Canadian Housing Market Showing Signs Of ‘Excess Exuberance,’ Bank Of Canada Warns

Tiff Macklem says he’s surprised by the strength of real estate.

OTTAWA ― Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says the central bank is seeing early signs that people may be purchasing homes solely because they believe prices may go up.

Macklem says rising prices in particular for single-family homes are still a long way from the heated market the country observed about five years ago.

Fuelling the increase has been a combination of demand for more space as millions of workers do their jobs remotely, constrained supply and rock-bottom interest rates driven low by central bank actions.

The bank’s key policy rate has been at 0.25 per cent for about 11 months, and its quantitative easing program is trying to reduce the rates paid on things like mortgages to drive spending.

Macklem says the central bank is surprised by the rebound in the housing market.

He adds there are early signs of what he called “excess exuberance,” with people maybe expecting the recent increases in prices to go on indefinitely.

“What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolated expectations, when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price increases we’ve seen recently go on indefinitely,” Macklem said during a question-and-answer session with chambers of commerce in Edmonton and Calgary.

“We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance, but we’re a long way from where we were in 2016-2017 when things were really hot.”

Macklem says there is still a need for considerable monetary policy support to generate a complete recovery.

In the meantime, the bank will keep an eye on debt levels, as mortgage debt rises as households pay down other debt like credit cards and personal loans, Macklem says.

“We are acutely aware that in a world of very low interest rates, there is a risk that housing prices could get stretched, households could get stretched, and certainly that’s a risk we want to guard against,” Macklem told reporters following the speech

Canada’s Supply Of Homes For Sale Lowest On Record As Prices Jump 23%

 Canada needs “a big surge of supply” to stop runaway house price growth, and that might happen when the pandemic ends.

House price growth in Canada is out of control, and the chief economist at the country’s real estate association says that won’t change until the pandemic lets up, and more people list their homes for sale.

The average resale price for all property types in January was $621,525, up 22.8 per cent from a year ago, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said Tuesday.

The number of home sales was up 35.2 per cent from a year ago, to the highest total for a January on record. Meanwhile, new listings plunged 13.5 per cent nationally, and by around 35 per cent in Toronto and Montreal, creating a record shortage of available homes.

“There were only 1.9 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of January 2021 – the lowest reading on record for this measure,” the Canadian Real Estate Association said in a statement, adding that some 35 Ontario markets have less than one month of inventory.

In Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., the ratio of sales to new listings was above 100 in January.

“This means that there were more sales than new units listed last month in these provinces. This is a rare situation, but has occurred before in the Atlantic provinces. However, January marked a first on this front in Quebec,” TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi wrote in a client note.

Sales-to-new-listings ratios were also very high in Ontario and Manitoba, bringing the national ratio to 90.7, its highest level in 19 years.

Economists credit record-low interest rates with spurring the homebuying boom. Even as prices have soared, monthly mortgage payments have fallen, making home ownership more affordable ― at least for those who can save up the record-high down payment needed to afford a home today.

“A big surge in supply is what so many markets really need this year to get people into the homes they want, and to keep prices from accelerating any more than they already are,” CREA senior economist Shaun Cathcart said in a statement Tuesday.

“We’re unlikely to see a rush of listings until the weather and public health situations improve, and we won’t see buyers until those homes come up for sale.”

TD’s Sondhi predicts that “with sales likely running above fundamentally-supported levels… some cooling in activity will take place, especially in the second half (of the year).”

BMO: ‘Your House Makes More Than You Do’

This can’t last.

If you own a home in Montreal, B.C.’s Fraser Valley or just about anywhere in Ontario, there’s a good chance your house is earning more money than you are.

With home sales on a tear across Canada this winter, “house prices are not only rising faster than family income, they are rising more than total annual income,” Bank of Montreal senior economist Sal Guatieri wrote in a client note Wednesday, titled “Your house earns more than you.”

That’s not necessarily true everywhere. If you live in the Prairie provinces, the single-digit price growth there wouldn’t match a median household income, but it’s true for virtually every market in Ontario, while many places in B.C. ― Chilliwack, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley ― came very close.

In the Hamilton-Burlington real estate market southwest of Toronto, the benchmark house price rose by $154,000 in the past year, to $786,600. That’s double the $75,464 median household income for the area, as reported in the 2016 census.

“It’s clearly unsustainable in the long run, as affordability would deteriorate pretty quickly if it continued,” Guatieri wrote in an email to HuffPost Canada.

