Our interviews with top experts on the market amidst Covid-19 identified these key factors making an impact now – and what to watch for next.
After hosting over 20+ hours of top expert interviews at our online Toronto Real Estate Summit last week at MoveSmartly.com, we feel like we’ve just completed a killer crash course in real estate, finally ascending to the ranks of those who’ve learned something new in lockdown (move over, pandemic sourdough bakers). You can now watch all Summit sessions on demand here.
When the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis reached Toronto in mid-March, we were, like everyone, frightened by the loss of life and suffering of those around us and around the world – and stunned by the near total shutdown of our economy and our real estate market.
And then the questions from worried home owners, buyers, sellers and renters started coming in.
We decided to launch an online Summit, co-hosted by Realosophy Realty, to try to help by providing high quality information to real estate consumers given the anxiety we’re all feeling.
After a week of truly insightful conversations with top experts, we can’t say that the troubling and uncertain times we are in will be over anytime soon – but we’ve heard from many Summit viewers that gaining knowledge has made them feel a little more in control of their situations and better able to do what is best for them.
Here are the top seven takeaways from the Summit:
1. A beach ball bounceback?
Pre-Covid, the Toronto area real estate market was red hot in Feb, with 17% appreciation in home prices year over year; pre-construction condo sales were similarly robust, and the main worry was that the market might be overheating.
In spite of real estate being declared an essential service, the market came to a near complete stop in mid-March as we entered lockdown with April seeing an unprecedented 70% drop in sales volume.
Summit experts across the board were surprised by the near total bounce back of the market in June, as buyers and sellers returned in strength and sales volume recovered to the same level as last year.
Speakers Jason Mercer, Chief Market Analyst at the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (View session here), and Shaun Hildebrand, President at Urbanation (View session here), a leading Toronto condo market research and consulting firm, suggested they will likely return to pre-Covid price projections with the average Toronto home price expected to rise to $900,000 and condo prices per square foot to rise by 6.5% by the end of this year.
This early strength has made the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) forecast which projects a fall in Canadian home prices of up to 18% by the end of the year in the wake of Covid-19 seem too pessimistic.
But experts at the Summit expressed caution about the longevity of a bounceback that was largely linked to the pent-up demand of active buyers who were unexpectedly locked down. Speaker Frances Donald, Global Chief Economist at Manulife Investment Management (View session here), has elsewhere recently likened consumer behaviour in the wake of the Covid lockdown to that of a temporarily submerged beach ball springing up out of the water and Hildebrand warned that without a recovery of the normal, longer-term drivers of home prices – such as immigration and job and income growth – the market was running “on the fumes.”
2. A tale of two workers.
With 14% unemployment in Canada in the wake of Covid, many Summit viewers wondered just who is buying homes today and how home prices are staying up and even rising?
One explanation shared by Mercer and other experts at the Summit is that the unequal impact of Covid-19 on job sectors, with those in the services being hit much harder than those office workers able to transition to working from home, has a parallel in the real estate market, with office workers more likely to own (and be able to continue buying) homes and service workers more like to rent.
But the complexity of the jobs story will only continue – sharp falls in consumer demand in certain sectors coupled with re-opening restrictions on how organizations will have to operate going forward may result in a reduction in income even for those who have managed to keep on working in higher-end occupations such as dentists and university professors.
3. Working from home has driven buyers to outer burbs and cottage country.
Real estate professionals at the Summit reported a strong uptick in sales in the outer burbs and cottage country since June as many seek out better conditions as they work from home, home school children and bunker down in multi-generational bubbles while trying to avoid the risks of getting Covid felt to be higher in more dense urban areas. Recent sales stats show that the seven hottest municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with sales up by more than 40% are on average 86km from Toronto.
Summit speakers Donald and Lu Han, Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at the University of Toronto, highlighted this as an important behavioural trend that may impact the Toronto area housing market in the years ahead.
Speaker Andrea DelZotto, Director and Executive Vice President, Community Development at the Tridel Group of Companies (View session here), Canada’s largest condo builder, noted that just how long-lasting such consumer behavioural shifts will be are harder to assess: How long will we want to work from home once we no longer need to? Will there be a return to pre-Covid trends such as the preference for dense, mixed-use “15-minute” cities?
Even if Covid-19 health exigencies are shorter-term (far from a sure thing given concerns about returning Covid waves this fall and new pandemics in the future), a second trend, that of Canadians wanting to deleverage and downsize their mortgages as the Covid crisis has us all thinking about our personal finances more closely than usual (see point #6 on debt below), may make the movement to less expensive outlying areas a longer-lived one.
