Toronto home prices still hot, but suburbs sizzling even more: Royal LePage report

T​oronto home prices are still growing at a torrid pace but housing costs in the suburbs, long thought to be the place to go for bargains, are growing even faster.

All GTA suburbs but Brampton, Milton, Mississauga outpaced growth in Toronto in 3rd quarter of 2016

Growth in housing prices in almost all GTA municipalities outside Toronto are outpacing growth in the city. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

T​oronto home prices are still growing at a torrid pace but housing costs in the suburbs, long thought to be the place to go for bargains, are growing even faster. 

That's according to a new survey released Thursday by Royal LePage, which paints a picture of sizzling growth in the GTA suburbs, with one-time industrial hubs transforming into commuter cities as young professionals venture outside Toronto in search of more affordable housing.

According to the numbers, based on the realtor's quarterly-produced national house price composite, home-price growth in all but three of 11 GTA municipalities soared past the growth in the city itself in the third quarter of 2016, with the biggest growth spurt in Oshawa.

The findings come just one day after federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau touted new measures to stabilize housing prices across the country, including limiting foreign money coming into Canadian real estate.

Those measures also include a new "stress test" for insured mortgages to make sure borrowers are still able to make their payments if interest rates climb in the big banks' five-year posted mortgage rates.

"We need to stay focused on the risk to Canadian families in housing," Morneau said, defending the measures at the Public Policy Forum's Growth Summit in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says Canada is not really one uniform housing market "but really three different markets," adding that Vancouver and Toronto and surrounding areas are experiencing 'unusually high growth.'" (CBC)

"Canada is not really one uniform market but really three different markets," he said, adding that Vancouver and Toronto and surrounding areas are experiencing 'unusually high growth.'"

Now, the numbers

As Thursday's report shows, that is an understatement. Here's a look at the year-over-year percentage increases and the average home prices during the third quarter of this year:

Home prices in Toronto grew by 12.1 per cent to $714,002. That's on par with the national average increase of 12.0 per cent, with the average price of a home in Canada sitting at $545,5414.

But in Oshawa they surged by 26 per cent to $453,975, followed closely by Richmond Hill, where they grew by 25.7 per cent to a whopping $1,074,829 — increases the report says are due to limited inventory and continued interest from foreign buyers.

In Markham, prices grew to an overall average of $870,353, up 15.2 per cent, and in Scarborough they climbed 13.1 per cent to an average of $583,760.

To the west, growth shot up 12 per cent in Brampton to an average of $569,510 and 9.6 per cent in Mississauga to an average of $609,266. In Halton Region, low inventory made Oakville a top performer with a 15.4 per cent increase driving prices to an average of $894,696.

Demand dropping or just displaced?

So how do the price increases in the GTA compare to elsewhere in the province?

According to the report, home prices in the tri-city area of Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge grew 9.1 percent to an average of $371,474 and in Hamilton by 10.3 per cent to an average of $419,830. Ottawa, meanwhile, came in at 3.6 per cent with an average price of $411,654.

For Royal LePage president Phil Soper, the numbers indicate that Canada's real estate market shows no sign of a hard correction. And while news of the new measures will have spooked some consumers, at least for now, early signs show Canadian homebuyers are adjusting quickly, the report says.

Some observers say that while the new mortgage rules, which go into effect Oct. 17, will help to curb some of the demand in the real estate market, their effects will be felt most severely in the Toronto condo market, where sale prices are below $1 million a property and hence subject to the new "stress test" rule.

Last week, CIBC's chief economist Benjamin Tal told CBC News the measure will likely push more potential home buyers to the rental market. That, Tal says, would be a positive shift as long as the government also puts policies in place to make more affordable rental housing available.

"If you remove people from the buying mode, you have to provide them with an alternative."