National Real Estate News

Canadian National Real Estate News

Ottawa, ON, February 17, 2015 – According to statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales activity was down on a month-over-month basis in January 2015.

Highlights:

– National home sales fell 3.1% from December to January.
– Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity stood 2.0% below January 2014 levels.
– The number of newly listed homes rose 0.7% from December to January.
– The Canadian housing market remains balanced.
– The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) rose 5.17% year-over-year in January.
– The national average sale price rose 3.1% on a year-over-year basis in January.

The number of home sales processed through the MLS® Systems of Canadian real estate Boards and Associations fell 3.1 per cent in January 2015 compared to December 2014.

January sales were down from the previous month in about 60 per cent of all local housing markets. On a provincial basis, the monthly decline largely reflected fewer sales in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Monthly Home Sales CREA January 2015 Chart

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“As expected, consumer confidence in the Prairies has declined and moved a number of potential homebuyers to the sidelines as a result,” said CREA President Beth Crosbie. “By contrast, housing market trends in the Maritimes are continuing to improve, which underscores the fact that all real estate is local. Nobody knows this better than your local REALTOR®, who remains your best source for information about the housing market where you currently live or might like to in the future.”

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity in January stood two per cent below levels reported in the same month last year, marking the first year-over-year decline since April 2014.

“Comparing sales activity for January this year to sales one year earlier, there was a fairly even split between the number of markets where sales were up versus the number of markets where sales were down,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “The decline in national sales largely reflects weakened activity in Calgary and Edmonton. If these two markets are removed from national totals, combined sales activity remained 1.9 per cent above year-ago levels.”

The number of newly listed homes rose 0.7 per cent in January compared to December. New supply climbed higher in just over half of all local markets, led by Edmonton and Greater Toronto. By contrast, Greater Vancouver, Calgary, and Regina posted the largest monthly declines in new listings.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 49.7 per cent in January, marking the first time this measure of market balance has dipped below 50 per cent since December 2012.

Aggregate Composite MLS HPI - CREA January 2015

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A sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 per cent is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings above and below this range indicating sellers’ and buyers’ markets, respectively. The ratio was within this range in more than half of all local markets in January.

The number of months of inventory is another important measure of the balance between housing supply and demand. It represents the number of months it would take to completely liquidate current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

There were 6.5 months of inventory nationally at the end of January 2015, its highest reading since April 2013. As with the sales-to-new listings ratio, the reading for the number of months of inventory still indicates that the national market remains balanced.

The Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI rose by 5.17 per cent on a year-over-year basis in January. This continues the trend, in place throughout 2014, where year-over-year price gains held steady between five and five-and-a-half per cent.

Year-over-year price growth held steady in January for one-storey single family homes and decelerated for other Aggregate Benchmark housing types tracked by the index.

Two-storey single family homes continued to post the biggest year-over-year price gains (+6.57 per cent), followed closely by townhouse/row units (+5.00 per cent) and one-storey single family homes (+4.61 per cent). Price growth remained comparatively more modest for apartment units (+3.11 per cent).

Price gains varied among housing markets tracked by the index. As in recent months, Calgary (+7.76 per cent), Greater Toronto (+7.47 per cent), and Greater Vancouver (+5.53 per cent) continued to post the biggest year-over-year increases.

That said, while prices in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto continue to trend higher, the trend for prices in Calgary has been fairly stable since last summer while year-over-year gains continue to shrink.

In other markets from West to East, prices were up on a year-over-year basis in the Fraser Valley, Victoria, and Vancouver Island, while remaining stable in Saskatoon, Ottawa, and Greater Montreal. By contrast, prices declined on a year-over-year basis in Regina and Greater Moncton.

The MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) provides a better gauge of price trends than is possible using averages because it is not affected by changes in the mix of sales activity the way that average price is.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in January 2015 was $401,143. This represents an increase of 3.1 per cent year-over-year and the smallest increase since April 2013.

The national average home price remains skewed by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, which are among Canada’s most active and expensive housing markets. Excluding these two markets from the calculation, the average price is a relatively more modest $312,280, which represents a year-over-year decline of three tenths of one per cent.

These two charts came from the Hufington Post on February 17th, 2015.

Change in Avg House Prices Jan 2014-2015

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Home Sales Jan 2014-2015

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Link to Huffington Post article.

This article appeared in The Globe and Mail on January 30th, 2015 and was written by Tamsin McMahon.

Canada’s housing market is already seeing the impact of falling interest rates, with nearly half of Canadians telling a new survey that they are planning to buy a home in the next five years and more than 15 per cent saying cheaper mortgage rates will allow them to make the purchase sooner than expected.