4. Renting is about to get cheaper.
Summit speaker Hildebrand notes that that condo rents were already on the decline pre-Covid as new condo units continue to reach completion in the Toronto area adding to supply. Overall, 2020 Q2 saw a decline of 3.5% per sq foot, with rents dropping further from 7 to 15% in more expensive, high supply downtown Toronto areas like the Entertainment District, Liberty Village and CityPlace.
Tighter regulations of short-term Airbnb-style rentals were also on the increase pre-Covid, including in the City of Toronto, leading to more units being offered to longer-term renters, adding to supply.
On top of this, Covid-19 has led to an unprecedented drop in non-permanent resident and foreign student arrivals, immigration and tourism, furthering dampening rental demand. Hildebrand noted that 25-35K non-permanent residents arrive in Canada every month, a number which dropped to 4K in April, and 11K in May. Since then, most foreign students have been advised not to travel to Canada while Covid restrictions remain in place.
5. Is the condo market (finally) about to slow?
While the condo re-sale market and a few new condo projects were initially part of the market bounceback story (see #1 above), Hildebrand, Mercer and other experts flagged the condo market as facing the biggest number of uncertainties going forward.
In spite of Covid-19, Hildebrand notes that the Toronto area condo market may see 20,000 to 25,000 units completed, the biggest number since 2014, representing a significant increase in supply during a period where rental demand is falling.
Add to this the spectre of falling rents (per #4 above), and it remains to be seen how investors who have enjoyed good financial returns on their condo purchases up to now may judge prospects going forward.
6. Debt is a real drag.
Canadian households are in debt, our companies are in debt and our federal and provincial governments are in debt — and this debt was increasing before the Coronavirus crisis hit.
As Summit speaker Hilliard MacBeth, author and financial advisor (View session here), noted, Canadian household debt has been climbing at a much faster rate than in the U.S. since the last economic slowdown in 2008, and at 176%, we now have one the highest household debt-to-income ratios in the world.
Even pre-Covid, there was concern that Canadians may not be able to manage higher mortgage payments in the event of rising interest rates, risking a downturn in the market.
Now, a second concern, that this debt makes the market more vulnerable in an economic downturn is on the front-burner. With 16% of Canadians households currently deferring their mortgage payments, how many households, stretched too far by falling income and job losses due to Covid, will be unable to make mortgage payments the longer this economic crisis continues – and when government assistance ends?
Speaker Mikael Khan, Bank of Canada economist (View session here), suggests the risk of Canadians defaulting on their homes is somewhat mitigated by the amount of equity Canadians have accumulated over the last 20 years of rising home prices. But for how long? Donald points out that our debt levels may make our economic recovery a sluggish one for years to come.
(If the Covid crisis has made you, like so many Canadians, think more closely about your own personal finances and debt situation, don’t miss our tip-filled Summit sessions with Gail Vaz-Oxlade (View session here), Preet Banerjee (View session here) and Kerry Taylor (View session here).)
7. A longer-term boost for Canada and the Toronto Area?
Summit speakers were united in their agreement that the Canadian economy – and the Toronto real estate market – faces an unprecedented (perhaps *the* word for 2020?) number of risks.
Given this, one Summit viewer wondered why some speakers were still bullish on Toronto real estate in the long-term.
For anyone watching Toronto real estate for some time, it may feel like we’ve been here before – and emerged relatively unscathed. This blog itself originated in the last severe economic crisis we experienced in 2008. However, Summit speaker Kevin A. Bryan, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management, University of Toronto, cautioned against making a comparison between these two very different crises (View session here).
While no one minimized the depth and complexity of the current crisis, Mercer and Hildebrand suggested that some factors may make Canada even more attractive once travel restrictions lift: Canada’s more open attitude to immigration, foreign workers and students than has recently been seen in the United States and Canada’s management of the Covid-19 crisis itself which has seen its cases and death per capita remain lower than in the States. “I’m upbeat on the GTA over the long-term in terms of a place to work and its ability to attract new people into the region with all of them needing a place to live ,” noted Mercer.
But the biggest question for now is just how we and our market will fare in the short-term, and at MoveSmartly.com we’ll continue to track just how the many different factors identified by experts at the Summit actually play out.
Urmi Desai is Editor at Move Smartly, a leader in Toronto real estate news & analysis, and is Realosophy Realty’s Chief Content Officer with responsibility for Realosophy.com and all consumer education and tools.
Urmi holds a B.A. in Political Science and English from the University of Toronto and an M.A. from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (Trade Economics) at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada).
