OTTAWA — The Canadian housing market saw more sales this July than any month in the past 40 years, with 30 per cent more homeowners closing on properties compared to this time last year.
The Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday that the 62,355 sales in July 2020 marked the highest monthly sales figure on record, with data going back more than 40 years.
Sales in July were up 30.5 per cent compared with the same month a year ago and up 26 per cent from June, rebounding from lows of earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic froze the market.
CREA Senior Economist Shaun Cathcart said there was more than one driving force behind July’s full-tilt housing market, citing both COVID-19 and existing issues heading into 2020.
“A big part of what we’re seeing right now is the snap back in activity that would have otherwise happened earlier this year,” Cathcart said.
“Recall that before the lockdowns, we were heading into the tightest spring market in almost 20 years.”
“Some purchases will no doubt be delayed, but the new-found importance of home, lack of a daily commute for many, a desire for more outdoor and personal space, room for a home office, etc. will certainly also spur activity that otherwise would not have happened in a non-COVID-19 world.”
CREA says the actual national average price for homes sold in July was a record $571,500, up 14.3 per cent from the same month last year.
The uptick in prices was broad-based, with all 20 of the markets tracked by CREA reporting month-over-month increases in July.
The Toronto area, Guelph, Ottawa and Montreal saw the biggest price spikes, with prices climbing faster in most markets east of Saskatchewan. Prices rose more modestly in British Columbia and Alberta, CREA said.
In July, demand outpaced supply, as sales increased faster than new properties could be listed. Although new listings hit a record for the month of July, as the number of newly listed homes climbed by 7.6 per cent in July compared with June, it came amid a 26 per cent jump in sales.
Cathcart said in a statement that despite the surge in new listings hitting the market, the total number of listings that lingered on the market as inventory was at a 16-year low.
CREA’s statement also suggested that new supply appears to be “tapering off in many parts of the country,” with the Toronto area dominating new listings. The “sales-to-new listings” ratio in July was at its highest levels since 2001-2002, at 73.9 per cent.
“There are listings that will come to the market because of COVID-19, but many properties are also not being listed right now due to the virus,” said Cathcart.
Brian DePratto, senior economist at TD Economics, said it can be hard to understand how the housing market can be so hot when the unemployment rate remains in double-digits.
“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted lower income Canadians, who are less likely to be or become homeowners,” wrote DePratto in a note to clients. “Borrowing costs have fallen.”
DePratto said that the strength of the recent rebound in the housing market is “definitely surprising” and said there are still many factors to watch in terms of tracking the economic recovery from the pandemic.
“A number of support programs, including mortgage forbearance, are helping insulate the economy from the worst impacts of the pandemic,” wrote DePratto.
“As autumn approaches, these programs will expire or change form. Depending on the progress of the broader economic recovery, this could bring significant headwinds to housing markets, particularly prices.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2020.
Will Canadian Real Estate Prices Decline? Not Likely – RE/MAX News
The strength of the Canadian real estate market has continued to prove itself time and time again during the pandemic. While we’re not out of the woods yet, we are expecting continued growth for the duration of 2020, with an active market for the foreseeable future and balanced conditions at the national level into 2021. This is great news for Canadians.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Chief Economist Bob Dugan, told reporters at a press conference recently that the agency stands by its previous forecast in May that warned of a decline in Canadian house prices between nine and 18%.
“I’m not convinced that we have a sustainable basis for housing demand in the economic disturbance that’s going on related to COVID-19,” Dugan said. “That’s why I say I stand by the forecasts.”
We expressed our concerns over CMHC’s predictions in the spring, and Dugan’s latest statement continues to raise eyebrows – ours, and other industry insiders as well, as the Canadian housing market stays on its upward course.