Still, Guatieri doesn’t see a correction in the cards this year “as demand is simply too strong relative to limited supply, but we do expect sales levels and price growth to moderate as affordability weakens and pent-up demand from teleworkers ebbs.”

One thing that could take some steam out of house prices would be rising mortgage rates, and there is some chance of that in the coming months. Mortgage rates tend to move with the interest paid on government bonds, and those have jumped in recent weeks.

“We doubt either scenario would send house prices into reverse,” he wrote in a client note, adding that this would reduce the maximum purchase price by only a few percentage points.

BMO’s Guatieri doesn’t expect much of an increase in mortgage rates for one key reason ― the Bank of Canada won’t allow it.

“Central banks are pretty determined to keep the stimulus taps wide open,” he wrote.

Select cities where houses are making more than households:

Greater Toronto

Benchmark house price: $941,100
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $100,082
Median household income: $78,373

Greater Montreal

Benchmark house price: $434,200
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $62,000
Median household income: $61,790

Fraser Valley, B.C.

Benchmark house price: $911,300
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $75,900
Median household income: $69,289

Ottawa, Ont.

Benchmark house price: $561,000
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $102,000
Median household income: $86,541

Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ont.

Benchmark house price: $660,900
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $126,800
Median household income: $94,057

Mississauga, Ont.

Benchmark house price: $988,500
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $107,000
Median household income: $83,018

Simcoe, Ont.

Benchmark house price: $478,800
House price change, Jan. 2020-Jan. 2021: $108,100
Median household income: $76,489 
Benchmark house prices from the Canadian Real Estate Association. Household income data from the Canada Census 2016.

Rural Canada Is ‘Getting Its Mojo Back,’ And Here Are The Top Boomtowns Goodbye, Toronto, hello… North Bay?

If you want to know where people are moving these days, just ask U-Haul. The do-it-yourself moving company has developed a system for tracking migration patterns by looking at the pick-up and drop-off locations of its trucks and trailers.

It’s “an effective gauge of how well cities are attracting and maintaining residents,” the company says, and in the pandemic year of 2020, it seems the Canadian city that saw the biggest growth on that front was North Bay.

Yes, that North Bay. The often-overlooked small city in northern Ontario saw the largest increase in inbound U-Haul trucks, compared to outbound trucks, of any place in Canada. It didn’t even place in the top 25 the year before.

“The cost of living is low and the (federal) government is sending jobs in this direction.” said Wayne Curtis, president of U-Haul Company of Central Ontario.

1  North Bay, Ont.
2  North Vancouver, B.C.
3  Kingston, Ont.
4  Belleville, Ont.
5  Barrie/Orillia, Ont.
6  Sudbury, Ont.
7  Vancouver, B.C.
8  Chilliwack, B.C.
9 Chatham, Ont.
10  Sarnia, Ont.
11  Abbotsford, B.C.
12  Peterborough, Ont.
13  St. Thomas, Ont.
14  Lethbridge, Alta.
15  Brantford, Ont.
16  Quebec City
17  Sherbrooke, Que.
18  Nanaimo/Coombs, B.C.
19  Airdrie, Alta.
20  Shawinigan, Que.

In fact, 10 of the top 20 cities on U-Haul’s list of top “growth cities” are smaller cities in Ontario that, until recently, were not exactly considered magnets for migrants. And many of the cities on the list are near one of Canada’s major metro areas ― another sign that city dwellers are packing up and moving amid lockdowns and an economic slowdown.

Notably absent from the list are Canada’s two largest cities, Toronto and Montreal. They clocked the fastest out-migration on record between mid-2019 and mid-2020, though the trend began even before COVID-19 prompted people to look for more spacious homes in less crowded (and more affordable) cities.

It’s a similar situation in the U.S., where U-Haul’s analytics found California, Illinois and New Jersey (i.e., L.A., Chicago and suburban New York) are bleeding residents while the hottest boomtowns are small places, particularly in Florida.

It’s a little different in Vancouver, where the number of people leaving the region accelerated, but so did the number of people moving into the region. For that reason, both Vancouver and North Vancouver ride high among Canada’s “growth cities” on the U-Haul list.

It represents “younger generations who are slowly and quietly abandoning city life,” Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, wrote this week.

“Of course, the cost of city dwelling is a cruel barrier. … Real estate is now out of reach for many households with low incomes. CIBC’s latest report on income gaps clearly demonstrates how COVID has made the poor poorer. Leaving cities is more tempting than ever.”

Charlebois says the migration out of cities offers new economic opportunities for businesses in rural areas ― even if urban-focused chains like Starbucks suffer in the meantime.

