The Canadian real estate market is confusing enough without having to look at it from a global standpoint. However, sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture to help put things in perspective. According to the Knight Frank Global House Price Index, Canada is sitting at the bottom of a global housing slowdown.
In 49th place of 56 housing markets, the report which tracks annual house prices by country shows that Canadian home prices in the second quarter of 2019 inched up by just 0.5 percent compared to 2018. However, despite this news, there is hope that the Canadian real estate market is looking up.
Home Pricing Holding Steady
Although the Knight Frank report shows we took quite the tumble, compared to a few years ago, we weren’t as bad as markets that reported declines such as Morocco, Italy, Finland and Australia. As well, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association National home sales held steady for November with activity up by 12.9% year-over-year, although there was a slight decline compared to October by 1.8%. The good news is the actual national average sale price rose 5.8% year over year.
Accelerated Sales in Vancouver and Toronto
Looking at those driving markets that have proven to be key to Canadian real estate, Toronto and Vancouver, they also saw accelerated sales activity according to the Huffington Post. This indicates recovery according to Robert Hogue, a senior economist for RBC. “Canada’s housing market correction is over, and the recovery is on.” So, things are truly looking up.
The Financial Post reported Canada’s realtors have been enjoying great performance going back to September, another sign the market is strengthening. B.C. was at the head of the charge, and weakness is only apparent in our oil-producing regions.
Steady Interest Rates
This info aligns with other factors that point to recovery from the slump we experienced in the beginning of 2019. According to the Financial Post, this includes the Bank of Canada’s decision to hold interest rates as is despite what is happening around the world. “Home sales activity and prices are improving after having weakened significantly in a number of housing markets,” says Gregory Klump, chief economist at the Ottawa-based realtor group in a statement to the Financial Post. “How long the current rebound continues depends on economic growth, which is being subdued by trade and business investment uncertainties.”
Bubble Risk in Canada
On a less positive note, according to the UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index, risk of the real estate bubble in Toronto is the second highest in the world. The index looks at areas with the highest overvaluation of housing prices. Toronto was second to Munich and sitting in the company of Amsterdam and Hong Kong, which tied for third.
Vancouver actually saw improvements. The index reports areas that are experiencing consistent mispricing in real estate markets. One of the things they consider is what they call a “decoupling” of prices from local incomes and rents as well as issues in the economy such as higher instances of lending or what’s going on with construction activity.
Toronto Housing Crisis
It’s no secret Toronto suffers from unaffordable-housingitis. According to the Toronto Housing Markets Analysis, renters who are trying to save to buy in the GTA have to wait from 11 to 27 years just to for a 10 percent down payment on the average priced home. As well, unfortunately, Toronto’s rental market is not keeping pace with need. The majority of the purpose-built rental housing in Toronto was built during the “postwar rental apartment boom” of the 1960s and 1970s. Of the available units, over 90 percent were built pre-1980.
Drop in Prospects
According to Mortgage Brokers News, not surprisingly, contributors to the Index report say when there is low affordability, it causes issues for people who can’t afford to live in an area. Head of Swiss & Global Real Estate Claudio Saputelli and Head of Swiss Real Estate Investments Matthias Holzhey stated in the Index report: “If employees cannot afford an apartment with reasonable access to the local job market, the attractiveness and growth prospects of the city in question drop.”
The Mortgage Brokers article says that in markets that experience overvaluation, the expected drops can lead to managing curb price appreciation by taking regulatory measures. This is to help correct overheated prices. According to the Index, when looking at 2016 top rankers, they all experienced price drops at an average of 10 percent.
Real Home Prices Rise
As well, the Canadian cities in the Index between 2000 and 2018 saw real home prices rise by more than 5 percent each year in Vancouver and Toronto. “The introduction of taxes on foreign buyers, vacancy fees and stricter rent controls seem to have taken effect,” says the report. “While the average price level in Toronto has remained broadly unchanged from last year, prices in Vancouver are down by 7 percent. Lower mortgage rates are supportive but cannot outweigh lower economic growth.”
However, when it comes to Canada, in general, it really only is Vancouver and Toronto at risk of real estate bubbles.
Favourable Financing Conditions
In these expensive cities, the Index finds favourable financing conditions are not helping. This is one of the reasons home prices are staying high, even though in most cases affordability is one of the things that should, in theory, impact financial conditions. It’s a puzzler.
Although many are atremble thinking about the American housing market tragedy that occurred when the bubble burst, Canadians have some differences that might help. For example, we are seeing lending growth on par with GDP growth. This was not the case as the Great Financial Crisis in the U.S. crept up on everyone.
There, outstanding mortgage volumes increased up to 2.5 percent faster than GDP. We don’t seem to be seeing such an issue which is a hopeful sign for the Canadian real estate market and the state of our economy as well.
What Is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a Canadian Crown Corporation that serves as the national housing agency of Canada and provides mortgage loans to prospective buyers, particularly those in need.
Understanding the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) serves as the national housing agency of Canada. CMHC is a state-owned enterprise, or a Crown corporation, that provides a range of services for home buyers, the government, and the housing industry.