While I can appreciate some of the reasoning that went into CMHC’s prediction, especially in the spring when so much was still unknown, . The market data doesn’t support such a steep price decline, especially with the two largest real estate markets of Toronto and Vancouver continuing their upward momentum. The Prairies are facing different circumstances and challenges due to the resources sector, however Ontario and BC are expected to offset slower activity in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Canadian Real Estate Prices Have Remained Resilient
Nobody could have predicted the success of the Canadian real estate market in the wake of COVID-19. At the height of the pandemic, March and April 2020 experienced dramatic declines in activity, but transactions quickly resumed across the country as real estate professionals and consumers alike adapted to social distancing measures and embraced technology to continue transacting, despite disruptions to the economy and every facet of daily life.
Last month we at RE/MAX Canada revised our forecast for national average house price in 2020, increasing it to +4.6% from our original expectation of +3.6% at the end of last year.
In terms of declining prices, “the impact was on rent as opposed to home ownership,” said Benjamin Tal, Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets. His optimism in the Canadian housing market was due to continued low interest rates and strong pent-up demand. “Eighty per cent of jobs lost were in the service sector. Many of them were low-income and many of them were renters. So, the impact was on rent as opposed to home ownership,” he noted.
Economists Aligned in Strength of Housing Market
RBC Economics recently reported that a large-scale decline was unlikely. “The pandemic completely disrupted normal seasonal patterns by shifting activity from the spring to summer. With pent-up demand now largely exhausted, we see activity cooling later this fall. This should let some of the steam out of prices though not to the point of causing outright declines on a large scale.”
TD’s Beata Caranci also commented on Canada’s “swoosh” economic recovery and the housing market. The level of unemployment suggests the housing market should not be as active as it is. However, when you look at income levels, it all makes sense. Incomes today aren’t behaving like we’re in a recession, Caranci explained, and incomes are being supported at the same or at higher levels than in previous recessions. So, there’s a complete disconnect between the employment rate and income levels, which is adding fuel to the housing market.
So, if the real estate industry disagrees and economists disagree, just where is the CMHC getting its insight to support such a steep decrease?
Recently the Ontario Real Estate Association surveyed Ontarians, finding a strong majority think housing is an important (60%) or somewhat important (32%) contributor to the provincial economy recovery. They are now pushing on governments to help stimulate the market with incentives like a “Land Transfer Tax Holiday” to help get more homes on the market and address some of the supply issues the province in currently facing.
I do think we may see a “hangover” from the busy market we’re experiencing right now, but overall as we head into 2021, I think a prediction of more balanced conditions across the Canadian housing market is warranted. But an 18% decline in prices is highly unlikely.
Here's Who's Giving What to Trump and Biden in Commercial Real Estate – Commercial Observer
When Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, Elie Hirschfeld switched parties.
The Manhattan developer known for building the Crowne Plaza Hotel and residential towers Grand Sutton and Park Avenue Court had given sporadically to candidates in both parties in the past, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and members of the Bush clan, and considered himself a Democrat.
But Hirschfeld has known Trump personally for decades. When Hirschfeld had an opportunity to develop the site that would become Riverside South on Manhattan’s Far West Side, he brought Trump into the deal. And he once rented office space in one of Trump Tower’s lower floors in the early 1980s.
“We became one of his first tenants in his office portion,” Hirschfeld told CO. “He built offices because he didn’t want to be alone. The apartments sold well, but the offices were slow.”
Trump behaved more like a real estate mogul than a political power broker back then, writing checks for politicians in both parties who could loosen regulations and advance zoning applications. He has sprinkled approximately $1.5 million in contributions to national candidates and party committees since 1979, according to federal election records. Many were Democratic officeholders in New York and New Jersey.
“I’ve given to everybody because that was my job,” Trump explained while campaigning in Iowa in 2016. “I’ve got to give to them because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
But Trump’s own thirst for the White House grew after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, and an array of political consultants he met with, including David Bossie, head of the conservative advocacy group Citizens United, suggested Trump shower Republican officeholders with his cash to boost his profile.
