What can be done about unsustainable housing market growth?

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One industry leader believes Canada’s economic recovery – lead in large part by the housing market – has been unsustainable; and he is calling for action from the Bank of Canada.

“The possibility of growth surprising to the upside in Canada is increasing. Despite quite high valuations, the Canadian housing market remains robust as consumers are able to take on more debt at very low rates, which in turn could drive overall economic growth to levels potentially higher than anticipated,” Ed Devlin, managing director with PIMCO said in his latest analysis of the Canadian economy. “It sounds like investors should be happy, right?”

Not so fast.

According to Devlin not all growth is equal and in Canada – since the financial crisis – much of the growth has been a result of record-low interest rates. And this sort of growth isn’t sustainable.

“Canada has been driven by consumers borrowing money at incredibly low interest rates to buy ever-larger houses and to fuel consumption,” Devlin said. “This is not exactly healthy growth, but when the economy is in a free fall post a financial crisis, any growth is better than none.”

Devlin acknowledges the difficult position the Bank of Canada is in, but he has also called for more action from the government.

“BoC Governor Stephen Poloz has been dealt a difficult hand; the BoC has to be very careful of the trade-off between growth and financial stability. Given the ‘serial disappointments’ in the robustness of the economic recovery, the BoC has stressed downside risks to inflation in order to depreciate the Canadian dollar and in turn spur economic growth via increased exports,” Devlin said. “The objective is noble, but the problem with talking down a currency is that if the talk is not followed up by actions, the speculators who are shorting the Canadian dollar today will likely close their positions, leading to an inevitable short covering rally.”
  • Glenn May-Anderson on 2014-10-03 12:19:27 PM

    Another misleading headline. And let's remember that the PIMCO article focuses on the bond market, and how BoC policy could affect mid-term and longer-term yields. This is different than an actual analysis of the sustainability of the housing market in Canada.

    For those interested in getting the actual facts, I would recommend this link:


    Yes, Ben works for a development company. Yes, he determines which markets that development company should invest in, and which projects they should approve and which they should decline. This is because the company in question makes their money on successfully exited development projects, and takes profits on completion.

    Add to that the CMHC data, and comments from Will Dunning and Benjamin Tal, and I think you will find it to be a far more balanced article if you are interested in the real picture for the housing market in Canada.

    Conjecture is one thing. In this case, it's more important to get the FACTS.

  • Bob on 2014-10-03 2:36:46 PM

    Just another example of a misguided moron that has no idea of what is really happening in the real estate market!
    Having been a real estate sales professional for 36 years, this is just another person crying wolf. Every 5-8 years there is a so-called expert that decides they know what is happening in the real estate market when they know absolutely nothing other than panic!

  • Ron Butler on 2014-10-03 3:39:32 PM

    Well, I don't think that every article that suggests Canadian property values may be overreaching and subject to possible reversal in values needs to be attacked by people with a vested interest in convincing customers that property values will increase eternally.

    It never hurts to consider an alternative outcome to infinite value run-up. This person may be wrong but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • Ross Kay on 2014-10-04 9:23:44 AM

    Unfortunately almost this entire discussion is based on a lack of understanding in what has gone in Canada's real estate market since 2002.
    Even the valuations quoted by everyone mentioned above are clearly evident that they have never studied the housing market in Canada but simply prefer to regurgitate what they are provided from marketing companies like CREA.

    CMHC, 3 weeks ago was discovered to have mistakenly assumed the CREA average selling price has always represented what the value of the average Canadian home is.
    While Canadians are now staying in their homes 2 years and four months longer than in 2007, consumers are told the market is busy.
    Because sellers are afraid to move only means fewer resale homes are coming to market.
    TREB issues misleading press releases each month that the press does not read the disclosures that allow the misleading part to be removed.
    Analysts who have never sold homes or worked through a series of market cycles claim to be experts and make atrocious claims that have no data or statistics to support them.
    The new home market has grown a declining rates each year since 2002.
    Clearly there is no understanding on where the concentration of sales has ALWAYS moved in every local market and the disproportionate valuation average selling prices have because of it.
    Everyone reads one months sales data and believes that is reflective of what happens in the market.
    Over 3 million privately owned homes in Canada cannot legally even come to market in less than a minimum of 12 months lead time yet everyone includes them in their data.

    The housing market is composed of 3 unique markets, that together form the housing market yet every economist, CMHC, the finance minister and every university is oblivous to that fact.

    So let's be clear a realty market turns in one month. Every turn in the last 20 years has been ignored and cannot be found in any Google search.

    Residential real estate is not bought and sold as a result of interest rates (except the early 80's) is bought and sold on Residential Valuation Consumer confidence and employment outlooks and nothing more.

    Really.... Using Global Rent rates versus ownership costs as a reference to explain the overvaluation of the Canadian market means the author would have NO KNOWLEDGE that Canada is unique in the world and cannot be compared to even the US let alone the UK or Australia.

    What education has Mr. Devlin had in realty markets? Where is his experience coming from? Who taught him what factors impact the Canadian home owners decision making process? Has he been conned by CREA into the $407,000 average home price and did he use this in his analysts.

    Really guys...ask any mortgage broker how busy the real estate market has been, even in the GTA. Are they booking record mortgages? Ask them how few first time buyers they are now seeing actually purchase a home in 2014 versus 2012 and before.

    Yesterday Oct 3rd TREB lied about having over 500 additional sales in September 2014 if they used the 2007 measuring standard.

    Really....are you guys going to allow yourselves and your clients to be conned too!!

    What mortgage advice would you have given in 1988???

  • Massive on 2014-10-09 3:39:41 PM

    I suggest massive factory production of high end prefab homes , only that will kill off the blood sucking speculators in real estate market.

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