Younger Canadians, who are struggling with far more debt than their parents did at the same age, are the most likely to respond to falling rates. More than a fifth of millennials told a Bank of Montreal home buyers survey that they have shortened their time-frame for buying a home because of lower rates and 75 per cent said they were planning on making a purchase within the next five years.

Regionally, the demand among buyers is strongest in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, where the combination of low interest rates and cheaper oil prices are poised to put more money in the pockets of consumers. Nearly a fifth of residents told pollsters that they would speed up their home purchase because of low interest rates.

In contrast, just 13 per cent of residents in Quebec and 12 per cent in Alberta said lower rates were having an impact on their buying decisions. Plunging oil prices have made Alberta consumers more cautious about jumping into the housing market this year, while a high vacancy rates and a glut of newly built condos in Quebec is pushing more potential first-time buyers into the rental market, according to Desjardins Group.

Mortgage rates have been falling since last week, when the Bank of Canada shocked markets by cutting interest rates by 25 basis points ( a basis point is a hundredth of 1 per cent.) Lenders soon followed, with major banks dropping five-year fixed rates mortgages to as low as 2.84 per cent and this week cutting their prime rates by 15 basis points, which quickly pushed variable-rate mortgages among the Big Six banks as low as 2.25 per cent.

On Friday, BMO said it was lowering rates on several of its fixed mortgages. The rate on a 10-year mortgage, for instance, fell 85 basis points to 3.84 per cent.

Many analysts had predicted that interest rates would rise this year, so the central bank’s unexpected decision to slash rates is widely expected to reignite the country’s cooling housing market. “Given the negative impact of lower oil prices on the Canadian economy, interest rates are likely to remain low for some time, supporting home sales, especially in Vancouver and Toronto where affordability is an issue”, said BMO senior economist Sal Guatieri.

But with mortgage rates falling only slightly and more Canadians telling the BMO survey they were planning to use lower rates to pay down their debt rather than load up on new ones, cheaper rates are expected to have a modest impact on the housing market.

Shortly before the Bank of Canada cut its target overnight lending rate, more than half of Canadians told an earlier BMO poll that cheaper rates would make them more likely to buy a home, though most said the drop would need to be 10 per cent or more to have a significant impact on their buying plans.

Link to article

This article appeared in the Globe and Mail on January 27th, 2015 and was written by Tamsin McMahon.

Canadian low mortgage ratesCanada’s major banks are heading into a renewed mortgage price war in the wake of the Bank of Canada’s surprise decision to cut interest rates.

Mortgage brokers reported that Royal Bank of Canada dropped its five-year fixed rate for qualified borrowers to 2.84 per cent over the weekend. While smaller, non-bank lenders have started offering even cheaper rates, RBC’s rate cut is likely a record for a major bank, said Drew Donaldson, executive vice-president of Safebridge Financial Group. The bank also slashed its posted 10-year fixed rate to 3.84 per cent, the lowest nationally advertised rate in the country, said Robert McLister, founder of Ratespy.com.

RBC spokesman Wojtek Dabrowski said the bank continues to “review the impact of the Bank of Canada’s rate decision,” and that the company’s “individual product lines continue to make pricing adjustments in the regular course of business to ensure we provide competitive rates in the marketplace.”

Bank of Nova Scotia and National Bank of Canada have also cut fixed rates on broker-originated mortgages by 10 to 20 basis points in recent days. Toronto-Dominion Bank said it was dropping its posted 5-year fixed rate on Tuesday to 3.09 per cent, down from 3.29 per cent.

Mortgage officials said RBC was among the last of the major banks to introduce new rate specials.

“National Bank already offers competitive rates over the mortgage rate spectrum as we moved early over the past weeks,” bank spokesman Claude Breton said.

A battle in the mortgage market seemed inevitable given that Government of Canada bond yields have plummeted in recent weeks, falling 57 basis points in the past month to historic lows. Brokers had predicted that falling bond yields were almost certain to drive down the fixed-rate mortgage pricing ahead of the competitive spring housing market even as banks have largely kept their prime rates, which govern variable-rate mortgages along with other types of loans, unchanged. All the major banks will soon be forced to follow the Bank of Canada and cut their prime rates 25 basis points to 2.75 per cent, Mr. Donaldson said. “We expect more cuts to come from all lenders,” he said.

