Surge of the summer to downhill winter

 

The big difference between September and today is that buyers no longer have access to the record low 2.89% 5-year fixed rate holds. Rates jumped in June, putting a hard deadline to those all-time low 90-120 day rate holds set to expiry by mid October. Buyers would otherwise have to look to re-negotiated rates at 3.39% or higher, attributing to significant interest cost increases over the term of their mortgage. Many buyers therefore acted on their rate holds, contributing to a surge in the sales. Vancouver notable saw a 64% and 37.8% increase in sales in September and October over their 2012 months. Across Canada sales were up 18.2% in September, but dropped 3.2% in October, the biggest drop in more than a year. The prospect of low interest rates to remain around for a longer period has eased the pressure on current buyers. Most of the economist predictions forecast a cooling in both sales and housing prices over 2014, however, most note that the numbers from November and December will give a clearer picture of where the market stands. With interest rates expected to remain low well into 2015, the short-term variable rate is expected to see some improved traction over the coming months.

CREA released a good 2-minute video capturing the overview of the market up to October.

More highlights from October and November headlines:

OVERALL

  • CMHC: Canadian housing starts rose more than expected in September.
  • The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts was 193,600 units last month, up from an upwardly revised 184,000 in August and surpassing analysts’ expectations for 185,000.
  • Canada’s new home price index rose 0.1% in August from July on gains in Calgary, trailing the median forecast in an economist survey, the government statistics agency said.
  • Ottawa home prices registered the first annual drop since January 1998, falling 0.2%.
  • “While the momentum for sales activity began improving a few months ago, it may be losing steam after having only just climbed back in line with an average of the past 10 years,” he added.
  • CREA: 1.4% fewer newly listed homes in September compared with August. While the Canadian housing market has tightened it continues to remain balanced.
  • CREA: Home sales were up 18.2% across Canada in September, year over year, driven largely by buying sprees in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. And while last month’s sales were up 18.2% compared with September 2012, CREA says that was because last year’s figures were unusually weak.
  • “Year-over-year increases in the sales over the past couple of months highlights how activity softened across much of the country following the introduction of tighter mortgage rules last summer,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.
  • The average price of homes sold in September in Canada was $385,906, up 8.8 per cent from the same month in 2012. But, that number was also driven up by an unexpected increase in interest rates, starting last May, contributing to a significant spike in sales in major markets such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Those cities saw a surge in buyers, armed with 90- and 120-day commitments for mortgages as low as 2.89%, frantically trying to jump into the market before their low rates ran out and they were forced to renegotiate at rates that, today, are almost a full percentage point higher.
  • BOC: it won’t be raising rates — its neutral stance could even mean lower rates — consumers can safely slide back into variable mortgages tied to prime which tracks the central bank rate.
  • “Housing has been the big driver,” says Jim Murphy, head of the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professional. “If you slow the housing market, what’s going to take its place in terms of the domestic economy? It turns out it’s not the export sector, and now they’re predicting lower growth. If we keep slowing housing and slowing housing, will that just make things worse overall?” “What we’re missing is rising rates,” Mr. Murphy said. “Rising rates would solve the problem.“ That is the opinion of Bank of Nova Scotia CEO Rick Waugh, who spoke out last month saying that if policy-makers are concerned about house prices then the Bank of Canada should raise interest rates. Rather, the central bank decided to remove its bias towards

higher rates as it worries about sluggish exports and continuing struggles in Europe

  • Flaherty said that it would be his department’s responsibility to act on housing prices since the Bank of Canada has “basically no room to move,” but added: “I have no intention of interfering in the market for the time being.”
  • Central bank removed any reference to raising interest rates, saying the economy has too much slack and inflation is too low.
  • “If it were not for the concerns about household imbalances, the BoC would have cut its policy rate at last week’s [policy] meeting,” says Nomura Securities economist Charles St-Arnaud.
  • CREA: Canadian home sales posted a small month-over-month increase in September as the national average sale price rose but the number of new listings declined.
  • Sales improved on a month-over-month basis in just over half of all local markets, with gains in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto offsetting declines in Calgary and Montreal.
  • About 340,980 homes have traded hands across the country so far this year, or 1.8% below levels recorded in the first three quarters of 2012.
  • CMHC: Seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts was 198,282 units in October, up from an upwardly revised 195,929 in September and surpassing analysts’ expectations for 190,800
  • Vancouver shows the country’s most expensive market is rebounding, even if prices haven’t followed.  Calgary also reported an 18% increase in October sales from a year ago.

