A Market Balanced on the Edge

From a slow winter and spring, May jump started the summer market with an increase in sales, which continued through June and July.  Prices increased, but at it’s slowest pace over the past four years.

Homes under 1-Million have become a ‘hot’ item this summer due to the mortgage rule changes last year, which eliminated mortgage insurance on homes over 1-Million.  We continued to see sales increase as people act on their lower pre-approval rate holds.   Some buyers still have the 2.89%/2.99% 5-year rate holds that will be good until September or October of 2013.   Since the end of May, mortgage rates have increased to a new standard of 3.5% or higher.  A 0.6% rate difference can mean a savings of over $20,000 in interest costs over the 5-year term on a purchase price of $500,000.

In all major cities there has been pressure on rental markets, lowering vacancies and increasing rents.  In Calgary, the floods have increased this pressure and impacted the number of Luxury homes selling in the Calgary area.  Wealthy neighbourhoods along the Elbow River were among the hardest hit, forcing families to find new homes while the repairs or replacements can take place.

There has been a shift happening in most markets across Canada, many saying that the soft landing is in motion and we are for the most part experiencing a balanced market.  But some economist believe this is dragging out the inevitable crash that will see home values decreasing by upwards of 25% across the nation and in particular in Toronto’s over supplied condo market.

More highlights from July’s headlines:

Overall Market

  •  The Bank of Canada, which calls households owing more than 250% of their gross income “highly indebted,” said last month that household imbalances remain the biggest domestic risk to the financial system.
  • Michael Hsu, vice president at Ipsos in Toronto said “most of the debt Canadians are accumulating is going into real estate and right now the real estate market is holding up quite nicely.”
  • After a long cold spring that dampened house hunting, May sales of existing homes rose 3.6%, the biggest monthly gain in almost 2-1/2 years, returning the market almost to where it was before Canada’s Conservative government tightened lending rules in mid-2012 to stave off a housing bubble.
  • Housing starts also jumped much more than expected in the month, adding to evidence that late-spring buyers have breathed life back into a market that some had forecast was heading over a cliff.
  • Variable rate mortgages, which track prime and are vulnerable to Bank of Canada decisions, are still being offered at about 2.6% for five years. But instead of competing with a 3% fixed rate five-year close mortgage, the competition is a 3.5% product.
  • “There is no question that the housing market in Canada is overshooting,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist of CIBC World Markets. “Now the cocktail party conversation in Canada is: ’Will this lead to a U.S.-style crash?’”
  • The market for homes under $1-million has become “red hot,” agents say, and that’s at least partly because new rules brought in by Ottawa last year make it impossible to get a loan backed by mortgage-default insurance if the property is valued in the seven figures.
  • Sales of single-family homes over $1-million were up by more than 60% in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto in the first half of the year compared with the last half of 2012, according to a report released by Sotheby’s International Realty.
  • Year over year, sales of luxury single-family homes were up a more modest 10% in Calgary and down by 2% in Vancouver and 5% in Toronto.
  • Rates on the five-year mortgage have been rising steadily since the beginning of May in response to bond yields. At one point the Bank of Montreal offered a five-year, fixed rate closed mortgage for as little as 2.99% but that’s now up to 3.59%.
  • July started with BMO’s five-year fixed mortgage climbing 0.20 per cent to 3.59 and RBC’s was set at 3.69.
  • Canadian home resale prices advanced at the slowest pace in almost four years last month led by a decline in Vancouver, according to the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index.
  • Prices across 11 cities rose 1.8% in June from a year ago, National Bank Financial. That is the slowest since a 0.3% gain in October 2009. Vancouver prices dropped 2.8%, the 11th straight decline, while Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, saw a 3.6% gain that was the slowest in almost four years.
  • The index, which was set at a reading of 100 in June 2005, climbed to a record 157 in today’s report, meaning resale prices have increased 57% over that time. Prices rose to record highs in six of the 11 cities tracked by Teranet.
  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp also revised May starts higher, to 204,616 from the 200,178 originally reported. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts was 199,586 units in June, according to data from the Canadian government’s housing agency. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected 187,000 starts in June.
  • The Canadian dollar rose from its lowest level in almost two years before a report Tuesday forecast to show the pace of home construction in June stayed above the year-to-date average for the second month in a row.
  • About two-thirds of first-time buyers say they’ll purchase a home as planned and are unaffected by new mortgage rules brought in by Ottawa a year ago, says a new survey.
  • The federal agency reported that the New Housing Price Index rose 0.1 per cent in May across the country thanks to a 0.9 per cent hike in the Calgary census metropolitan area.
  • CMHC market analyst Lance Jakubec’s opinion, the uptick in single-family home starts demonstrates Metro Vancouver is “a large, metropolitan area, a popular area for people to move to.” Jakubec said construction activity has moved up in recent months. In June, the pace that builders were starting new homes increased to the point where they will have begun 17,575 new unit by the end of the year if the pace holds, according to the CMHC’s measure of the trend-line for construction.
  • Building permits are a leading indicator of builders’ future intentions, and the latest report from Statistics Canada hinted that the region may continue to see lower levels of construction. Metro Vancouver’s builders took out $556 million worth of permits in May, which was down 13 per cent from April and down 30 per cent from the same month a year ago.
  • B.C. as a whole saw the biggest month-to-month decline in residential building permits. Across the province builders took out $596 million worth of permits for residential building projects, down 15.5 per cent from April and 10-per-cent below levels a year ago.
  • Canada saw residential permit values hit $4.6 billion in May, up 4.5 per cent from April and 3.4-per-cent more than the same month a year ago, according to Statistics Canada.
  • Canadian housing price drops as little as 2 per cent to 3 per cent is a far cry from the 40 per cent to 70 per cent collapse in housing prices in the epicentres of the U.S. boom and bust, notably California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
  • Stephen Poloz, who took over as central bank governor in June, decided to again leave the BoC’s key borrowing rate at 1% — where it has been since September 2010 — was the first opportunity to directly influence monetary policy.
  • Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in June were down from a year ago but up from the previous month. The association says sales last month were down 0.6% from a year ago, but up 3.3% when compared with May.
  • When compared with a year ago, Toronto and Montreal were lower, while Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton were up compared with last June.
  • CREA says some 240,068 homes have sold in Canada through its MLS system so far this year, down 6.9% from the first half of 2012.
  • CREA president Laura Leyser noted that June was the second month in a row where sales improved in a majority of local markets. “Whether those gains reflect temporary factors or a fundamental improvement after a slow start to the year really depends on where you are,” Leyser said.
  • Higher interest rates helped national home sales inch upwards in June, from May, buoyed by buyers holding pre-approved mortgages deciding not to wait any longer, the Canadian Real Estate Association reports.
  • A study released by the Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) found that 83 per cent of Canadians surveyed admit to having some form of debt, an increase from 74 per cent a year earlier. The poll also found that the average amount of monthly debt repayment has fallen by 13 per cent from a national average of $1,138 to $986. Regionally, those in Alberta had the highest amount of debt payments each month at $1,225, while those who live in Quebec reported the least amount at $768.
  • A study from Canso Investment Counsel, a corporate bond management firm, says mortgage securitization — bundling mortgages together and selling them to investors — has spiralled out of control in Canada in recent years. The result, the report said, is that the proportion of government-insured mortgages in Canada went from 30 per cent in 1988 to 75 per cent in 2013.