Even ahead of the Bank of Canada’s unexpected rate cut last week, the country’s major banks already seemed poised for a new round of rate cuts this year. Earlier this month, Bank of Montreal chief executive officer Bill Downe told an industry conference the bank was expecting to “again have a fresh offer that is appealing to customers” in the spring. The bank drew the ire of former finance minister Jim Flaherty in 2013 after it dropped its five-year fixed mortgage rate to 2.99 per cent in what Mr. Flaherty called a “race to the bottom.”

The renewed price war is raising concerns that the central bank’s rate cut will add fuel to the country’s overheated housing market even as Canadians struggle under the burden of rising household debt. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal warned last week that falling mortgage rates could lead to “a monstrous spring in the real estate market.”

Others argue that low rates may not be enough to kick start a housing market that had already begun to slow toward the end of this year as oil prices plunged. Even as they predicted that Canada’s central bank will cut interest rates a second time later this year, TD economists said Monday they expect Canada’s real estate market to fare poorly this year as cheap crude and sky-high house prices in major cities are making it difficult for new buyers to afford to jump into the market despite low mortgage rates. “The housing market is … projected to be a drag on growth, with changes in existing home sales and prices, as well as housing starts, forecast to tilt into negative territory,” the bank said.

Link to article

This article appeared on the CP24 (CTV News) on January 21st, 2015 and was written by Alexandra Posadzki, The Canadian Press.

TORONTO — Canadian homeowners have likely gained a reprieve from an expected increase in mortgage rates this year.

Economists were expecting rates to dip slightly in response to the Bank of Canada’s surprise move Wednesday to cut its trend-setting interest rate to 0.75 per cent, from one per cent, to soften the blow of dropping oil prices on the Canadian economy.

“This signals that low interest rates will be with us a while longer,” said Avery Shenfeld, the chief economist at CIBC World Markets, noting that the central bank’s rate cut will likely mean a corresponding 0.25 drop in variable, or floating, mortgage rates.

Fixed-rate mortgages are also likely to see a slight decline, as they follow bond yields, which will move lower in response to the rate cut.

However, TD Bank (TSX:TD) was quick to announce Wednesday it will maintain its prime interest rate at three per cent, noting that factors beyond the central bank influence its rates.

“Not only do we operate in a competitive environment, but our prime rate is influenced by the broader economic environment, and its impact on credit,” the bank said in a statement.

It was anticipated that the Bank of Canada would move to increase its overnight rate later this year due to an improving economy, until crude prices started to slide and dropped below US$50 a barrel.

Phil Soper, president of realtor Royal LePage, predicted Canadians could be shopping for cheaper mortgages within days.

“It doesn’t take long to react to a policy change like this,” Soper said. “That’s why it’s such a powerful tool.”

A conventional five-year mortgage stands at about 4.79 per cent, according to data from the Bank of Canada.

Decreased mortgage rates could boost sales and prices of homes in Central Canada, including in Toronto’s red-hot property market, where Soper said prices could climb by 4.5 to five per cent this year.

“It will be a lift to the industry overall,” Soper said. “However, it will be particularly pronounced in Central Canada, which we believe will see a lift from lower oil prices regardless and, when you add to it the stimulative impact of lower mortgage rates, we should see an uptick in activity.”

However, the rate cut may also spur Canadians, who have been criticized previously by the Bank of Canada for holding record levels of debt, to borrow more money.

“Certainly this isn’t going to discourage anyone from taking on debt,” Shenfeld said.

“But I think in the Bank of Canada’s eyes right now, it’s a lesser of two evils. They’ve shown discomfort with the amount of borrowing Canadians have done, but the economy right now can’t afford to shut the tap off on that if we’re not getting the lift to growth from the energy sector.”

Although cheaper mortgage rates are likely to buoy real estate markets in Central and Atlantic Canada, TD economist Craig Alexander says the impact of oil prices will trump interest rates in Western Canada.

“I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to see a pullback in sales and a softening in price growth in real estate in oil-rich provinces because, at the end of the day, income growth in those provinces is going to be a lot less,” Alexander said.

“It is an economic shock, and real estate markets do reflect local economic conditions.”

In its latest report, Royal LePage predicted home prices in Calgary would grow by 2.4 per cent this year – a slowdown from the 5.5 per cent jump they made last year.

Meanwhile, older Canadians who rely on interest-bearing investments for their income could find themselves squeezed as a result of the central bank’s policy change.

“It will push them into looking at alternative investments that can generate a bit more yield than a straight GIC,” Shenfeld said.

Link to article

Get Ready for Interest Rate Shock in 2015, Consumers with high levels of debt to be most affected when Fed, Bank of Canada raise rates. This article appeared on CBC.ca website January 5th, 2015.