“Written off for dead last year, Vancouver’s housing market (one of the priciest in the world) has made a startling comeback,” said Sal Guatieri, an economist with Bank of Montreal.

  • Canadian existing home sales fell 3.2% in October from the previous month, the biggest drop in more than a year, as the prospect of lower-for-longer interest rates eases pressure on buyers. “Now that interest rates appear to be going nowhere fast, sales activity in the near term may be held in check by homebuyers who are in less of a hurry to purchase,” said Gregory Klump, the real estate association’s chief economist.
  • Sales in Vancouver fell 10.1% in October from a month earlier, while sales in Toronto were down 4.9%.
  • Sales activity and prices suggest Canada’s housing market has cooled after a strong spring and summer.
  • Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index:

Economists are divided over whether the market has achieved a soft landing after years of roaring ahead, or if it will still undergo a sharp price correction similar to the U.S. housing crash. Mortgage rates remain near historic lows and are not expected to rise much as long as official interest rates are held low to stimulate the economy.

  • Teranet data showed prices rose in October from September in just 3 of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed, with a 1.1% rise in Vancouver, a 1.0% rise in Halifax and a 0.9% rise in Calgary. Compared with October 2012, prices were 6.7% higher in Calgary, 4.6% higher in Hamilton, 4.1% higher in Toronto, 3.8% higher in Quebec City, 2.7% higher in Vancouver, 2.2% higher in Edmonton, 2.0% higher in Winnipeg, and 0.9% higher in Montreal and Ottawa.
  • CREA: Home sales through its MLS system in October were up 8.3% compared with a year ago, but down 3.2% compared with September. CREA chief economist Gregory Klump says the month-over-month dip in sales was evidence that sales in the late summer and early fall were boosted by homebuyers with pre-approved mortgages jumping in the market before rates headed higher.
  • CREA: The national average price for a home sold in October was $391,820, up 8.5% compared with a year ago. However, the association says if Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are excluded from the calculation, the average price was up 4.9% compared with a year ago.
  • Doug Porter, chief economist with BMO Capital Markets, said there are two notable splits developing in Canada’ housing market – larger cities are hot, while smaller cities are generally not, and sales in the West are strong, but are weakening in much of the East.
  • Poloz used the testimony to pointedly disagree with a couple of forecasting organizations that weighed in this week on the Canadian situation — the Fitch Rating service that judged Canada’s housing market as 21% overpriced, and an OECD recommendation that he start raising interest rates in a year’s time. “Our judgment is (the housing market) is a situation that is improving, this is not a bubble that exists here that would have to be corrected,” he said. “If there is a disturbance from outside our country that’s another analysis.”

Poloz said most of the fundamentals surrounding the housing market appear headed in the right direction. The prospects for the economy is improving, he noted, which should create more jobs.

“It looks expensive,” he said of home prices. “But which markets are expensive? Well those markets have been expensive my whole life,” he said, noting that Toronto and Vancouver both absorb high rates of immigration.

  • Fitch Ratings: home prices have surged more than 130 per cent since 2001, outpacing income growth by more than 80 per cent.
  • RBC’s latest research on the portion of average household income needed to maintain a home shows that affordability deteriorated over the summer, the second consecutive drop in as many quarters. RBC chief economist Craig Wright attributed the deterioration in affordability to higher prices and what has been a tightening mortgage market reacting to an expectation of firming interest rates.
  • The federal government is imposing a “risk fee” on CMHC for new issuances of high-risk mortgages starting next year — a fresh indication that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is unhappy with the risk to taxpayers posed by Canada’s hot housing market. The fees of 3.25% applied to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. on new premiums written, as well as a charge of 10 basis points on new portfolio insurance, is expected to cost the housing agency about $50 million a year. However, officials said that at present there are no plans to pass on the costs to Canadians obtaining mortgage insurance.

