “A lot of people, like me, were waiting to see if there was bit of turn-around with this spring market” in the face of house, and especially condo, sales that started slumping last summer.
“I think April is going to be flat for sales, but hopefully May traffic will pick up.”
Sales, and prices, did pick up as expected in April over March, as is the seasonal norm, says Jason Mercer, senior market analyst for TREB, but listings continue to lag.
Toronto Real Estate Board numbers show that listings were actually up as of mid-April by about 15 per cent, with 8,770 new properties for sale across the GTA compared to 7,580 a year earlier. (Sales were down almost 6 per cent year over year, and prices up 3.2 per cent.) But it won’t be clear until full-month statistics are released in the next few days what a dampening effect, if any, the lack of sunshine and even lingering snow flurries played in what’s traditionally one of the busiest home-buying months of the year.
Realtors like Adrienne Farquhar have been working with clients for weeks now to get interiors ready to go and anticipates a flurry of new listings over the next two weeks as the weather improves.
“I see this spring market extending far further into June, more aggressively and positively than in the past,” says Farquhar. “It might just be a later spring market than usual.”
Diane Black, whose Stagesense company works with realtors and sellers, largely in the Mississauga and Oakville areas, to get homes ready for sale, describes this as “one of the worst springs I’ve seen.”
“Everyone was optimistic that we would see an upswing in the market in January and February, but it didn’t really happen. Then we got hit by the weather,” says Black.
“Our curb appeal, in some ways, has to be higher because there’s more of it” on bigger suburban lots. “But it also becomes more of an eyesore when trees and shrubs haven’t filled in. Of course, you can use pictures to show what it usually looks like, but that’s not quite the same.”
This may all seem like small, silly stuff, but in the age of the “HGTV effect” — buyers who won’t settle for anything but a knockout, no-work home — it all adds up in the final sale price.
“We know that buyers make their decisions quickly, and that the first decision is made online,” says Black. “You can get a great feel for the inside of a house on MLS now, but the exterior is a big reason they are coming out to see the house.”
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Susan Pigg| The Toronto Star