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How real estate investors and speculators helped trigger the onslaught of soaring interest rates – The Globe and Mail



The old deal if you owned a home was low-interest rates and rising equity.

The new deal is rising rates and falling equity. This shift is brought to you in part by real estate investors and speculators. They contributed to an inflation problem that is driving up interest rates and bringing prices down.

The Bank of Canada raised its trendsetting overnight rate by 0.5 of a percentage point Wednesday, bringing the total increase this year to 1.25 points. Expect another increase of 0.5 of a point on July 13, and more after that.

The reason for this onslaught of rate increases is the steady rise of inflation to a 31-year high of 6.8 per cent as of April. Housing holds a special place on the list of inflationary concerns at the Bank of Canada.

In a speech last month, senior deputy governor Carolyn Rogers zeroed right in on housing. “We need higher rates to moderate demand, including demand in the housing market,” she was reported as saying in a Reuters story. “Housing price growth is unsustainably strong in Canada.”

How did housing get so unsustainably strong? Partly because our national home ownership obsession was amplified by the pandemic. Interest rates were slashed to support the economy and lockdowns left people hungering to own homes with more space.

Growth in the number of real estate investors and speculators took housing to the next level. Individual investors were responsible for just over 20 per cent of all purchases nationally in the first half of 2021. Given that prices didn’t peak until February of this year, it’s likely that investor buying was even more of a factor in the latter part of 2021.

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Monthly payment for new mortgage on a typical home is up nearly $800 from October

The consumer price index used by Statistics Canada reflects housing costs in a few different ways, including the cost of new houses and expenses related to home ownership. Rannella Billy-Ochieng, an economist at RBC Economics, said these costs accounted for roughly 20 per cent of the rise of inflation in recent months.

Housing also has a role in the psychology that sustains inflation. Until recently, buyers were willing to bid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the ask price for houses out of fear they might not be able to afford a purchase later on. Speculators and investors helped create that sense of urgency.

Behaviour in the housing market is a concern to the Bank of Canada because it suggests inflation is becoming entrenched in the economy. The bank’s seriousness about inflation can be seen in the fact that rates are going up by increments of 0.5 of a point instead of the more typical 0.25 increase we’ve seen in the past. Earlier in the spring, there was even speculation that rates could jump by an exceptional 0.75 of a point in one go.

Increases in the central bank’s overnight rate directly affect the cost of variable-rate mortgages, and they indirectly influence fixed-rate mortgages as well. Globe personal finance reporter Erica Alini recently wrote about data showing the monthly payment for a new mortgage on a typical home increased by close to $800 monthly from October to April.

Investing, whether it’s in houses, stocks or cryptocurrency, means accepting the possibility of losing money in order to get a better return than keeping money safely in cash or savings. Savvy real estate investors would have foreseen the possibility of rising rates hurting home prices, and the unsavvy ones will learn.

Everyday homeowners should have been ready for higher rates, too. But without the influence of investors buying up homes, these rate increases might have been less of a burden.

Imagine you and your young kids bought a first home five years ago, when a well-discounted five-year fixed rate mortgage could be had for 2.25 per cent. You bought the place to live in, not to flip or rent. You made improvements in your property and the community benefited from your presence.

Flash ahead to 2022 – you must now renew at mortgage rates around 4.2 per cent for the same five-year fixed rate. A substantial increase in mortgage payments is coming, brought to you in part by real estate investors and speculators.

Are you a young Canadian with money on your mind? To set yourself up for success and steer clear of costly mistakes, listen to our award-winning Stress Test podcast.

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Simplicity launches real estate conveyancing solution in Ontario –



Today, Simplicity Global Solutions, a Canadian technology company, announced that its real estate conveyancing solution, Prolegis Real Estate, is available in Ontario.

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Source: Simplicity Global Solutions

Prolegis is a cloud-based real estate conveyancing solution made for real estate lawyers. It integrates with a real estate practice, providing tools and information to help each user enhance their performance, customer engagement, and work-life balance.

Prolegis is designed to help users save time, with all the capabilities and key third-party integrations needed to convey a real estate transaction. The solution provides user flexibility to configure and organize work, communicate with clients, and manage the real estate transaction end-to-end from a single solution at any time. It offers a library of document and workflow management tools, community databases, stakeholder portals, and real-time support.

‘Simplicity is incredibly pleased and excited to offer Ontario real estate lawyers and conveyancers a fresh new choice in a legal software provider. Collaborating with our valued customers and a network of trusted stakeholders, we are building a better, brighter future for real estate legal professionals and Canadian homebuyers,” said Neil N. Babiy, co-founder and chief executive officer of Simplicity Global Solutions Ltd. “At Simplicity, we envision a future where innovative technology is at the forefront of enhancing the customer experience in the real estate ecosystem. We are committed to helping advance technology utilization and adoption within the real estate sector by providing solutions that are user-friendly, easy to implement, and economical to acquire and operate.”

Ontario real estate lawyers and conveyancers can now book a demo and learn more about the tool here.