 

PREDICTIONS

  • Even with slower price growth and month-to-month volatility in the condo apartment market, overall annual price growth has been well above the rate of inflation this year. This scenario will continue to play out through the remainder of 2013,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s senior manager of market analysis, in the release.
  • Economists and others who follow the real estate industry suggest the last three months of the year will be key for determining which way home sales and prices are going because pre-approved mortgages at low rates locked in for 120 days, should have run their course by now.
  • Expect house sales — and prices — to cool down over the next few months, and maybe even years, as this summer’s surge of buyers armed with the lowest mortgage-rate commitments ever peters out, housing watchers say
  • Brace for a significant slowdown, warns Capital Economics economist David Madani in a note analyzing the September numbers. “Home sales are getting pulled forward at the expense of later this year and next, as potential homebuyers jump into the market before mortgage rates rise any further. Accordingly, we expect home sales to flop in the not-so-distant future, which will once again apply downward pressure on house prices.” In fact, the rise in prices also can be attributed to high demand at the same time that fewer homes are being listed for sale across the country, says Madani.
  • Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic believes that the market has simply returned to historic norms and that homeowners — and buyers — won’t see anywhere near the price jumps of the last decade. He’s not expecting a correction in prices but, rather, annual gains of just 2 per cent in 2014 and below the 3 to 4 per cent annual income growth anticipated the next few years. “Any worry about a hard landing in Canadian housing has quickly become a faint memory.”
  • Queen’s University real estate professor John Andrew expects to see sales taper off through November and into next year, but doesn’t anticipate a drop in prices, at least for low-rise houses.

He remains most concerned about the condo market, especially in Toronto where a record number of newly built units will hit the market in 2014. “I’m concerned still that there’s been a lot of overbuilding, but my biggest worry is what’s going to happen when all these mortgages come up for renewal in a few years, and at significantly higher rates.”

  • “It’s possible interest rates will go down,” said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal, adding there’s a huge amount of mortgage debt already in the pipeline that was created when people took advantage of rates they were pre-approved for in the summer. “I’ve seen what is in the pipeline in mortgage activity and you won’t believe the numbers when it is official.” “If we don’t get the softness we are expecting [in housing], quite frankly I think they are already talking about more restrictions,” said Mr. Tal, adding that would be the only option to slow the housing market if Ottawa is reluctant to raise rates.
  • House prices for Calgary’s resale market are expected to rise the most in the short-term, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
  • And if the finance department continues to make it harder for first-time buyers to get into the market, “it will cause some issues that may have a longer-term impact,“ said Royal Bank of Canada economist Robert Hogue.
  • It will take at least two more months of housing data to properly assess whether the market’s rebound is temporary or has legs. “They really have to wait at least until November or December,” said Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce economist Benjamin Tal.
  • Canada’s federal housing agency has bumped up its forecast for housing starts in 2013 but trimmed its forecast for 2014, setting an essentially flat outlook for a once-roaring market. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said on Thursday housing starts will be in a range of 179,300 to 190,600 units in 2013, with a point forecast, or most likely outcome, of 185,000. That is up from its August estimate of 182,800.

The agency said there will be 163,700 to 205,700 units started in 2014, with a point forecast of 184,700. That is down from CMHC’s August estimate of 186,600.

CMHC said existing home sales will range from 439,400 to 474,000 in 2013, with a point forecast of 456,700 units. That’s up slightly from August’s forecast of 448,900 units and about equal with the 454,005 sales in 2012. For 2014, it expects a move up to a range of 438,300 to 498,100, with an increase in the point forecast to 468,200. That’s up slightly from August’s forecast of 467,600.