“Unique restaurants and retailers could see more people give these remotely located outlets a second wind,” he wrote.

“With what’s happening, rural Canada may be getting its mojo back, which is not necessarily a bad thing.”

‘Saving For A Down Payment Has Never Been Worse,’ Says National Bank Of Canada

The threshold every buyer has to meet to own a home ― the minimum down payment ― has reached Canada’s highest level on record, a new report says.

With house prices rising at their fastest pace in 11 years, it would take a median-earning household 60 months to save up a minimum down payment on a house today, according to National Bank of Canada’s latest housing affordability monitor.

That’s the longest it has been in 40 years of home-affordability records, topping the previous peak at the height of the 1990 housing bubble.

“At a national level, there has never been a worse time to accumulate the minimum down payment,” economists Kyle Dahms and Camille Baillargeon wrote.

The time needed to save for a down payment on a house in Canada has reached a record high, even above that seen during the 1990 housing bubble.

National Bank’s estimates assume a 10-per-cent savings rate, and a 6-per-cent down payment.

Broken down by city, famously unaffordable Vancouver takes top spot for the country’s least accessible housing market. At the median household income, it takes 58 months to save up for a condo down payment there, or 409 months for a detached home ― roughly 34 years.

In Toronto, it would take 51 months to save up for a condo or 289 months (roughly 24 years) for a detached house. Contrast that with Edmonton, where a condo takes 15 months and a detached home 28 months.

Months needed for down payment

What these numbers really mean is that you can’t actually buy a home in these markets on an average income, unless you are trading up from a home you bought when prices were lower, or get help with the down payment.

But if you’re already in the market, you may be finding it easier to pay your mortgage these days. Thanks to falling interest rates in the pandemic, mortgage payments have come down for three straight quarters, the National Bank report said.

And the forecasts aren’t calling for much relief for homebuyers soon. In a report in mid-January, Royal Bank of Canada predicted that the benchmark price of a home in Canada will rise another 8.9 per cent this year, to $669,000.

“The pandemic changed some dynamics — it drove many buyers to the suburbs, exurbs and beyond, ground immigration to virtual halt, triggered a downturn in big cities’ rental markets and caused households to build up their savings—but it didn’t dial down the market’s heat,” RBC economist Robert Hogue wrote.

National Bank’s economists expect rising prices will soon overtake falling mortgage rates, and monthly mortgage payments will likely start to rise again.

However, most forecasts of rising house prices came out before the latest Statistics Canada data showing the country’s economy accelerating more than expected.

The possibility that Canada’s economy could return to normal faster than expected has many experts saying Canada could see interest rate hikes sooner than expected, which could dampen the housing market’s strength going forward.

Canada’s Average House Price Soars 17.5% In ‘Very Strange Year’ For Real Estate

Home sales soared 45.6 per cent from a year earlier, the Canadian Real Estate Association says.

Canada’s housing market has come racing out of the pandemic lockdowns this spring, setting a third consecutive monthly record for home sales in September.

The association says September home sales were up 45.6 per cent compared with the same month last year. Compared with August, CREA says home sales were up 0.9 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Month-over-month gains in Ottawa, Greater Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Calgary and Hamilton-Burlington, Ont., were mostly offset by declines in the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal.

The actual national average home price also set another record in September at $604,000, up 17.5 per cent from the same month last year.

CREA says excluding sales in Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive housing markets, lowers the national average price about $125,000.

“Many Canadian housing markets are continuing to see historically strong levels of activity as we enter into the fall market of this very strange year,” CREA chair Costa Poulopoulos said in a statement.

“Along with historic supply shortages in a number of regions, fierce competition among buyers has been putting upward pressure on home prices. Much of that was pent-up demand from the spring that came forward as our economies
opened back up over the summer.”

The Ontario Real Estate Board earlier this month requested that open houses be suspended during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many economists who chimed on in the latest CREA numbers said the aggressively strong market can’t continue.

“We doubt that this recent sizzling strength can persist amid some of the building headwinds, which should at least somewhat tame market conditions in the months ahead,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said.

“The underlying economic conditions simply do not support such a piping hot market over a sustained period.”

HuffPost Canada, with files from The Canadian Press

Risk of Increased Housing Inequality in Canada

The Canadian real estate market experienced a sudden increase in home prices during the last few months, as the pandemic unfolded. Still, it is not clear whether this will be a long-term trend or just something short-lived. Meanwhile, fears of rising housing inequalities are on the horizon, as people’s incomes and purchasing power are affected differently by COVID-19.

