Area real estate sales reached a new high in 2016 when for the first time, MLS® sales across Southern Georgian Bay broke the $1 billion barrier setting the stage for record sales again in 2017. Attaining this however was seemingly in jeopardy stemming from the fact that new listings coming to market on the MLS® system of the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® have been well below what is needed to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand for area real estate. Despite the fact that new MLS® listings are down 16% to the end of May, MLS® dollar sales thus far in 2017 are running 34% ahead of 2016 with year-to-date sales to the end of May totalling $519.3 million. In essence year-to-date sales are at 52% of last year and we are less than 42% into the year so another $1 billion plus year would appear to be in the offing.
The shortage of listing inventory is however impacting unit sales. MLS® unit sales to the end of May total 1,139 properties, an increase of 6% from one year ago when 1,070 sales were reported. The disparity between MLS® dollar sales being up 34% while MLS® unit sales are only up 6% stems from two reasons.
First, sales at the upper end of the market are running well ahead of 2016. Single family home sales between $500,000 and $800,000 are up 63% to the end of May with 221 sales reported compared to 136 in 2016. Sales between $800,000 and $1 million total 49 properties an increase of 75% over last year. Lastly, MLS® sales above the $1 million mark are up an astounding 146% to the end of May with 59 sales reported in 2017 versus just 24 sales in the first five months of last year. As one would expect, these significant increases in the sale of upper end properties are having a profound affect on driving MLS® dollar sales at a time when MLS® unit sales are increasing only marginally. This increase in the upper price ranges of the market is also having a impact on the "average" single family home price in the area which is why changes in "average" prices can be so misleading. As of the end of May, the 12-month year-to-date average MLS® single family home price for our area has increased almost 35% in large part due to the substantial increases we are experiencing at the upper end of the market.
Another key issue driving the increase in MLS® dollar sales this year are the prices being paid across our region. Multiple offers, once somewhat of a rarity in this market have now become quite commonplace. When a listed property receives multiple offers, the final sale price is all but guaranteed to be at the full list price or in many cases higher. A small condo listed for sale earlier this year in Collingwood attracted 17 offers and sold for $202,000 versus the listed price of $169,000. Similarly, a single family home sold for $517,500, 29% over the $399,900 asking price. Typically the average sale-to-list price ratio for properties sold through the local MLS® system has been about 95%. This has now increased to 97%+ stemming from the strong prices that sellers have been able to get in the current market.
Year-to-date sales across the region vary greatly from municipality to municipality. Total single family home sales are actually down 4% overall to the end of May. Single family home sales in the Blue Mountains however are up 38% while in Grey Highlands, single family home sales are up a more modest 14% followed by Meaford showing a 6% increase in home sales. All other area municipalities however are posting decreases in year-to-date single family home sale activity. Sales in Collingwood are down 9%, single family home sales in Wasaga Beach are down 14% followed by Clearview Township with 12% decrease year over year. Keep in mind these numbers do not reflect new home sales made by developers which typically do not go through the MLS® system. Many new home developments in the area are experiencing strong sales activity thus picking up the resale market slack where shortages in MLS® listings are leaving buyers no choice but to buy new.
Total MLS® condo sales are up a modest 8% year-to-date with 233 units sold compared to 216 last year. Meanwhile, MLS® vacant land sales have surged ahead 69% this year with 210 sales reported through the end of May compared to 124 one year ago. For many buyers in this area the ability to build exactly what they want is attractive but the lack of available housing listed for sale on the local MLS® system is obviously having some impact here as well.
As we head into the final seven months of 2017 we are already seeing a shift in the market. While the demand for area properties remains strong, the frequency of multiple offers with sale prices well over asking and the hyper activity that we have experienced in the first five months of 2017 appears to be waning. This may only be temporary but the real estate market in the Barrie area and the GTA is undergoing the same transition which in turn will impact market activity here. This may not be a bad thing leading to a more balanced and sustainable market long term.