  • Price gains are expected to slow in 2013 and 2014. CMHC’s point forecast for the average price calls for a 4.0% gain to $378,000 in 2013, and a 1.9% gain to $385,200 in 2014.
  • “With the BOC keeping rates low for a long period of time, I would suspect that we’ll see a significant trend away from longer-term fixed into shorter-term variable rates,” said Toronto broker Calum Ross.
  • Last week, the Bank of Canada said it expects the output gap — the difference between potential and actual activity — to close by late 2015, when it also sees inflation, now at 1.1%, reaching the 2% target.
  • A London-based group is now predicting construction output, led by housing, is set to grow by about 4% over the next year, despite the fact the industry faces labour shortages and financing concerns.
  • The Calgary Housing Market Outlook by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said starts will dip to 11,700 units in 2013 before increasing to 13,100 in 2014. By the end of 2013, existing home sales in Calgary are forecast to reach 29,200 units, up 10% from 26,634 in 2012. In 2014, job creation and net migration will continue to be key drivers of the resale market, said the report. Employment growth in 2014 will remain strong for the fourth consecutive year, while migration will be coming off a record high in 2013. MLS residential sales are forecast to increase 2.7 per cent in 2014 to 30,000 units. The average MLS residential price in Calgary is forecast to finish at $436,500 in 2013, up 5.9 per cent from $412,315 in 2012. Price growth should moderate to 2.4 per cent in 2014, with an average price of $447,000
  • Flaherty told reporters in Toronto that people “should anticipate over the long term, interest rates will go up regardless of what central banks do now.”
  • The present population of the greater Vancouver area is estimated at about 2.3 million and this is expected to increase by almost 50% to 3.4 million by 2041.
  • “For as long as the Bank of Canada remains on the sidelines – which we now expect until H2-2015 – the risk of an adverse development in Canadian housing is limited,” Mazen Issa, a Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a research note. “Taken in tandem with the fading impact of tighter mortgage regulations, the outlook for housing over the near-term is expected to remain benign.”
  • Asked to put odds on his soft landing scenario, Poloz said he would place it in the 60-to-80% probability range. On the overall economic outlook, Poloz said he believes the global economy is “healing” and that Canadian growth will start picking up next year as the U.S. recovery intensifies.
  • CMHC predicts that housing price growth could actually slow to just 1.5% in 2014, while incomes should climb by about 2 per cent.
  • Fitch Rating: forecasted that home prices across the country are in for a “soft landing” and will either flatten out or slightly decrease over the next five years. It estimates that current prices are overvalued by up to 26% in some regions and could fall by as much as 10% in some places.
  • IMF report: forecasts that Canada’s economy as a whole will start benefiting next year from a pickup in the U.S. economy, leading to greater demand for Canadian exports and renewed business investment.
  • Vancouver: The new home industry can expect 2014 to be a “real grind” as impending municipal elections in Metro Vancouver could slow down the rate of approval for new housing projects, Vancouver real estate guru Michael Ferreira said. “I think those on council and those people seeking reelection will be loathe to make any kind of controversial decision (on new housing),” said Ferreira, who is a principal of the Vancouver company Urban Analytics.

 

VANCOUVER

  • If you compare the market to a year ago, the recovery is spectacular. September Vancouver sales climbed 63.8% from a year ago. Compare those same 2,483 September sales to a month earlier and they are down 1.2%.
  • “While sales are up considerably from last year, it’s important to note that September 2012 sales were among the lowest we’ve seen in nearly three decades,” said, Sandra Wyant, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, in a statement.  “Home sale and listing activity this September were in line with the 10-year average for the month.”
  • September sales in British Columbia’s largest city were 1% below the 10-year average for the month. New listings for the month were also 3.5% below the 10-year average.
  • The total number of properties currently listed for sale in Greater Vancouver in September was 16,115, a 12.2% drop a year before but a 0.5% increase from August.
  • Home prices have not fluctuated much in our market this year,” Ms. Wyant said. The board’s composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver was $601,900, a 0.7% decline from a year ago but a 2.3% increase since January, 2013.
  • Ferreira said 4,253 units had been sold in Metro so far this year, compared to 2,546 to the same date in 2012. Bright spots included Richmond, with 878 concrete condos sold this year, and the Tri-cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody), with nearly 500 concrete condos sold to date, a 74% increase over last year
  • However, Metro’s wood-frame condominium sales were “not quite as good,” with 1,832 sold so far in 2013, compared to 2,502 to the same date in 2012. Townhomes showed a similar trend.
  • REBGV: 2,661 sales through Multiple Listing Service in October, 2013, a 37.8% jump from a year ago. Sales were up 7.2% from the 2,483 transactions a month earlier. However, the rebound still places sales activity 2.8% above the 10-year average for October while new listings were 1.9% below the 10-year average for the month.
  • New listings are dropping quickly with the 4,323 new homes listed in October, down 14.2% from September. There were 15,257 properties listed through the whole MLS system last month, a 12.2% decline from a year ago and a 5.3% drop from September.
  • While sales showed a considerable gain from October, 2012, the rebound was not quite as strong as in recent months. September, for example, saw Greater Vancouver sales bounce 64-per-cent higher than the corresponding month in 2012. In August, Greater Vancouver sales were 53 per cent above the lacklustre month of August, 2012.

