House prices in Toronto are high. Don’t stop the presses, we know. But are they so high they’re unsustainable, like the papers love to claim? Looking at housing price data from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) – which starts in the late 1960s – there’s been an (almost) totally steady increase since the data has been published. The past doesn’t always predict the future, but hey, it’s better than tarot cards or calling Miss Cleo. Let’s look at the numbers.
In 1969, the TREB average sale price of a home in Toronto was an enviable $28,929. According to the Bank of Canada, that would be just over $200,000 in today’s dollars. Pocket change, to some high rollers! But Statistics Canada says that in 1965, men in office jobs in Toronto made between $82 and $130 per week (or just under $7,000 per year – $48,708 in today’s dollars – at the high end). So even then, housing prices may have looked out of reach to many.
Fast forwarding to 1975, even through the oil crisis and recession from 1973-1975, housing prices in Toronto rose, to $57,581. That’s up to $278,725 in today’s dollars, according to the Bank of Canada. By that point, Statistics Canada says the average weekly wage in Ontario (they stopped adding men and women separately by this point) was $204.85, or $10,652.20 per year, or around $51,500 in today’s dollars.
The increases in price finally caught up to the city in 1990, after the average sale price had peaked at $273,698 in 1989. 1990, for those of us old enough to remember it, was another global recession marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the premiere of the Simpsons, Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as Prime Minister of the UK, and the start of the conflict that would lead to the Gulf War. Prices dropped the next year, and every year (save for a small jump between 1994 and 1995) until 1997, where prices started increasing again, although it took until 2002 to beat out the numbers seen in 1989. Still, at all these prices, like the $275,231 average in 2002, look like an absolute steal to anyone looking to buy today.
The 2006 census highlighted that the median earnings of Canadians employed on a full-time basis for a full year had changed little, counting for inflation, since 1980. It said that median pay was $41,348 in 1980 and $41,401 in 2005 (in 2005 constant dollars). Over that same period of time, houses in Toronto went from an average sale price of $75,694 ($190,683.69 in 2005 dollars) in 1980 to $335,907 in 2005. Seems like a bigger change was happening in Toronto housing and again, Toronto housing prices looked like a complete bargain compared to today.
The TREB prices don’t give the entire picture though. For example, according to Listing.ca, in January 2005, the average detached home price in Rosedale-Moore Park was $1,012,814. At the same time, in Forest Hill, Listing.ca says a detached home cost $1,151,835. Today, detached homes in those areas are more like $2.5 million average, according to Listing.ca. So, the TREB numbers may seem low, given that they combine areas of the GTA with significantly lower housing prices and also semi-detached homes and condominiums as well.
Jumping ahead to 2015, TREB says the average sale price for a home was $622,217. Now, the most recent numbers, for 2018, puts the average sale price at $787,300, which is actually a drop in price, thanks to fears about higher interest rates (which the Bank of Canada just left unchanged) and new mortgage rules. Even still, that number is higher than only four years ago.
The sky is falling, according to many, because doom and gloom stories sell newspapers. If you had bought stock in the S&P 500 in September 2008, the last major stock market crash, it would be up 128% over that time, according to DQYDJ. Look even further back, to the dot-com crash of 2000 and your money would still be up 89% since then. If you were old enough to invest in 1987 during Black Monday, your money would still be up 890%.
What would you do if you had a time machine? Or hey, there’s always cryptocurrency.