Home Price Changes

As the pandemic swept through the country, its economic impact was immediately visible; COVID-19 led to increased federal government debt, shattered thousands of businesses and wiped out 1.1 million jobs.

In spring, research consultancy firm Capital Economics predicted that the pandemic would help push home prices down marginally. However, once the lockdown measures were lifted, a string of hot months followed for the housing market. As a result, the company later forecasted a 12% jump in Canada’s average resale home price in the next few years. That’s on top of the fact that the average price already witnessed an 18.5% increase these last 12 months, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Mortgage rates have hit all-time lows, with 5-year fixed-rate mortgages sporting rates of less than 2%. According to Capital Economics senior economist Stephen Brown, falling mortgage rates have contributed to a 24% jump in buyers’ purchasing power over the last two years, although average home prices have risen by only 4% in the same time frame. He noted:

“There is still scope for overall home prices to rise sharply, primarily due to much lower borrowing costs.”

Credit ratings agency Moody’s Analytics, on the other hand, believes the recent price surges will not last long. Despite mortgage deferrals and low mortgage rates contributing to a strong housing market so far, the company predicted it would all soon fade as lower incomes and high unemployment will end up hindering homebuying.

According to their report, the largest house price declines were recorded in Calgary and Edmonton, two cities already affected by the struggling oil and gas industries.

Moody’s forecasted a 7% decline in Canadian home prices for 2021 and stated prices would fully recover to pre-COVID levels only by 2023. The agency’s economist Abhilasha Singh also mentioned:

“The pandemic will lead to even further widening in economic inequality, including housing.”

Housing Inequality: Houses vs Condos

Due to growing health concerns and the rise in remote work, the demand for more spacious houses has increased. Brown noted that as people’s preferences have changed, the need for condos might end up being overshadowed by that of detached homes altogether, with prices being affected as well. For instance, the sales to new listings ratio in Toronto would already suggest a 5% price decline for condos in the area.

Still, Brown believes the mass departure from cities in favor of smaller markets with bigger homes is not a trend that’s here to stay in the long run. He thinks COVID-19 merely accelerated normal life choices for a specific category of residents:

“Say for example a certain (percentage) of 30-35 year olds move to the suburbs each year to start a family. The pandemic has encouraged a much bigger share to move this year….”

Singh pointed once more to a rise in housing inequality and stated that condos would continue to be on the radar in the years to come, especially for residents that have been affected by the pandemic to a larger extent:

“While demand for single-family homes with ample space and large pantries may rise, so too might demand for smaller apartments and condos given the struggle many families will face in saving for a down payment.”

Home Sales Returned To Their Booming Ways In June Amid Pandemic

The average cost to buy a home in Canada has climbed to $539,000.

OTTAWA — The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) says home sales continued to rebound in June after plunging earlier this year due to the pandemic.

The association said Wednesday that sales in June were up 63 per cent on a month-over-month basis, while the number of newly listed properties climbed 49.5 per cent from May to June.

Compared with a year ago, sales in June were up 15.2 per cent.

The actual national average price for homes sold in June was almost $539,000, up 6.5 per cent from the same month last year.

The real estate industry came to a near standstill earlier this year as non-essential businesses closed to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CREA said the jump in sales returned them to “normal levels” for June, noting they were up 150 per cent from where they were in April.

But while it may be hitting “normal levels,” the overall market is “obviously not back to normal at this point,” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist.

“The market has recovered much faster than many would have thought, but what happens later this year remains a big question mark,” said Cathcart in a statement.

“That said, daily tracking suggests that July, at least, will be even stronger.”

Though the numbers, at a glance, appear to suggest there was not “anything amiss in the economy whatsoever,” BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said the housing market now must keep up its momentum.

Porter said that looking further out, the market will have to balance slowing immigration levels, low interest rates and short housing supply — creating a “tension” with “lasting scars from the shutdowns.”

“Home sales, prices and starts have effectively regained all the ground lost during the shutdown,” Porter wrote in a note to clients.

“However, fair point that some of this outsized strength is simply pent-up demand for the lost sales from the key spring season.”

Quebec To Allow Public Gatherings Of Up To 250 People Starting Aug. 3

The new guidelines apply to public gatherings both indoors and outdoors.

 MONTREAL — Quebec says it will permit indoor and outdoor public gatherings of up to 250 people across the province beginning Aug. 3.

The directive announced Thursday doesn’t include private gatherings in places such as homes and chalets, where the 10-person limit remains in force.

By increasing the limit to 250 people from 50, the government is hoping to give a revenue boost to venues hosting sports and cultural events, which have been hit hard by the pandemic-induced shutdowns.