“Today’s activity is helping to keep us in balanced market territory,” said board president Sandra Wyant, “which means that prices tend to experience minimal fluctuation.”

  • “We’ve had a great summer and good early fall, but it’s important to remind everyone of the context, said Fraser Valley Board president Ron Todson. “The last four months of 2012 were amongst the slowest for our real estate market in the last 15 years.”

 

TORONTO

  • Existing homes sales in the Greater Toronto Area rose 30% in September from a year ago and a strong third quarter has the market about even with 2012 now.
  • TREB: 7,411 sales through the Multiple Listing Service in September, up from 5,687 sales a year ago. It was also up from the 6,249 in sales in August. For the first nine months of the year, sales are now down 1% compared with the same period in 2012
  • The average sale price last month also climbed 6.5% from a year ago to $533,797. That’s also up from $503,094 from August. Over the first nine months of the year, the average selling price was $520,118, a 4% jump from 2012.
  • TREB: For the first 14 days of October, 3,460 sales through the multiple listing service, up 21% from a year ago. The mid-month numbers are also 13% above the 10-year average. “With October mid-month sales well above the 10-year average, it seems clear that we have more than recovered from the temporary dip in residential transactions that resulted from the onset of stricter mortgage lending guidelines,” said Dianne Usher, president of the board, in a release.

Prices also continue to climb with the average home selling for $536,301 during that 14-day period, a 7.3% increase from the same period a year earlier. “Price growth has been stronger in the second half of 2013, as sales growth has outstripped growth in listings. There have been more buyers competing for available properties compared to the first half of the year, which has led to increased upward pressure on average selling prices,” said Jason Mercer, the board’s senior manager of market analysis, in a release.

  • RealNet Canada Inc.: 2,356 sales across the Greater Toronto area in September, a 4.4% increase from a year ago — the second straight month year over year sales have climbed. “It’s a reversal of the declining trend from January-July, 2013,” said George Carras, president of RealNet. However, year to date, 2013 sales remain 31% off the 10-year average and are well below 2012 levels. “It’s the lowest level seen in the last decade and lower than during the global financial crisis,” said Mr. Carras.
  • Low rise sales have been dragging total sales down and year to date are off 39% from a year ago, compared to 22% for high-rise sales. The weak number for low rise sales has been chalked up to provincial land use policies which restrict development. RealNet says the availability of condos has pushed the price gap between high-rise homes and low-rise homes to an all-time high. The average low-rise home is now worth $658,869, compared to $432,853 for a high-rise property.
  • “This chart is like watching your dog run away on the Prairies,” said Mr. Carras, about the $226,016 gap between the two style of houses. “The prices of homes we are making less of, low rise, have increased, while high-rise homes are decreasing.”
  • For the condo dweller, not only are home prices dropping the size of their home has on average shrunk 1.7% from a year ago.
  • Sales in the Greater Toronto Area jumped more than 19% in October from a year ago. The Toronto Real Estate Board reported there were 8,000 sales last month, up from 6,713 a year ago. Prices also continue to be strong. The average sale price in the GTA was $539,058 in October, up 7.4% from a year ago.
  • The average age of first-time buyers across the GTA is 37 — a number that’s remained surprisingly constant over the last decade as house prices have virtually doubled — and the bulk of millennials are just 20 to 36 right now.
  • In 2012, echo boomers accounted for 15% of the growth in demand for housing across the GTA, but that’s expected to double to 30 per cent by 2021, says CMHC regional economist Ted Tsiakopoulos.

