The whole economy changed with the advent of COVID-19 in March 2020. But prior to that, things were, well, more normal. And that’s why year-over-year realty sales figures in Saskatchewan for January 2021 stand out, because they are up – way up.
On Feb. 3, the Saskatchewan Realtors Association (SRA) said in a release, “Building off the momentum seen in 2020, the Saskatchewan real estate market started 2021 off strong. Across the province, sales were up over 49 per cent from last January (going from 616 to 919), new listings were down just over five per cent (going from 1,855 to 1,758). Inventories were also down in 18 of the 19 markets that the SRA tracks.”
“We haven’t seen a January like this since 2012,” said SRA economic analyst Chris Gbekorbu in the release.
With new listings down 10 per cent from their historical averages, there are fewer houses being put on the market. At the same time, the rising number of sales combined with falling inventory suggests strong demand for what housing is available. This could put upward pressure on prices and help to encourage potential sellers, according to the SRA.
“Although it is only one month and another COVID-like event could slow things down again like it did last March and April, this strong start should help us be optimistic for 2021,” said Gbekorbu.
The SRA noted that while some analysts have suggested that national housing numbers could suffer significantly this year, “most analysts project that home prices will rise and that the economy will see strong growth as we continue to recover from the effects of COVID. Most consumers are also optimistic about real estate, expecting the market to continue to grow and be a good investment opportunity.”
Samantha Krahn, director of external and government relations with the SRA, said by phone from Saskatoon on Feb. 4, “What is going on is pretty much across the entire province. People are still looking for homes, and there’s definitely less homes out there. So, the ones that are available, people are clamouring for.
“We saw a lot of pent-up demand that basically drove the market up and we had one of the best years ever, last year, in real estate probably the last five years in almost all of the markets that we actually keep track of things for.
“So it’s pretty extraordinary, considering the pandemic. You know, people really want to find a home and they’re spending more time there.”
This is happening despite an economy that saw thousands in Saskatchewan lose their jobs and businesses fighting to stay alive due to pandemic restrictions. Asked how that squares with the current realty market, Krahn said, “We had the lockdown in March, April and May. We were pretty stagnant; pretty much almost everything was on hold, it felt like in the market. And then June rolled around and things kind of just slowly picked up from there and even this month again, there’s definitely less stock on the market but there’s people out there looking for it.”
She said in Saskatoon, in particular, they are seeing something called a “delayed presentation of offers.” That’s were five to as many as eight potential buyers may view a home, a number of offers are accepted and then at a certain time, they’re all presented to the homeowner. Krahn said that hasn’t happened in probably 10 years, according to some of their members. “It’s definitely a sellers’ market now,” Krahn said.
Southeast Saskatchewan had some of the lowest numbers highlighted, but even they saw an increase, with sales up 13.3 per cent going from 30 in January 2020 to 34 in January 2021, up 27.8 per cent from the five-year average (and 12.2 per cent above the 10-year average). The total number of sales in Estevan was flat at 8 and fell 36.4 per cent in Weyburn, going from 11 to 7.
Sales in Estevan were 5.3 per cent above the five-year average and 22.3 per cent below the 10-year average, while they were 14.6 per cent below the five-year average and 20.5 per cent below the 10-year average in Weyburn.
The number of new listings in southeast Saskatchewan fell 1.1 per cent, going from 93 to 92.
Looking at commercial real estate more in depth in the fourth quarter of 2020, Krahn said their economist found that, “COVID has accelerated trends that were already happening; less need for retail space and way more need for warehouse space, things like that,” according to Krahn.
She added, “It’s definitely, I think, accelerated a lot of the trends that we’ve been seeing.
“You look at the southeast part, like Weyburn, Estevan, obviously things are a little bit less rosy down there, I think, probably because of resources and some of that. Same with Calgary, normally one of the hardest markets in Western Canada,” she said.
Asked if we’ve crested, Krahn responded, “That’s tough to say.”
She doesn’t see anything going downwards anytime soon. Right now, everyone is waiting for the COVID-19 vaccines.
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)
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