Predictions

  • Tal,a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce employee, believes that Canada will come in for a soft landing, not a crash. But Toronto’s condo industry still feels uncertain.
  • If anything, the gap might widen between rates for short-term and long-term mortgages, after being historically low. “It means sensitivity to interest rates will rise because people will go to what is affordable,” said Mr. Tal.
  • A sustained rise in interest rates of just one per cent could cause Toronto area home sales to tumble by 15.3 per cent and prices to decline by 5.8 per cent by 2015, predicts a veteran housing analyst.
  • Many economists believe Toronto’s decade-long housing boom has been largely credit-driven and that, as rates start climbing, the bubble could burst, especially in what the Bank of Canada has warned is the city’s over-supplied condo sector.
  • “The real test will come in the fall,” says Dunning. chief economist for the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, when those pre-approvals have expired, especially if rates hold at their new or even slightly higher levels.
  • Overall, the Canadian housing market is expected to see a pickup in sales in the second half of 2013, but prices are likely to remain soft into mid-2014 when the country should start emerging from what’s nothing more than a “normal cyclical correction” that began a year ago, says a market survey forecast. Calgary is expected to lead the way, with 6.5 per cent house price growth by the end of this year, followed by Regina (5.8 per cent), and Winnipeg (3.9 per cent).
  • TD Bank economist Diana Petramala said she expects sales to slow down during the summer and fall, but noted they should remain at healthy levels.