The Winnipeg Real Estate Market Continues to Grow – RE/MAX News
Could Winnipeg attract homebuyers from other major Canadian cities? Winnipeg has always been on the cusp of a major economic breakout. With the recent economic diversification initiatives of the past few years, the city has witnessed growth, but the path has been slow and long. Could the post-coronavirus economy speed up the momentum for this prairie city?
The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) was blunt in its assessment that Winnipeg and the broader province have seen the housing market blossom in the aftermath of the COVID-19 public health crisis. MREA president Glen Tosh called it an “extraordinary rebound,” particularly after it seemed like residential sales would plummet for a lot longer than just the March-to-April period.
Although the city appears to be playing catch-up, the Winnipeg real estate market has generally had a good 2020. In fact, despite the pandemic, this year is shaping up to be better than in 2019.
“Overall, 2019 was a good year for residential sales in Manitoba, and considering the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, catching up to and surpassing last year’s totals at this time is quite an achievement,” said Tosh in a statement. “While there are more challenges to come in fighting the global pandemic, we believe owning a home in Manitoba can offer a safe haven in an uncertain world.”
So, what do the numbers say?
The Winnipeg Real Estate Market Continues to Grow
According to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s (CREA) Winnipeg REALTORS, Winnipeg recently enjoyed its best month on record. In August, sales surged 28 per cent from the same time a year ago and above the five-year average.
New listings failed to keep up with rising sales. Last month, 2,374 new listings were added to the Winnipeg real estate market, which is down one per cent from the same time a year ago. It is also down nine per cent from July. Overall, the present supply stands at 4,232 listings, down 30 per cent from last August, and the number of sales that account for the current inventory is 44 per cent.
Put simply, demand is ballooning, but there is a shortage of listings to match buyers. This has created a situation of bidding wars and multiple offers.
What may surprise some market observers is that there has been an incredible increase in the move-up market as Winnipeg households seek more space. In fact, the highest sale price ever occurred in August: $3.9 million.
“A work from home trend is changing the way one thinks about the kind and extent of space and has definitely garnered more thought and attention,” said Catherine Schellenberg, RE/MAX Professionals, president of WinnipegREALTORS®, in a news release. “This coupled with historically low mortgage rates are motivating factors for a number of sellers and buyers to make a change during this pandemic.”
Since there is plenty of uncertainty in the broader economy with the cold and flu season on the horizon, homebuyers and sellers are wondering if Winnipeg can maintain the upward trajectory in housing. The consensus appears to be a resounding “yes”.
Can Winnipeg Sustain the Momentum in the Fall?
The Canadian real estate market is expected to benefit from ultra-low borrowing costs. Rates are at historical lows, and they could remain this way for several more years. The Bank of Canada (BoC) has all but confirmed that low interest rates are here to stay for a few more years. As part of the central bank’s efforts to cushion the economic blow from the virus outbreak, rates across-the-board will remain lower for longer. The five-year benchmark mortgage rate, for example, was lowered to below five per cent.
When borrowing is this low, it allows homebuyers to consider other options, like relocating to another city or upgrading their residences. Winnipeg could see an inflow of capital over the next couple of years, particularly as more people become concerned over hyperdense urban centres. The same trend is playing out in other Canadian urban markets like Halifax, which is in the beginning stages of a population boom and a capital influx.
Winnipeg is still recovering from the coronavirus-induced economic downturn, and its housing sector will play a role in its recovery. As pent-up demand and low inventory levels impact the real estate market, you can anticipate that prices will sustain their upward trajectory. According to the RE/MAX Winnipeg Housing Market Outlook (Fall 2020), real estate prices are forecast to rise two per cent for all property types for the remainder of 2020.
What better way to emerge from an unprecedented public heath crisis than seeing housing valuations climb! The future looks promising for this dynamic prairie city.
Royal LePage launches Canada's most powerful AI-driven real estate platform – Canada NewsWire
rlpSPHERE maximizes brokerage, team and agent productivity and profitability
TORONTO, Sept. 23, 2020 /CNW/ – Royal LePage, Canada’s largest real estate company, has launched its widely anticipated new digital brokerage ecosystem, rlpSPHERE. The technology drives brokerage, team and agent businesses struggling with unwieldy traditional tools through powerful websites, superior lead generation, compelling client insight, and an automated client nurturing system, which has natural and intuitive features that delight consumers and experienced professionals alike. With an AI-powered Smart CRM and analytics to track both overall business status and specific opportunities, brokers and agents are freed to be more strategic and increasingly efficient, optimizing their time with active clients while converting prospects in their sphere of influence into satisfied customers.
