01/04/2018 10:55 EST | Updated 01/05/2018 21:03 EST

Toronto realtors close 2017 with weak sales, small price increase in December

TORONTO — The Greater Toronto Area real estate market closed out 2017 with a big drop in December home sales, which were down 7.1 per cent from the previous year and down nearly 33 per cent from November's level.

The Toronto Real Estate Board said Thursday there were 92,394 sales through its MLS system in 2017, down from 113,040 in the previous year and the lowest annual sales since 2013 when 87,049 units were sold.

December sales dropped to 4,930 properties, from 5,305 in December 2016, while the average sales price was $735,021 — the second-lowest of any month in 2017 and only slightly better than August's $731,606.

Various real estate experts have said previously that a set of policies introduced by the Ontario government in April produced the desired market slowdown in Toronto during the second and third quarters following a hot first quarter.

Some observers have suggested that buyers and lenders might be more cautious given new federal stress-testing rules, which came into force Jan. 1, and opt for lower-priced properties.

“Much of the sales volatility in 2017 was brought about by government policy decisions," TREB president Tim Syrianos said in a statement. 

"Looking forward, government policy could continue to influence consumer behaviour in 2018, as changes to federal mortgage lending guidelines come into effect."

The average selling price for December in the GTA was $735,021, up a slim 0.7 per cent from the same month of 2016, while the board's home price index was up 7.2 per cent after adjusting for different types of properties.

The Toronto board's director of market analysis, Jason Mercer, said home price growth in the second half of 2017 differed substantially depending on market segment.

"The detached market segment — the most expensive on average — experienced the slowest pace of growth as many buyers looked to less expensive options," Mercer said.

"Conversely, the condominium apartment segment experienced double-digit growth, as condos accounted for a growing share of transactions.”

In December, only the expensive detached house category — which accounted for 39 per cent of total sales — showed a year-over-year decline.

There were 1,938 fully detached houses sold at an average price of $989,970 — which was down 2.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Condominiums accounted for the second-biggest category of sales, with 1,562 units sold, but their average price of $503,968 was up 14.4 per cent from December 2016.