Trump began tilting the majority of his spending toward Republicans in 2010, before he cut off Democrats entirely in 2011. By the following year, he had become a reliable Republican contributor, giving $325,000 to national candidates and party committees.
Trump always expected something in return. He had targeted his spending to lay the groundwork for a future presidential run. Yet when Republican leaders solicited him in late 2012, after Mitt Romney’s loss, Trump chastised them over Romney’s campaign strategies and refusal to deploy him as a surrogate in the final weeks of the race.
Trump’s experiences demanding favors and dispensing advice led him to eschew sizable contributions when he launched his bid in June 2015, claiming other candidates were “puppets” of their benefactors. Yet his allies quickly registered a super PAC named “Make America Great Again.” And Trump publicly revised his views, telling CBS’ John Dickerson in August 2015, “I would even take big contributors, as long as they don’t expect anything.”
One of his first significant donations was from the family of a New York-area developer. Seryl Kushner, executive administrator and spouse of the founder of Kushner Companies, who also happened to be the mother of Trump’s son-in-law, gave $100,000 to Trump’s Make America Great Again PAC in July 2015. (Disclosure: Seryl Kushner is also the mother-in-law of Observer Media chairman, Joseph Meyer.)
Elie Hirschfeld wrote a $2,700 check in February 2016, but the campaign’s fundraising arm was so disorganized he had to call Trump’s secretary Rhona Graff for instructions about how to send Trump the money.
“I did it because he was a friend,” said Hirschfeld, who is not currently working with the Trump Organization. “I didn’t think he had a chance to win at the time. The sense I had was it was a promotional effort, but it took awhile for me to realize it was his intent to win. When Donald puts his mind toward something, he usually gets it done.”
The Latest Round
Trump has hauled in a massive sum for his re-election this cycle, including from New York’s real estate community, after Hillary Clinton outraised him nearly 2 to 1 in 2016.
Eager to avoid being an underdog as a sitting president, Trump filed for re-election hours after his inauguration. And, after campaigning as a political outsider against the Republican Party establishment in 2016, his campaign merged with the Republican National Committee to form a joint fundraising committee. The move allows Trump to share office space and staff with the party, coordinate events, and control which candidates receive money from the party.
That early planning was critical, and the Trump campaign collected $572 million through the first half of 2020, 32 percent higher than the $433 million it brought in four years ago, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of federal campaign records.
Commercial real estate poured $15.9 million into Trump’s campaign coffers so far this cycle, the second-most of any business sector. That mark so far is 42 percent higher than the $11.2 million Trump coaxed from developers in 2016. Only finance has given more, though neither has had anything on what the Center for Responsive Politics describes as “retirees,” who have raised $89 million, and Republican officials, who have brought in $65 million.
But Trump once again trails a formidable Democrat despite having an early fundraising advantage. After prevailing in a 29-candidate field, former Vice President Joe Biden has led Trump in polls with a boost of support from suburban whites, the elderly and college-educated voters. Biden’s fundraising exploded once the primary finished, with the candidate raking in $702 million so far.
It hasn’t been difficult for Biden to raise money from developers either this year. In fact, he’s brought in $17 million from the real estate industry nationally — roughly $1 million more than Trump.
This Biden motherlode includes treasure from some of the biggest names in or connected to New York real estate. Four M Investments’ Dennis Mehiel forked over $202,815 to pro-Biden groups (with his firm kicking in $5,000 more), followed by executives at BCG Partners, who distributed $100,000 to pro-Biden groups and $85,310 directly to the candidate, and at the Blackstone Group, who gave $100,000 to pro-Biden committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Other top real estate-related donors this election cycle include executives and principals at Fisher Brothers ($50,000 to outside groups and $6,705 to Biden), Cushman & Wakefield ($20,763 to Biden), Royal Realty, which is part of the Durst Organization ($20,000 to outside pro-Biden groups), and GFP Real Estate ($16,800 to Biden), whose chairman, Jeff Gural, co-hosted a $2,800-ticket party for Biden with Newmark Knight Frank CEO Barry Gosin in January.