“We recognized that the quantity of technology being purchased by agents and brokerages was vast and ungovernable. These tools were islands, adding some value in a narrow, functional way but unable to communicate across the enterprise or to positively impact the professional life of a real estate professional,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO, Royal LePage. “We saw the unique opportunity to create a fully integrated solution built with AI programming that rapidly adapts to our professionals’ needs so that they can succeed in the fast-changing, unpredictable world of real estate brokerage. To be fair to our large national team, we knew it had to work on any platform, mobile or desktop. And, it had to be cloud-based so that our people could be productive anywhere, anytime. rlpSPHERE fulfills this audacious vision.”
At its heart, the rlpSPHERE system boasts extensive Canadianization and brand customization of the highly sought after kvCORE platform, creating a powerful all-in-one solution uniquely tailored to the needs of Canadian brokerages, REALTORS®1 and teams. rlpSPHERE is deeply imbued with Royal LePage’s marketing expertise and integrated into Royal LePage’s internal systems providing a seamless experience for agents, teams and brokers to run every aspect of their business.
“As the leader in real estate technology in Canada, we are providing our network with a competitive advantage, leveraging best-in-class consumer and agent technology, optimized to achieve meaningful business outcomes. In early results, energized sales teams are sharing that they’ve established a dominant online presence, engaged with new customers and re-engaged with existing ones. They foresee that they will increase their overall business and consumer service levels whether they are new or experienced agents,” said Carolyn Cheng, COO, Royal LePage.
rlpSPHERE includes cutting-edge productivity tools in a mobile-ready environment. Standout features include:
- Fully customizable brokerage, team and agent websites with the latest consumer search options including polygon map search, search by school catchment area, filtering by lifestyle data, search by travel time as well as recommended listings based on your search criteria.
- A robust Lead Engine featuring unlimited custom landing pages and IDX squeeze pages as well as built-in paid Google and Facebook advertising options via an integrated Marketplace.
- Intelligent, customizable lead routing and accountability options at the brokerage and team levels to optimize lead conversion.
- A Smart CRM and native mobile app with dynamic lead follow up and automated nurturing campaigns to engage more leads and sphere of influence contacts.
- Integrated and branded digital, print and social media marketing templates and options.
The rlpSPHERE platform also provides powerful options for team leaders, empowering Royal LePage teams to manage their business complete with their own branding, full database ownership and privacy as well as lead routing that is independent yet still leverages their brokerage’s services and Royal LePage national systems.
“We’re honoured to be the long-term technology partner, powering Canada’s leading real estate brand,” said Joe Skousen, president of Inside Real Estate. “Working with the talented and forward-thinking leadership team at Royal LePage to successfully customize our kvCORE platform, has been incredibly rewarding. One of our goals as a technology partner is to empower greater success and profitability for the agent, team and brokerage, with a brand-customized experience. It’s provided us another great opportunity to demonstrate not only the robust capabilities but also the flexibility of our platform. We’re thrilled to see the launch of rlpSPHERE to Royal LePage brokers, teams and agents to help drive bottom-line results – especially at a time when real estate professionals are relying on their technology more than ever.”
The rollout of rlpSPHERE began in spring 2020 and will continue through the coming months. Available in both English and French, the core solution will be provided at no cost to the company’s agents and brokerages. Early response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s a career changing system! It gives me the data, organization and structure to stay engaged and focused on what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis,” said Carlo De Castris, sales representative, Royal LePage Royal City Realty, Brokerage. “The automated nurturing and behavioural automation is surprisingly natural, human and personalized. I’ve closed 3 sales, secured an additional listing and have a steady flow of leads that I might not have otherwise had this summer.”
To learn more about rlpSPHERE, please visit rlp.ca/rlpsphere_video.
About Royal LePage
Serving Canadians since 1913, Royal LePage is the country’s leading provider of services to real estate brokerages, with a network of approximately 18,000 real estate professionals in over 600 locations nationwide. Royal LePage is the only Canadian real estate company to have its own charitable foundation, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, dedicated to supporting women’s and children’s shelters and educational programs aimed at ending domestic violence. Royal LePage is a Bridgemarq Real Estate Services Inc. company, a TSX-listed corporation trading under the symbolTSX:BRE. For more information, please visit royallepage.ca.
