Jump in house listings may signal a cooling in Hamilton's hot housing market

Early indications show a big jump in the number of homes for sale in the Hamilton and Burlington real estate market as of early this week.

Is this a sign of a rebalancing of the market the province was hoping for?

Hamilton's housing market has been a firm seller's market for years, but May shows an increase in the number of homes for buyers to choose from. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

The official housing market numbers for May won't be out for a few days, but early indications show a big jump in the number of homes for sale in the Hamilton and Burlington real estate market as of early this week.

It could be the first sign that provincial moves to cool the GTA and Hamilton hot housing markets are having an effect.

The lower the number of listings, the more tilted the market is in favour of sellers, fostering bidding wars and higher prices.

Consider the symptoms of Hamilton's overheated housing market: Bidding wars with 10-12 offers, offers coming in way over the asking price, or offers submitted with no conditions within a couple of days of the "FOR SALE" sign going up.

Will buyers be so inclined to play by those "rules" if they feel they have more choices?

In April, the provincial government announced measures to try to help cool Toronto's extreme housing market growth, with an additional focus on the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

While most market-watchers would say it's too early to attribute the growth in the number of listings to that government announcement, the local market has a different feel.

But the number of homes listed in December, January, February, March and April were well below the historical norm.

And then, in May, a flood of new listings hit the market. Even in the month-to-date-numbers as of May 29, there were more homes listed for sale than in any month of 2016, according to preliminary numbers from the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington.

The association would not disclose actual numbers for the partial month, but a graph appears to show that in the first 29 days of May, there were almost 50 per cent more homes for sale than in the month previous. And the number of new listings crossed the 1,500 threshold for the first time since November 2015.

Green bars show active listings; blue line shows new listings from November 2014 to the month-to-date numbers for May 2017 as of May 29. (Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington)

Megan Platts, external relations director for the realtors association, said it was hard to know what effect the government's announcement had. Listings tend to peak in May or June in any year; it's called the spring market.

Platts said there were more homes listed in the 10 days preceding the province's announcement on April 20 than in the 10 days after. But the Ontario government had been discussing its intentions to introduce some kind of intervention since earlier in the spring.

Around the time of the announcement, geography professor Richard Harris said that the government's move could have a positive effect on psychology – in lowering feelings of desperation around buying now or being priced out forever.

Anecdotally, some house-hunters and realtors across the GTA and Hamilton say they're already seeing those signs of the market moving toward a better balance.

And in a Globe and Mail article, Hamilton mortgage broker Brian Hogben said he's hearing about fewer bidding wars, and realtors receiving two or three offers on a property instead of a dozen.