​Canada’s market not as healthy as believed to be?

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All is not as it seems in the Canadian housing market, according to one major economist who points to several vulnerable markets that may be lulling economists and the Bank of Canada into a false sense of optimism about the market, overall.

“Canada’s housing market remains healthy and well balanced overall, albeit with sizeable disparities across regions,” BMO Chief Economist Douglas Porter writes in his latest housing analysis, entitled “Canadian Housing: A Tale of 26 Cities. “The major potential flashpoint is that prices in the three hottest cities—Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver—are rising faster than family income, further straining affordability.”

Porter points to several factors that are creating the illusion of a “well-behaved and calm market”; including the 190,000 housing unit start, a sales jump of 1.8 per cent in August, and a 5.3 per cent year-over-year price increase. Furthermore, sales are approaching pre-recession highs. But how much of this data is being bolstered by the few markets that many industry pundits believe is over-valued?

“Meantime, the seemingly calm exterior on sales and prices masks a deepening divide between large cities and small, and West and East,” Porter writes. “On the sales side, almost half the major markets (12) reported declines last month, with double-digit drops in Halifax, Sudbury and Winnipeg. Similarly, so far this year, precisely half of Canada’s cities saw sales drop, with 8 of the 9 cities east of Ontario down, while only 1 of 8 in the west fell.”

The strength of the markets in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver are the reason the BoC has stopped forecasting a soft landing for Canada’s housing market, according to Porter.

“But we would reinforce the message that talk about the ‘hot housing market is really only a 3-city story,” Porter concludes.
  • Jerry Quigley on 2014-09-16 6:42:31 PM

    Finally, someone gets it. My city, Kamloops, has had the same prices for 6 or more years. It has a good number of sales, a little better than historical averages. Homes are not cheap, but still affordable at 32% GDS. Victoria is another city with prices the same as 5 years ago and plenty of supply.

  • Mary on 2014-09-16 8:13:00 PM

    Let's put it in perspective - It may very well be a 3 city story because those 3 cities may be home to the majority of the population. IF more than 50% of the country's population resides in these 3 cities, then - YES - it does matter because they represent the largest portion of the country's housing market. So reports that they are continuing to see strong gains would be good news for the majority of the country.

    As for how the mortgages across the country should be under-written. There should always be a local component (or input) because it will have an impact on how the property is valued. Recently, I was working on a mortgage for a Brooklin, Ontario property and one lender declined the deal (because of the property value increase). Another lender gladly approved the deal because the underwriter lives in the same neighbourhood and could personally vouch for the increase in property values (over and above appraisal).

  • Keith on 2014-12-31 11:40:29 AM

    Anyone that follows real estate would know that sales drop off in November compared to the previous month. It is Canada and every market sees drop offs typically beginning in October through to February/March. Happens every year not just this one!

    Vancouver, Toronto make up the majority of housing in this country. If one or both of these cities real estate market sneezes many economists see the whole country as being sick. Calgary and Edmonton do not have the same impact on the national numbers and affordability in both is still below 40%.

    The fact is every market is different and supported by different economic fundamentals. If you want to understand what is happening and could happen in your area you have to educate yourself on the economic fundamentals of your area. No two cities are exactly the same.

  • Angela Wong-Liao - Invis on 2014-12-31 11:50:26 AM

    I believe Mr Porter has the most realistic analysis of the true Canadian real estate market. Canada is not composed of ONLY THREE CITIES, CALGARY, VANCOUVER & TORONTO, it is composed of at least 26 other cities inside the ten provinces of Canada.

    Two of the reasons that are driving the real estate market in the BIG THREE are exceptionally low interest rate and limited listing in certain parts of the BIG THREE, but when we average the real estate pricing from other cities in Canada, the real estate pricing is NOT 30% OVER VALUE but probably 5-10%.

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