About Inside Real Estate: Inside Real Estate is a fast growing, independently-owned real estate software firm that serves as a trusted technology partner to over 200,000 top brokerages, agents and teams. Their flagship product, kvCORE Platform, is the most modern and comprehensive solution in the industry known for delivering profitable growth at every level of a brokerage organization. Built on a modern, scalable and flexible architecture, kvCORE enables every brokerage to create their own unique technology ecosystem through custom branding, robust integrations and high-quality add-on solutions. With an accomplished leadership team and over 175 employees, Inside Real Estate brings the resources, scale and vision to deliver ongoing innovation and success to their growing customer base.
1 The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA.
SOURCE Royal LePage Real Estate Services
For further information: Media Contacts: Royal LePage, Sarah Louise Gardiner, Director, Communications and Investor Relations, (647) 961-2260, [email protected]; Inside Real Estate, Media Contact: 801-407-9833
What is Happening in the Fredericton Real Estate Market? – RE/MAX News
Across the country, the real estate market boasted record-breaking numbers all summer long. From the Vancouver housing sector to the Fredericton real estate market, sales activity and prices popped, despite the COVID-19 pandemic lingering in the background. The industry has found the developments remarkable. Canada slipped into a recession and many companies were decimated, but the Canadian real estate market has remained solid during this chaotic time. It is a testament to the superb work of real estate agents, as well as the strength of the nation’s overall housing market.
Before the virus outbreak, New Brunswick was becoming one of many noteworthy real estate hot spots in the country. Although it faced a slump at the height of the pandemic, it has witnessed a remarkable recovery. Sharon Watts, executive officer for the Real Estate Board of the Fredericton Area (REFBA), recently described the state of the market as “like no other” the industry has seen before, since the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted by the province.
Whether it is pent-up demand or limited stocks, there are many factors contributing to the boom of the Fredericton real estate sector. Could these bullish factors sustain the market over the next few months?
What is Happening in the Fredericton Real Estate Market?
According to the REBFA, residential sales rose one per cent in July, the second-best July on record. The average price of homes sold surged 16.8 per cent to $218,760. In addition to growing demand in Fredericton, overall supply has trended downward for the last five years. Today, inventory sits at a 20-year low, and this could continue to decline, as recent real estate trends favour smaller cities and suburban or rural markets.
Fredericton has turned into a seller’s market as bidding wars have become commonplace within this city of about 60,000 people. Homebuyers are placing bids as high as $60,000 over the asking price.
“Activity in Atlantic Canada was back to pre-COVID-19 levels by May 2020, and like many sellers’ markets in Canada, multiple offer scenarios continue to happen in these regions,” the RE/MAX Fall Market Outlook Report stated.
Could this impressive feat be sustained for the remainder of 2020 – and beyond?
With low borrowing rates expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future, money has never been cheaper. The Bank of Canada (BoC) has reduced its five-year mortgage rate to below five per cent, and there is no reason to dismiss the idea that the central bank would lower it again.
During the pandemic, realtors have been relying on technology and digital tools to conduct transactions and work with their clients. Online documents, virtual tours and detailed web-based advertisements – real estate agents have used digital mechanisms to their advantage. This has allowed people from all over Canada to confidently purchase houses or condominiums in other places, even without seeing these properties in person.
Immigration is another factor that the industry is paying attention to. This year, immigration levels have cratered due to border restrictions and changes in travel. In June, more than 19,000 new permanent residents entered Canada, down from the more than 34,000 immigrants who were welcomed the same time a year ago.
This trend might have an impact on the Canadian real estate market, including Fredericton. The New Brunswick capital is also considered a college town that typically attracts a large number of international students. But while this may not affect the buying and selling of homes, it is disrupting the rental market.
Should this trend continue, developers might think twice about constructing rental units. But Fredericton locals are confident that this renewed demand for houses could be enough to encourage investors to bring new supply to the market.
Is Atlantic Canada the Next Major Housing Market?
Could Fredericton join the broader Atlantic Canada real estate boom? Whether it is the sizzling market of Halifax or St. John’s, cities across the Maritimes are witnessing better-than-expected sales activity and residential prices. Many of these cities are becoming appealing destinations for homeowners due to a renewed focus upon urban development initiatives and more affordable housing options. Plus, with rates as low as they are and remote work policies prevalent throughout the labour market, many are taking advantage of the opportunity and considering other cities and towns across the Great White North.
Once the coronavirus pandemic is safely behind us and society attempts to return to normal, the permanent shift could turn out to favour Fredericton and its neighbours on the east coast. Atlantic Canada may not just be a vacation hotspot for families from Toronto or Montreal. Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia could soon become top destinations for Canadian (and international) homebuyers.
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