CMHC’s stated mission is to “promote housing affordability and choice; to facilitate access to, and competition and efficiency in the provision of, housing finance; to protect the availability of adequate funding for housing, and generally to contribute to the well-being of the housing sector.”1
A primary focus of CMHC is to provide federal funding for Canadian housing programs, particularly to buyers with demonstrated needs. CMHC, headquartered in Ottawa, provides many additional services to renters and home buyers, including mortgage insurance and financial assistance programs. CMHC acts as an information hub for consumers, providing information on renting, financial planning, home buying, and mortgage management.
CMHC also provides mortgage loan insurance for public and private housing organizations and facilitates affordable, accessible, and adaptable housing in Canada.2 Additionally, CMHC provides financial assistance and housing programs to First Nations and Indigenous communities in Canada.3
Professionals and Consumers
CMHC provides services to both professionals and consumers. For professionals, CMHC aims to work in collaboration with different groups to provide affordable housing. Services include project funding and mortgage financing, providing information to understand Canada’s housing market, innovation and leadership networks to access funding and talent to spur housing innovation and increase supply, and providing speakers and hosting events for the industry.4
For consumers, CMHC seeks to provide all the tools an individual would need to either buy a home or rent a home and a variety of information and assistance for current homeowners, such as managing a mortgage, services for seniors to age in place, and financial hardship assistance.56
For financial hardship and mortgage assistance, CMHC provides tools that include payment deferrals, extending the repayment period, adding missed payments to the mortgage balance, moving from a variable-rate to a fixed-rate mortgage, and other special payment arrangements.7
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the National Housing Strategy
In November 2017, the Canadian government announced the National Housing Strategy.8 Rooted in the idea that housing is a human right, this 10-year, $70 billion project will largely be administered by CMHC, although some services and deliverables will be provided by third-party contractors and other Canadian federal agencies.9
Strategic initiatives of the National Housing Strategy include:
- Building new affordable housing and renewing existing affordable housing stock
- Providing technical assistance, tools, and resources to build capacity in the community housing sector and funds to support local organizations
- Supporting research, capacity-building, excellence, and innovation in housing research10
History of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
CMHC was established in 1946 as the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation by the federal government in Canada with the primary mission of administering the National Housing Act and the Home Improvement Loans Guarantee Act and facilitating discounts to mortgage companies. Initially, CMHC began by providing housing to returning Canadian war veterans, and toward the end of the 1940s, CMHC began to administer a program providing low-income housing across Canada.11
In 1947, CMHC was responsible for opening Regent Park, a large low-income housing project, and Toronto’s first urban renewal project. By the 1960s, CMHC introduced co-op housing and multi-unit apartment buildings throughout Canada.11
In 1979, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation changed its name to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Canadian home price gains accelerate again in May
Canadian home prices accelerated again in May from the previous month, posting the largest monthly rise in the history of the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, data showed on Thursday.
The index, which tracks repeat sales of single-family homes in 11 major Canadian markets, rose 2.8% on the month in May, led by strong month-over-month gains in the Ottawa-Gatineau capital region, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in Hamilton, Ontario.
“It was a third consecutive month in which all 11 markets of the composite index were up from the month before,” said Daren King, an economist at National Bank of Canada, in a note.
On an annual basis, the Teranet index was up 13.7% from a year earlier, the 10th consecutive acceleration and the strongest 12-month gain since July 2017.
Halifax led the year-over-year gains, up 29.9%, followed by Hamilton at 25.5% and Ottawa-Gatineau at 22.8%.
Housing price gains in smaller cities outside Toronto and its immediate suburbs again outpaced the major urban centers, with Barrie, Ontario leading the pack, up 31.4%.
On a month-over-month basis, prices rose 4.9% in Ottawa-Gatineau, 4.3% in Halifax and 3.7% in Hamilton.
The Teranet index measures price gains based on the change between the two most recent sales of properties that have been sold at least twice.
Canada‘s average home selling price, meanwhile, fell 1.1% in May from April, Canadian Real Estate Association data showed on Tuesday, but jumped 38.4% from May 2020.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
Bank of Canada seeing signs of cooling in hot housing market
The sector surged in late 2020 and early 2021, with home prices escalating sharply amid investor activity and fear of missing out. The national average selling price fell 1.1% in May from April but was still up 38.4% from May 2020.
“You are starting to see some early signs of some slowing in the housing market. We are expecting supply to improve and demand to slow down, so we are expecting the housing market to come into better balance,” Macklem said.
“But we do think it is going to take some time and it is something that we are watching closely,” he told the Canadian Senate’s banking committee.
Macklem reiterated that the central bank saw evidence people were buying houses with a view to selling them for a profit and said recent price jumps were not sustainable.
“Interest rates are unusually low, which means eventually there’s more scope for them to go up,” he said.
Last year, the central bank slashed its key interest rate to a record-low 0.25% and Macklem reiterated it would stay there at least until economic slack had been fully absorbed, which should be some time in the second half of 2022.
“The economic recovery is making good progress … (but) a complete recovery will still take some time. The third wave of the virus has been a setback,” he said.
The bank has seen some choppiness in growth in the second quarter of 2021 following a sharp economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the year, he added.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)