Vancouver

  • Home sales in the Vancouver area were up 11.9% in June compared with a year ago, according to the latest MLS figures.
  • Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) says there were 2,642 homes sold through its Multiple Listing Service last month, up from 2,362 sales in June 2012, but down from the 2,882 sales in May 2013.
  • REBGV said the June sales were 22.2% below the 10-year average for the month, while new listings for the month were 11.5% below the 10-year average.
  • The total number of properties listed for sale on the MLS system in Greater Vancouver was 17,289, down 6% from a year ago and up 0.4% compared with May 2013.
  • The MLS Home Price Index composite benchmark price for Greater Vancouver was $601,900, down 3% compared with a year ago.
  • “The market was moderating in the second half of 2012. Then we’ve had an inflection point, and went into a moderate positive trend since the beginning of 2013,” said Mathieu Laberge, deputy chief economist at CMHC. “We should see this type of trend for housing starts going forward. The agency, which insures the majority of mortgages Canadian banks issue, expects average national prices to rise 1.6% in 2013 and 2.1% in 2014, which would be the “soft-landing” policymakers want and a long way from dire predictions of a 10% to 25% price crash.
  • Others believe the spring surge may reflect demand that was held back by the tighter rules, and the housing market’s failure to really cool means a bubble is starting to inflate again. Official Canadian interest rates are not expected to rise until late 2014, so mortgage rates won’t rise fast or furiously.
  • “A lot of forecasters like myself are expecting a relatively flat market, but there’s a significant upside risk that if rates remain at current levels indefinitely, you’re going to start to heat the housing market back up,” said Craig Alexander, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada’s second-largest lender.
  • Intentions of buying a condo in Vancouver has dipped by five points, from 33 per cent in the fall to 28 per cent.
  • In its most recent sales report, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said realtors sold 1,068 apartments in the month of June, a rebound of 4.1 per cent over the same month a year ago. Sales of detached homes, however, were up 20 per cent.
  • On pricing, the board reported that the benchmark condo price hit $369,800 in June, which is up 2.2 per cent from January, but still 1.9 per cent below where prices were a year ago and a level that hasn’t gained any ground over the last five years.
  • The board’s benchmark for detached homes of $919,900, however, while still down 4.3 per cent from levels a year ago, is up about 15 per cent over the last five years.
  • In Vancouver “balanced” market conditions exist, according to the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver real estate boards.
  • The total number of Greater Vancouver MLS listings has fallen six per cent in the past year to 17,289. Fraser Valley listings have declined one per cent in the past year to 10,515.
  • The benchmark price for all Greater Vancouver residential properties sits at $601,900 — a three-per-cent decline from a year ago but a 2.3-per-cent increase from January.
  • The benchmark price for a Fraser Valley single family home has risen 0.2 per cent in the past year to $552,200 but the benchmark price for townhouses in the region has fallen 2.1 per cent in the past 12 months to $298,700.
  • Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver president-elect Ray Harris said, “We saw price declines in the second half of last year but have gained a lot of that back this year.”
  • Langley has a sales-to-listings ratio of 26 per cent, which approaches sellers’ market conditions.
  • In Vancouver, which has seen some of the biggest drops in sales of all major Canadian cities since the market started softening last spring, condo prices were down 3.3 per cent, to an average $490,475, as of the end of June.
  • Detached bungalows saw price declines of 3.2 per cent during the same period, bringing the average price to just over $1 million, and the standard two-storey home dropped by 2.3 per cent to an average of $1.15 million.
  • Vancouver’s famously overpriced housing market continues its own correction, with prices down three per cent, and condo markets around the country are under pressure.

Toronto

  • Housing sales in the Greater Toronto Area were down by less than 1% in June compared with the same month a year ago, while the average selling price was up by 4.7% at $531,374, according to a report by Toronto Real Estate Board.
  • June price growth was driven by single-detached and semi-detached houses, particularly in the city of Toronto.
  • Over the same time period, average condominium apartment selling prices remained in line with 2012 levels, it said.
  • “While the number of transactions was still down compared to 2012, rates of decline were substantially improved compared to the first quarter.”
  • Detached home sales in Toronto’s 416 area code were down 6.9% at 1,137 in June, but the average price was up 8.1% at $866,326.
  • 3.2% increase in sales to 3,411 in the 905 area, where year-over-year prices were up 4.9% at $598,708.
  • 416 area saw a 3.1% decrease in sales to 380, but a 9.5% increase in prices to $618,194, and a 0.8% increase to 623 in the 905 area where prices were up 3.7% at $411,877.
  • Condo apartment sales were down 4% at 1,329 in the 416 area, while the average price was relatively stable, up just 0.3% at $366,532.
  • At the same time, 905-area sales were down 2.3% at 556, with the average year-over-year selling price up 0.9% at $288,604.
  • Low vacancy rates in Toronto make it easy for condo owners to find renters, while resale statistics suggest that most of those investor-purchasers are holding their units for long-term gains rather than flipping them for quick profits.
  • Canadian banks have also kept tight rein on developers. Before developers are lent construction money, they generally must sell 70 to 80% of units in any project in advance. Given that, Urbanation, a company that tracks the Toronto condo industry for developers and lenders, estimates that 89% of the units now being built in Toronto are already sold.
  • In Toronto, 31 per cent of prospective buyers plan to purchase a condo in the next five years, up 11 points.
  • GTA prices were up 4.7 per cent year-over-year to an average $531,374, while Vancouver prices slipped by 3 per cent.
  • Even condo prices held steady, with GTA sales prices averaging $343,546 across the GTA ($366,532 in the 416 region and $288,604 in the 905 regions), despite the fact the inventory of condos for sale remains at unusually high levels and sales were down 3.5 per cent.
  • As of the end of June, the average sale price of a detached bungalow in the GTA was up 3.1 per cent to an average of $577,495 compared to the first half of last year, says Royal LePage in its quarterly house price survey.
  • The price of a standard two-storey home was also up, some 2.2 per cent, to an average of $683,241.
  • The latest data from the Toronto Real Estate Board finds residential real estate prices in Canada’s largest city spiked 8.1 per cent, year over year, in the first half of July. The average price of a house in the Greater Toronto Area broke through the half-million-dollar mark, and now sits at $510,819.