2015 is expected to be the first time in five years that benchmark interest rates are moved upwards, increasing the cost of borrowing. The U.S. Federal Reserve will go first; the Bank of Canada is expected to follow.

Most analysts expect the Fed to increase its key rate, which has been near zero for six years, by a quarter of a percentage point in the spring. Then, unless there is an unexpected shock to the U.S. economy, it will likely boost it gradually throughout the year, though the top rate is still expected to be a modest 1.25 to 1.50 per cent by the end of the year.

Canada will almost certainly follow, though with a time lag, depending on the state of the economy here.

Whenever it happens will be a shock to people carrying consumer debt, says Lynnette Purda, an associate professor at the Queen’s School of Business.

The interest rates on consumer loans, lines of credit, variable rate mortgages and some auto loans could rise immediately. For Canadians carrying consumer debt that will mean higher payments.

“Despite the low interest rates we’ve had for years, no one seems to have worked away at their debt levels. It will be a wake-up call for many consumers,” Purda told CBC News.

Consumers could pull back

Purda expects Canadians will pull back on big ticket purchases, like cars, appliances and furniture as interest rates rise.

And the biggest ticket purchase of all, housing, will not be unscathed. Overheated markets will finally cool and we may finally see the “soft landing” long predicted by the Bank of Canada and economists.

The timing of the interest rate increase – which has been predicted in past years without materializing – is no sure thing.

Although the U.S. Fed at its last rate announcement indicated it was most likely to move in the second quarter of 2015, much depends on economic indicators. Low oil prices have given a boost to the U.S. economy and left more money in people’s pockets, so there is a possibility the Fed could move even sooner.

TD Bank is predicting the Bank of Canada won’t move at the same time as the U.S. even though Canadian rates usually track what is happening in the U.S.

According to TD economist Leslie Preston, the rise may not happen here until the third quarter.

“We expect Canada to raise interest rates in October of 2015 – we expect two [quarter of a percentage] point interest rate hikes in the fourth quarter of 2015, so by the end of 2015, the overnight rate would be at 1.5 per cent – it’s currently at one per cent,” she told CBC News.

The challenge for Stephen Poloz

For Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, this will be the first time he’s wielded one of the key tools in a central banker’s arsenal – the overnight interest rate which is the rate the central bank uses to lend to financial institutions.

And he’ll have to weigh inflation that currently seems quite high against the potential economic impact of higher rates.

The labour market is not yet operating near capacity, with many people still unemployed or underemployed, Preston said. And falling oil prices may slow capital spending and hiring, both in the oil patch and in sectors that supply it, such as equipment manufacturing.

“One of the challenges that emerged most recently are lower oil prices. Canada is a net oil exporter so when prices go down, it affects growth in Canada. This is a new headwind that’s come up,” Preston said.

While those factors may slow the Bank of Canada’s decision to raise rates, bond yields could rise in anticipation of a rate hike and that would affect fixed mortgage rates, according to RBC chief economist Craig Wright.

Wright said the rise in bond yields could catch people by surprise, as it may precede the Fed’s move on rates. Those who are looking to renew a mortgage in 2015 should watch what the banks do with their fixed mortgage rates, he said.

Renewing a mortgage? Lock in early

“What you tend to see is people anticipate a rise in mortgage rates and lock in,” he said, adding that only about 20 per cent of mortgage holders renew each year, so relatively few people will be affected.

Wright warns that people with credit card debt, auto loans and lines of credits are “vulnerable” to a rate hike, especially if they have high levels of debt.

But he is upbeat about prospects for the Canadian economy, saying it is likely to continue improving, with new jobs emerging in the manufacturing sector because of the lower dollar and growing exports. People who are employed are less likely to get in trouble amid rising rates, he says.

He believes Canadian companies will shrug off an interest rate hike and keep investing.

“Companies have a lot of cash to work with. As the economy improves we will be looking for them to build their businesses,” Wright said.

Wright sees the Canadian dollar headed lower next year, possibly below 84 cents US. That makes Canadian exports more competitive.

Upside of higher rates

“Higher rates have an important upside. If they are low for too long, we see bubbles appearing,” Wright said.

He points to the housing market as an example with certain markets overheated because rates are low. Higher rates should help correct any bubble in housing markets, he said.

An interest rate hike could also temper inflation, which is pushing the Bank of Canada’s two per cent target despite lower oil prices.

Preston also sees an upside for savers who want a safe haven for their money.

‘”The other side of higher interest rates is it would make life a little easier for a lot of pension funds or savers – the saving side of the economy has been struggling to get returns in a low-interest rate environment,” she said.

Link to article

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