First Time Home Buying in Toronto: A Look Back at the 1980s and 1990s

Image: A snapshot of Toronto in the 1980s The 1980s and 1990s were transformative decades for the real estate market in Toronto, Ontario. While interest rates soared and economic challenges arose, people still managed to...

1980s toronto Image: A snapshot of Toronto in the 1980s

The 1980s and 1990s were transformative decades for the real estate market in Toronto, Ontario. While interest rates soared and economic challenges arose, people still managed to enter the housing market and make lifelong investments. In this article, we will explore the experiences of first-time home buyers during this period, providing insights and advice that hold true today.

The 1980s: A Roller Coaster Ride of Interest Rates and Rising Prices

In the 1980s, interest rates reached unprecedented levels. Double-digit rates were the norm, with the Bank Rate peaking at 22% in 1981. Despite the financial roller coaster, home prices in Toronto rose significantly, soaring by 260% from $76,000 in 1980 to $274,000 in 1989.

Janet's Journey: From Freelancer to Real Estate

In 1981, Janet, along with her two brothers, embarked on their first home buying journey. At the ages of 23, 25, and 27, they pooled their resources to purchase a 2.5-story semi-detached home on Grace St. in Trinity Bellwoods. The property was divided into four separate apartments and had a 30 x 100 foot lot.

They acquired the house for $81,000, with a $20,000 down payment that included a loan from their mother and an investment from a third party. Each sibling contributed $1,700 towards the remaining down payment. Janet, a freelancer in the film industry, faced an interest rate of approximately 13.5% at the time of purchase.

Janet eventually bought out her brothers and later sold the Grace St. property to make her next real estate move. This particular property, which was purchased for $81,000, recently sold for an impressive $1.46 million.

John and Ruth's Victorian Dream

In 1986, John and Ruth, both artists, achieved their dream of homeownership. After saving diligently for four years and receiving support from their parents, they purchased a large 3-story semi-detached Victorian home on Langley Avenue in Riverdale.

With a purchase price of $220,000, they managed to provide a $55,000 down payment. Their mortgage rate was 11.25%, which they considered a great achievement. Today, their home would easily be valued in the $2 million range, a testament to the long-term investment potential of Toronto real estate.

The 1990s: Challenges, Decline, and Recovery

The 1990s brought its own set of challenges to the Toronto real estate market. A recession in the early part of the decade and a reduction in immigration led to a decline in home prices. Unemployment rose, causing the average sale price to drop from $255,000 in 1990 to $228,000 in 1999. The market bottomed out in 1996 at $198,000 before gradually recovering.

Laura's Success Story

In 1991, Laura, who worked in the film financing industry, ventured into the real estate market. She purchased a 2-bedroom, 1-bath row/townhouse on Swanwick Ave in the Upper Beaches. This property, with a purchase price of $169,000, was made possible with a $10,000 down payment loaned by her employer.

Laura's interest rate was 11.25%, and her annual salary was $58,000, plus bonuses. Today, this property would likely be worth in the mid $500,000 range, highlighting the continued growth and potential of Toronto's housing market.

Lessons for Today's First-Time Home Buyers

Looking back at the experiences of first-time home buyers in the 1980s and 1990s, there are valuable lessons that still hold true today.

  • Get in the market as soon as you can: Despite the challenges, all of the homeowners interviewed expressed the importance of entering the real estate market early. Don't wait for perfect conditions; start building equity as soon as possible.

  • Consider multiple properties: Many homeowners regret not buying more properties. Real estate has proven to be a lucrative investment over the years, and diversifying your portfolio can lead to greater financial stability.

  • Focus on long-term potential: Minor features like granite countertops should not be the deciding factor in purchasing a property. Instead, consider the potential a home has to offer and its location in a great neighborhood.

As Toronto's real estate market continues to evolve, these timeless lessons can guide first-time buyers towards making smart and informed decisions.

Caption: A snapshot of Toronto in the 1980s