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U.S. real estate giant Blackstone says it will not target single-family homes in its Canadian expansion – The Globe and Mail



Blackstone Inc. BX-N said Monday it has no interest in investing in single-family homes in Canada, laying to rest speculation the giant global asset manager would scoop up hundreds of Canadian houses and turn them into rental properties.

After Blackstone announced plans in May to establish a Canadian office in Toronto, rumours abounded that the private equity firm would unleash its firepower, gobble up homes and increase competition for individuals and families looking to buy homes. The typical home price across the country has climbed 50 per cent over the past two years and real estate investors have come under scrutiny for their role in ramping up competition and driving up prices.

But Blackstone’s head of real estate Americas, Nadeem Meghji, said that is not in the cards for the company’s Canadian expansion.

“It’s just not an area that we are focused on in Canada,” he said in a joint interview with Janice Lin, the new head of Blackstone Canada.

Blackstone targets Canadian real estate, opens office in Toronto

The New York-based company, which has US$915.5-billion in assets under management, has been accused of profiting off the 2007 U.S. housing meltdown after it bought swaths of distressed properties and then rented them out to U.S. residents.

Blackstone has said it did not own any single-family homes before the crisis and didn’t foreclose on any of the properties. It has also said many of its purchases were homes that had been sitting vacant and dragging down local property values.

Blackstone has since sold that business and owns a rent-to-own business called Home Partners of America – one of the many players in a growing single-family home rental market in the U.S.

“We don’t have a similar platform in Canada and we don’t have the intention of launching one because, from our perspective, we think there are just more interesting places to deploy capital in the Canadian market,” Mr. Meghji said.

Ms. Lin, a former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board executive, is in charge of Blackstone’s expansion in Canada. She cited the country’s favourable immigration policies and its strong population growth as two key factors that make Canada a winner for Blackstone’s capital.

Blackstone mostly owns warehouses and other industrial space in Canada, as well as a couple of office towers. It also has some investments in apartment building developments. All together, they are worth about US$14-billion, according to Blackstone, representing just a tiny fraction of the company’s global real estate portfolio.

Ms. Lin and Mr. Meghji both said the company will continue to invest in industrial and top office buildings, as well as hotels.

Blackstone has previously said it expects its growth here will be significant. Mr. Meghji would not quantify “significant” except to say he expects growth will be material and Canada could eventually command a larger share of Blackstone’s global real estate portfolio.

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Calls increase for more money as Montreal and rest of Quebec facing housing crunch



MONTREAL — When Soufia Khmarou moved from Morocco to Montreal in 2009, she thought finding an affordable house for her and her three children was going to be easy.

“I was not expecting this,” Khmarou said in an interview Monday. “What we see, what we hear about Quebec … the reality doesn’t reflect the ad.”

Khmarou appeared next to Manon Massé, a spokesperson with Quebec’s second opposition party, Québec solidaire, who told reporters Montreal’s affordable housing shortage is going to get worse if more money isn’t made available.

Standing next to a construction site of high-end condominiums near downtown Montreal, Massé said, “There are housing units being built in Montreal. But for the families that want to find a place to stay and afford to pay rent each month, there’s a crisis.”

The need for affordable housing will be especially acute after June 30, she said, when most of the leases across the province end. Many families will be forced to remain in or move into homes that are unsanitary or unfit for their needs. Massé said low-income families in Montreal and in the rest of the province are spending up to 85 per cent of their monthly incomes on housing.

Khmarou said she’s been on waiting lists to access subsidized housing for the past three years, hoping to move her family out of a Montreal apartment she said is unsanitary.

“But I don’t have any answers; all I see is more and more people on the same lists,” Khmarou said. “There’s no hope; there’s no low-rental housing that’s being added on the market.”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante held a separate news conference on Monday, also to lament the lack of affordable housing in the city. Plante said Montreal has been waiting for the past four years for millions of dollars promised by the federal government to build around 1,200 affordable housing units and renovate an additional 4,700 units.

“We know that there’s a housing crisis — it’s hard on July 1,” Plante told reporters. “To know that there are almost 6,000 units that are taken hostage, that aren’t made available for citizens, it’s unacceptable. It’s been four years, at one point, patience has a limit.

“When we talk about the safety and healthiness of housing units, that’s what’s at stake,” she said.

A coalition of housing committees and tenant associations in Quebec released a report over the weekend indicating a widespread rent increase across the province. The coalition analyzed 51,000 rental listings from February to May and said rents across the province increased by nine per cent between 2021 and 2022, reaching an average of $1,300 per month.

The coalition said that less-populated parts of the province were used to an accessible market but are now seeing strong increases., a Canadian website for apartment rental searches, said the average rent for all Canadian properties listed on its site was $1,888 per month in May — a year-over-year rise of 10.5 per cent. With an average of about $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom unit, Montreal ranked 22nd out of 35 cities. Vancouver, the front-runner, had the same size units listed for an average of $3,495 per month.

The association of homebuilders, called the Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec, said in a report last week that Quebec is missing 100,000 homes, with more than 37,000 families on waiting lists to access subsidized housing.

Paul Cardinal, director of economic services with the association, wrote that “the only way to sustainably reduce real estate overheating is to increase supply.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 27, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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