Sarnia-area real estate slipped into its first buyer’s market in a decade in January, but don’t expect it to last, says the head of the Sarnia-Lambton Association of Realtors.
January sales “were basically flat,” with 72 homes changing hands locally, versus 71 in December, association president Jeremy Guerette said .
But there were 187 new listing in January, “nearly double” December’s tally, he said.
A buyer’s market happens when there are more homes on the market than buyers.
“I would say we did just dip our toe into what I would call a buyer’s market” in January, Guerette said. “We’ve been at that low end of a balanced market for quite some time.”
It’s been 10 years “or better” since that happened in the Sarnia area, he estimated. The local market remained in a seller’s market, with buyers outnumbering listings, through the pandemic, before shifting into what the association called a balanced market in 2023 as interest rates climbed.
“I think the buyer’s market will be short-lived,” Guerette said.
One reason is Toronto’s real estate statistics last month were “quite good,” he said.
Toronto had been in a buyer’s market “for a little bit now,” but returned to a balanced market in January, Guerette said.
Overall, in January, 4,223 sales were reported through the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, up 37 per cent from January 2023.
Sarnia’s market often follows Toronto’s, but can be three to six months behind, Guerette said.
Higher interest rates contributed to the Sarnia market ending 2023 with a nearly seven per cent drop in total sales.
The Bank of Canada, which had been boosting interest rates to battle inflation, held its benchmark lending rate steady at five per cent in December — its third straight hold after a series of hikes beginning in early 2022, when the rate sat at 0.25 per cent.
Guerette said positive signs in Toronto’s market, expectations of interest rate drops this year, and a sense that the “worst of this is behind us” lead him to believe “it shouldn’t take much for us to pop out of the buyer’s market.”
Along with the higher number of listings, the local median home price fell just over nine per cent in January to $450,000, “which is a pretty good drop,” Guerette said.
“I think we’re seeing the lower- to mid-price range” of the market “move a bit more,” which may be a factor in the lower median price, he said.
January’s listing influx may in part reflect the return of many listings taken off the market over the holiday season in December, Guerette said.
The number of days properties were typically listed before selling also rose in January to 41.5 days from 35 in December.
“It is taking just a little longer to sell a house, right now,” Guerette said.
With files from the Financial Post