The new directive applies to all entertainment venues across Quebec, including concert halls, theatres and movie houses.

It also applies to places of worship, rented halls and amateur sport training and competitions.

Quebecers will still be required to keep a two-metre distance from one another and, when that’s not possible, to wear a mask.

“With this announcement, we are allowing the Quebec population to appreciate in greater numbers the many cultural spaces that delight the young and old,” Culture Minister Nathalie Roy said in a news release.

Anyone participating in an indoor event will need to wear a mask when they are moving around. They will be allowed to remove their mask when sitting down to watch a show or sporting event.

“Our analysis of the situation makes it possible to increase the number of people who can be accommodated in these places,” Masse said.

Quebec reported 142 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, but no additional deaths.

The total number of deaths in the province is 5,662, and total cases rose to 58,080. Health authorities said hospitalizations dropped by 14 to 221. Of those, 14 patients were in intensive care, a reduction of two.

Health officials completed 14,725 tests July 21, the last day for which data is available. At least 50,505 people have recovered from the disease.

Condos May Be On The Way Out, Statistics Canada Predicts

Former Airbnb units are hitting the market at a time when buyers are looking further out of the city.

Is the golden age of high-rise condos behind us?

Statistics Canada thinks that might be the case. The agency put out two reports this week in which it predicted that the shift to working from home, and the bust-out of short-term rentals amid the pandemic, will depress demand for condos in the longer run.

“As working from home becomes more prevalent, we may see an increase in the demand for larger living spaces that single-family homes can offer, causing a shift in demand from condominium apartments towards single houses,” StatCan said in a rare bit of crystal ball-gazing this week.

“Builders may start catering to buyers’ preferences by offering additional office space in the design of their new homes to accommodate remote working arrangements.”

In an outlook published this week, the agency predicted that in the country’s three largest housing markets ― Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver ― condos will come under pressure.

“Prior to the pandemic, Toronto was experiencing an exodus of middle class families to surrounding cities. This population outflow was previously overshadowed by immigration which has now decreased due to the impacts of the pandemic. This will likely also drive down the price of condominiums in the medium to long term,” the agency said.

“Similarly to Toronto, Vancouver has a potential of short term rentals flooding the market and thus causing a decline in condominium prices in the short to medium term.”

Recent data from real estate groups is pointing in the same direction.

An analysis from real estate portal Zoocasa found that in June there was a 257-per-cent spike in available condo rentals in Toronto buildings known to be “Airbnb-friendly.” That compares to an 83-per-cent increase, versus a year ago, in available rentals in the city as a whole.

“A significantly slower tourism industry is forcing many short-term rental investors to consider recalibrating their income strategy to either seek long-term tenants or consider offloading their investment entirely,” Zoocasa’s head of communications, Jannine Rane, wrote on the portal’s blog.

Meanwhile, a large share of homebuyers is looking to purchase on the edges of the city, or outside the city altogether, a phenomenon that seems to be happening in cities around the world, including in New YorkLondon and the San Francisco Bay Area. As with Toronto, in many cases, it’s an acceleration of existing trends.

In a recent Nanos poll for the Ontario Real Estate Association, 60 per cent of respondents said they found rural living more appealing than before the pandemic.

Exodus to cottage country

Near Greater Toronto, real estate agents are reporting a “full-on frenzy” in the Muskoka cottage-country region north of the city. Home sales were up 30 per cent in June at the real estate board that covers the area, compared to the same month a year earlier.

“This is the highest demand we’ve seen for waterfront properties on record, with sales activity bouncing from recent lows to hit the largest sales record for any month in history,” Lakelands Association of Realtors president Catharine Inniss said in a statement.

And while Toronto’s real estate board cheerily reported a rebound in sales and a nearly 12-per-cent increase in the average selling price in June, the condo market there is showing signs of softening.

Condo sales were 16.3 per cent lower in June than a year earlier, while detached home sales were up 5.6 per cent.

The MLS home price index shows condo prices have fallen or stopped growing in the past few months in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

In a recent report, Toronto real estate agent Doug Vukasovic noted that the very high prices in city cores are also driving people to look further outside the city.

“But bang for your buck may no longer be telling the whole story,” Vukasovic wrote. “Anticipating a post-pandemic ‘new normal’ of more flexible work and commuting arrangements, could buyers be prioritizing a bit more space ― and even a bit of backyard ― over being in the midst of the action downtown?

“Time will tell if this trend continues and Toronto’s suburbs continue their growing appeal.”