Lender executive weighs in on housing policy suggestion

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One industry veteran cautions the government to consider the wide-reaching ramifications of attempting to temper rising prices, amid growing calls for it to do so.
“Complex markets, like the Canadian areal estate market, are difficult to intervene and tinker with,” Chris Whyte, Home Trust’s newly appointed COO, told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. "I would be a bit concerned about how effective any attempt to curb the market could be.
“I’ve yet to see any market [outside Canada] that has intervened in a way that has satisfied all parties.”
Whyte’s comment was in response to BMO Economist Sal Guatieri’s suggestion that investment speculators – along with foreign investors – are a major driving force behind inflated home prices in Toronto and Vancouver.
And that the government should step in to manage that influence.
“The sooner that governments can provide a clearer picture of how much speculative investment is driving these price moves and take meaningful action to curb the excesses, the better the chance of avoiding a messy outcome,” Guatieri said in a recent research note.
Whyte, however, notes speculative investment is a natural result of solid housing markets.
“Just logically, any market that’s rising quickly attracts investors. If you’re seeing a market where things are increasing 5-10-15-20%, people want to participate in that,” he said. “I think the issue around the market in Canada is more complex than people want to give credit to.

“Is investment part of it? Sure.”
He also noted that recent government intervention may have had little impact on the overall housing industry.
“I think there are some things you can do around the edges; CMHC has done that, the government has done that,” Whyte said. “Whether or not those are ultimately effective, I’m not sure. Some say they didn’t intervene enough.
“I think more intrusive interventions [could have a negative impact].”
  • Jerry Quigley on 2016-06-09 9:42:41 AM

    How about the cities of Toronto & Vancouver put a special & temporary annual property tax of 15% of the purchase price of any residential property over $750,000?

  • David on 2016-06-09 10:15:41 AM

    Imposed more fee, tax or whatever = adding cost to the purchase of a property = the added cost will be part of the selling price = the price will be higher

    If very high fee, tax or etc imposed, market will become very quiet but doesn't mean price will go down, the Realtor industry will die down.

    This can be seen in Hong Kong in the pass 6 years, Govt put high transfer tax and also extra tax for non resident. Result is market became very quiet but price not going down but keep gone up bit by bit.

  • Marcy Berg on 2016-06-09 11:02:58 AM

    Does anyone think that our youth with live with the hopelessness of home ownership? they vote too. I think all lenders should be concerned about the government making moves to curb the housing market but that doesn't make it good for everyone. The government will have to think about their next move very carefully. It would seem a simple thing to do is make a mandatory 5 day period between offers and waivers. That would help a bit. right now we have a buyers running around buying houses they may not buy and prices they might not have paid just to get into the market. So many are taking great risks and buying without conditions. I think it's important that we make sure younger people have a strong future and not see them underwater with mortgages. I would be in favour of a dispassionate discussion amongst all industry leaders.

  • Kevin R. on 2016-06-13 11:48:14 AM

    I recently spoke to a friend that has been looking for a home for almost a year. He was consistently outbid, and for the most part by foreign dollars. He finally found a place but in order to secured the property he had to place a conditions free bid on the property.

    Fast forward to now he has had an inspection done and there are now issues with the property. He has no recourse because it was a subject free offer. The former owners (not Canadian residents) did not disclose that there had been a leak in the bathroom up stairs and there are issues surrounding that, some electrical issues, etc. As the owners are not in Canada, the property manager - who also happens to be the selling realtor - hired people who did very shoddy work, did not get the proper permits or inspections then just slapped a new coat of paint on it and made it look pretty for the sale.

    He has a choice, cancel the sale and risk losing his deposit, or sucking it up and paying for the repairs. If he cancels the sale, then he has to try to get into the market, which since he bought this place - prices have gone up even more.

    I have heard from two others that later discovered the home they bought was an unreported grow-op, again owned by non residents of Canada. These buyers got out because the properties were used for illegal activities... but had there been inspections done it would never have been an issue for them in the first place.

    At the very minimum I think that the government should legislate that all sales are subject to full, independent, inspections.

    I also think that a realtor who knows of issues with a property, and engages in deception for the purpose of making a sale... should lose their real estate license and be heavily fined.

    The realtor who knew about the electrical and water issues in my friends place is one of the top realtors in his area. Some might argue that he did not know about the issues... but he did. He was the property manager and was the one that contracted with people to fix/hide the issues.

  • John Greenlee on 2016-06-15 4:20:10 PM

    Kevin R. Your friend might want to buy home owners title insurance. It may help out with the work done without proper permits (Might want to check on that first).

    I'd tend to lean towards more regulation potentially having a negative affect. That said, it could be a darned if you do, darned if you don't scenario at this point for the government. When you look at the numbers outside of BC and Ontario, "the average price for Canada net of sales in British Columbia and Ontario in May 2016 was down 0.7 percent year-over-year to $310,007.” - (quoted numbers are from another article on this site), then the pricing isn't really over heated and is in fact going down. Creating guidelines that only affect a small geographical area may indeed have adverse ripple affects in the communities and economies around them.

    I think this is going to turn into a tight rope walk for the government that they will have to be very careful with should they decide to do anything. Of course if the market blows up in their face, they'll be blamed for inaction.

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