Biden might not enjoy the same ties with real estate developers and investors as Hillary Clinton, a former senator from New York and currently a Westchester County resident. But Gural is a longtime Biden friend who held fundraisers for his Delaware Senate campaigns. The people in Gural’s social circle are mostly Biden supporters too.
“It’s hard to be friendly with Trump supporters to tell you the truth,” Gural told CO. “Biden’s a decent guy, and maybe that’s what the country needs right now.”
Property owners, investors and brokers are exactly the kind of professionals with whom Trump should be succeeding, though. The industry remains predominantly white and male and the president’s base in 2016 largely consisted of white males over the age of 50, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Trump also received more support than Clinton from whites who earned more than $50,000, a Data for Progress analysis showed.
There is enthusiasm for Trump in the industry — stemming in large part from his tax policy, his approach to Israel and the stock markets’ performance during his presidency — and that energy has translated into larger donations from it than in 2016. Trump’s top real estate donors so far this year have been Greystone & Co. managing director Abraham Spria, who donated $100,000 to a pro-Trump group and $5,600 to the Trump campaign, and Landmark Abstract Agency president Jacob Rekant, who gave $37,000 to a pro-Trump group. Other top donors include individuals at Compass and Walker & Dunlop, who each gave about $25,000 to pro-Trump groups, while executives at Meridian Properties ($19,966), the Witkoff Group ($17,200), Hirschfeld Properties ($16,800), and the Lefrak Organization ($16,200) all gave directly to the Trump campaign. Four years ago, H.J. Kalikow & Co. president Peter Kalikow was the only developer who gave Trump more than $10,000.
“Trump brings out both extremes, but he has a lot who support him in the middle,” Hirschfeld, who serves as finance chair of the state Republican Party, said. “On financial issues, people in the real estate world believe Donald Trump is doing better than would be the case if we had a progressive-leaning president.”
But the president’s immigration policies, refusal to fund New York infrastructure projects, the cap he supported on state and local tax deductions, and abject mismanagement of the pandemic galvanized others to thwart him.
“I’ve never seen a level of disgust and anger on Donald Trump’s weakness on so many issues,” Jennifer Bayer Michaels, a longtime fundraiser for Sen. Charles Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo who leads the New York office of the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country, told CO. “People are frankly disgusted. I’ve had a lot to work with. New Yorkers in particular are distrustful of Donald Trump. They don’t like what they see.”
Why They Give
Real estate leaders from both parties see a connection between Trump’s surprise win in 2016 and the leftward reaction in New York politics that followed. Dozens of progressives won seats in the City Council and state Legislature beginning in 2017. Democrats, in fact, took complete control of the state government for the first time since 2010. Lawmakers then passed tenant-friendly rent regulations, while developers seethed, and are pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy to close city and state budget deficits.
“The best thing that could happen to the real estate industry in New York is for Trump to lose,” one real estate executive who is backing Biden but preferred to stay anonymous told CO. “Other than a tax cut that has benefited some real estate owners personally, the last three and a half years have been a disaster politically for real estate and in a lot of people’s minds the first step to recovery is Trump getting out.”
Trump’s policies and personality have cleaved the real estate industry in unexpected ways too. One Trump fundraiser has found a bevy of support from individual property owners who own a handful of buildings and from smaller family-owned real estate firms in the New York area. Those at larger real estate investment trusts, however, favor Biden but have been open to a Trump-friendly pitch, the fundraiser said.
“I am more willing to cold call somebody in real estate who has given money to both sides but to less progressive-type Democrats like Gov. Cuomo,” the Trump fundraiser said. “I’d be more willing to call them than an attorney. The real estate industry’s been demonized a bit in New York, and I think is open to at least listening, especially over the last few years.”