 

CALGARY

  • CREB: total MLS sales in the city of 1,923 during the month were up 19.44% from a year ago.
  • The average sale price rose by 8.27 per cent to $454,352 while the median price was up 8.78 per cent to $402,500.
  • Calvin Buss, involved in real estate marketing and sales, said job creation and in-migration are fuelling the current market.
  • In September, there were 2,796 new listings in the Calgary market, up 4.33% from a year ago but active listings at the end of the month were down by 23.08% to 3,922.
  • The pace of year-over-year sales growth in the resale condo market is much higher than the single-family home market this year in Calgary.
  • MLS sales in the condo apartment category in the city were 3,253, up 14.58% from the same period a year ago and the average sale price has jumped by 6.14% to $298,050. In the condo townhouse category, sales of 2,600 are up 22.18% from last year and the average sale price has risen by 6.60% to $338,809.
  • The single-family home market in the city has seen sales rise by 7.36% to 13,482 with the average price moving up by 8.18% to $517,730.
  • “Steady migration, employment and population growth are major contributors as we move into the fourth quarter of the year. The relative affordability of our city’s housing market remains one of the best in Canada and we can expect to see Calgary’s condominium market continue to rise at a moderate, sustainable pace.” Kaitlyn Gottlieb, a realtor with Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd. in Calgary.
  • Strong sales so far this year are expected to push the annual sales volume to about 5,000 units, potentially making 2013 the second strongest sales year in the past decade.
  • Conference Board of Canada. In a report released, the board forecast short-term year-over-year prices to increase by 7% or more in Calgary — the best in the country. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of MLS sales in Calgary for September was 31,896, up 15.1% from last year while listings of 42,696 have increased by 2.9%. The average price of $436,776 is up 8.7% from a year ago. The board’s report classified Calgary as a sellers’ market.
  • According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, MLS sales of 1,953 for the month were up 17.72% from a year ago as the average sale price rose 5% to $458,876 while the median price saw an increase of 5.96% to $409,000.
  • Although new listings for the month were up 9.08% to 2,522, active listings at the end of the month were down 16.19% to 3,841.
  • The average days on the market to sell a property dropped from 45 a year ago to 40 in October.
  • Moser said housing activity in Calgary may be fuelled by a number of factors: seasonal fall peak activities with people wanting to purchase and move into homes before winter sets in; investor speculators coming into the market due to the flood impact in June; corporations reorganizing and centralizing back to Calgary and Edmonton; and rental rates increasing.
  • “Price growth and tighter market conditions have encouraged some of the recent rise in new listings,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist at the real estate board. “This is a trend worth noting as the rise is easing some of the tightness in the market. Despite some movement, sellers’ market conditions persist. Employment growth, strong net migration, lack of rental product and low mortgage rates have contributed to the rise in housing demand over the past two years,” she said. “Meanwhile, supply levels have not kept pace, causing prices to push up,” added Lurie.
  • “The residential real estate market is holding strong for sellers,” said Grace Yan, a Calgary realtor with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central). “It usually slows down for Christmas season but we are realizing that it remains at a steady rise. We are still finding a shortage of listings, lots of activity with shorter days on the market. We are finding from fixer uppers, inner-city properties to turnkey luxury high-end homes in demand. We anticipate the steady market to continue to heat up for the New Year.”
  • CREB: the average MLS sale price for all residential property in the city so far this year has been $457,123. The annual record is $428,649 set last year. In 2004, average sale prices in the city were $227,269.
  • CREA: its latest MLS data for October showing that Calgary had the best year-over-year gain in the country in the MLS Home Price Index.
  • Calgary’s real estate market is showing no signs of slowing down in November. Month-to-date including Thursday, there have been 830 MLS sales in the city, up 34.30% from the same period a year ago, according to CREB. The average sale price has also climbed by 7.47% to $463,126.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *