toronto apartment rent

So many new Toronto apartment buildings have offered free rent deals this year

Rent prices seem to be stabilizing in the City of Toronto after more than a year of spiralling downward, but data suggests that tenants will continue to reap the financial benefits of this unprecedented freefall for years to come.

A new report from the analysis firm Urbanation Inc., which has been tracking the GTA's condo and apartment market for 40 years, shows that vacancy rates among newer purpose-built rental apartments in the region reached 6.6 per cent during the first quarter of 2021.

The estimates for buildings in the City of Toronto are even higher, with adjusted vacancy rates of 8.8 percent at residential projects completed since 2005.

This is up from just 1.1 per cent for the same period last year.

An abundance of available apartments in the city has driven competition among renters down, leaving landlords to vie for their attention with lower asking prices and special promotions.

"Average rents for available units within buildings completed since 2005 in the GTA were $2,278 ($3.14 per square foot) during Q1-2021, declining 8.2% (-5.3% per sf) year-over-year," reports  Urbanation. "In the City of Toronto, rents were down 10.1% from a year ago to $2,331 (down 7.7% on a per sf basis to $3.41)."

This posted decline in rents at the buildings surveyed by Urbanation was in addition to what the firm calls "widespread incentives being offered in the market."

"About two-thirds of buildings were offering free rent periods of one to three months to attract new tenants," reads the report. "Urbanation calculated that these free rent periods were equal to a rent reduction of approximately $255 per month when averaged over the course of the initial lease term."

Real estate analysts are starting to see early signs of stabilization on the condo rental market, with moderate month-over-month increases recorded in both February and March.

Average rent prices are still well below what they were before COVID-19 hit, however — and they won't bounce back overnight.

"Total condo rental listings fell 12 per cent quarter-over-quarter, which helped the ratio of quarterly condo leases-to-listings improve to a pandemic high of 61%," notes Urbanation. "Still 10 percentage points below the 10-year average but reaching the lower boundary of a balanced market."

Those who recently signed leases on new pads can be confident that they scored sweet deals if they were, in fact, convinced by landlords with a free month or three of rent.

Fortunately for those who are still thinking about making a move, there's still time to cash in on such incentives. For now.

"The rental market will continue to contend with COVID-19 as the third wave keeps the GTA in a lockdown during the second quarter," says Urbanation president Shaun Hildebrand.

"However, market dynamics were set in motion in the first quarter to generate strengthening rental conditions as the year progresses — particularly later in the second half as the population becomes vaccinated, offices start to reopen, immigration rises and post-secondary students potentially return to in-class learning."

Lead photo by

Clement Lo

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