But a Biden supporter noted that it may all come down to a donor’s ideology, culture, and whether they live in New York City or the suburbs.
“The higher-level guys who in a good year make $1.5 million and live in Greenwich, that’s the Trump folks,” the Biden supporter said. “It’s not really cool to be a Republican in the city. How do you be a Trump Republican and not like gay people and be bigoted in New York City? That’s not the way we operate here. Do you think they’re going to let you on the board of the Museum of Natural History if you don’t believe in science or the board of MoMA if you want to deport people?”
Some real estate firms have deep divisions within their own ranks, with senior executives raising gobs of cash for both parties while managing to keep politics out of their Slack channels. Executives at Blackstone, for instance, a major player in real estate financing and investing, have raised $100,000 for Biden, while its CEO, Steve Schwarzman, has doled out $27.3 million to Republican candidates and PACs over the past two years, records show.
And Stephen Ross, chairman and CEO of the Related Cos., one of New York’s busiest developers and owners, hosted a swanky Hamptons fete for Trump last summer while its employees largely gave to Democratic congressional candidates. Ross in a later New York Times interview expressed regret for hosting the Trump event, but he wouldn’t tell the paper for whom he planned to vote.
With fewer than six weeks to go before the end of the race, the money will continue to flow and donors will vie for the ear of their candidate much like Trump did in 2012. Elie Hirschfeld hopes Trump provides aid for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other public facilities in New York and tax relief by reinstating the SALT deduction. Jeff Gural wants Biden to continue condemning violence and outside agitators causing confrontations at protests.
“I think deep down people would like to see the country united,” Gural said. “I don’t think they’re happy the country is so divided. I can’t wait for the election to see what people really think behind closed doors.”
This Week’s Top Stories: Canadian Real Estate Prices Forecasted To Fall, As Households Make Fewer Payments – Better Dwelling
Time for your cheat sheet on this week’s most important stories.
Canadian Real Estate
One of the world’s largest credit rating agencies confirmed an early forecast of falling home prices in Canada. Moody’s had expected government measures would delay any impact to home prices. The firm believes this is still true, and even elaborated on which markets will be hit. They expect enthusiasm over stimulus measures will begin to wear thin. At this point, the reality of a damaged labour market, and how meaningful improvements have been will start to hit sellers. This is expected to be stronger in some markets, like Toronto, than other markets – like Vancouver.
Despite booming Canadian real estate sales, condo apartment prices have now fallen from their peak price. The aggregate benchmark reached $478,700 in August, up 6.45% from last year. This number is down 0.15% from the all time record reached in April. As you might expect, not everywhere is falling. Three markets have printed new all-time highs as of August. The rest however, have fallen – and some markets haven’t seen an all-time high in over half a decade.
Canada’s national housing agency, and state-owned insurer, sees a lot of risk in real estate markets. Seven markets are now flagged as having “moderate” levels of vulnerability, up from five in the spring. Toronto and Vancouver remain in the moderate category, while Montreal continues to be considered low risk. The organization did say things appear better than the reality, due to disposable income temporarily being inflated by government support. Once disposable income falls back to non-supported levels, overvaluation metrics should rise once again.
Canada’s biggest real estate markets are seeing one of their fundamental drivers continue to deteriorate – immigration. Toronto only saw 4,450 permanent residents arrive in July, down 64.0% from last year. Vancouver saw 1,300 people, down 71.1% from last year. Montreal fell to 2,110, down 47.2% from last year. Toronto and Vancouver have seen the declines become larger from the month before. Montreal bucked the trend by seeing a smaller decline, but has also seen a much longer trend that goes back before the pandemic.
Canadian mortgage debt is swelling, but households are making a lot fewer payments. The amount paid towards mortgages hit $90.27 billion in Q2 2020, down 3.32% lower than last year. Almost all of this is due to paying off less interest. Breaking the numbers down, we see payments towards principal are on the decline, while payments towards interest are actually rising.
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