Calgary

  • Intentions to buy property in the next five years among homeowners in four of Canada’s major city centres, and revealed that in Calgary prospects for condos among homebuyers has risen eight points from the fall (33 per cent versus 25 per cent) while intent to buy a traditional home has dropped from 71 per cent to 58 per cent.
  • Calgary Real Estate Board, year-to-date until the end of June there have been 2,034 MLS sales in the city’s condo apartment market, up 9.53 per cent from last year. The average sale price has increased by 6.91 per cent to $297,530.
  • Data released by the Calgary Real Estate Board indicate average MLS sale prices for both the overall market in the city as well as for single-family homes were the highest ever.
  • The overall MLS average sale price in the city reached $466,458, up 5.6 per cent from last year, eclipsing the record of $462,076 which was set in May.
  • In June, the average single-family home price hit $527,162, up 7.7 per cent from last year, and eclipsing May’s record of $521,887
  • According to CREB, there were 2,317 total MLS sales in the city in June, an increase of 5.51 per cent from last year. The median price rose by 3.32 per cent to $405,000.
  • In the single-family market, sales rose by 2.06 per cent to 1,638 and the median price was up by 4.65 per cent to $450,000.
  • The condo apartment category saw sales rise by 6.78 per cent to 362 units with the average price dipping by 0.35 per cent to $301,193 but the median price rising by 2.12 per cent to $265,500.
  • CREB also tracks what it terms benchmark prices for typical properties sold. The benchmark prices in June and percentage change from a year ago were: total MLS, $412,000, 6.79 per cent; towns, $346,200, 6.39 per cent; single-family, $459,700, 6.71 per cent; condo apartment, $264,000, 7.19 per cent; and condo townhouse, $295,000, 6.12 per cent.
  • On a year-over-year basis, prices in the Calgary region rose by 5.3 per cent. Nationally, they were up 1.8 per cent on an annual basis.
  • Don Campbell, senior analyst and founding partner of the Real Estate Investment Network, said it’s too early to speculate that flood-ravaged victims are buying up homes elsewhere in the city as there’s no way insurance claims and financing can move that quickly.
  • Increasing sales are more likely due to a growing population and renters entering the market, he said.
  • Mike Fotiou, associate broker with First Place Realty showed that the year-to-date until the end of June, there have been 394 luxury home sales, up from 299 for the same period last year, which set a record of 544 sales for the year.  There were 74 luxury home sales in June, setting a record for the most $1-million plus sales for the month of June. The all-time monthly record for luxury home sales was established in May at 84.
  • Last month’s record floods are driving up demand for homes as both displaced millionaires from posh neighbourhoods that were flooded and former renters jump into the market, Calgary realtors say.
  • Wealthy neighbourhoods along the Elbow River were among the areas hardest hit by the flooding, prompting some homeowners, whose properties will take at least several months to repair, to buy homes elsewhere in the meantime.
  • As a result, multimillion dollar homes that would ordinarily take a year to sell are being snapped up for about 10 per cent more than they normally would within a matter of weeks, Keeper said.
  • Calgarians are eager to buy property not necessarily because they’ve been directly displaced by the flooding themselves, but because they foresee a tighter market ahead generally, Hornby added. Re/Max associate Mike Hornby
  • Calgary rents jumped by more than seven per cent over a 12-month period, the biggest annual rise in Canada, as the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment reached a record $1,202, CMHC reported.
  • “With more people looking for places to rent, especially those who are displaced temporarily from the flooding, we’re expecting to see more pressure on the rental market,” said Richard Cho, senior market analyst with CMHC’s Calgary branch.

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