Housing price appreciation across the country will be more than it has been in the last 16 years, according to a new forecast from one of the country’s largest real estate companies.
Royal LePage, in a report out Wednesday, says economic uncertainty around the globe and low interest rates continue to fuel the Canadian existing-home market, adding that prices will rise by 12.4 per cent in 2016 from 2015 to an average of $563,000.
The real estate company predicts greater Vancouver will lead the way with prices rising 27 per cent this year to an average of $1.206 million, while greater Toronto prices will rise 14.9 per cent to and average of $718,000 during the period.
LePage says its previous forecasts didn’t account for an extended period of low mortgage rates which continue to fuel the housing market. Ratesupermarket.ca says the best fixed rate on a five-year mortgage is now 2.18 per cent, close to a record low.
“Our forecasting models, which pointed to a slowing housing market as the year progressed, included a modest increase in the cost of borrowing,” said Phil Soper, chief executive of LePage. “Economic and social disruptions have rocked the world once again, introducing new risks and making it very likely that the Bank of Canada will leave interest rates as-is for now. Few industries are as rate sensitive as real estate. We don’t see even a mild correction for either the Toronto or pistol-hot Vancouver markets in 2016.”
Despite citing the Brexit vote as increasing uncertainty in the market, LePage says foreign money tied to Europe will flow into Canadian commercial real estate as opposed to the residential market.
LePage’s own internal surveys do say foreign markets are impacting Toronto and Vancouver real estate, but the money is coming from beyond the European Union.
Its surveys of agents in the second quarter found 71 per cent in the GTA and 74 per cent in Greater Vancouver reported an increase in activity from foreign investors who were defined as having lived outside Canada for the last six months. LePage said 35 per cent of agents in the GTA and 37 per cent in Greater Vancouver believe foreign ownership accounts for less than 10 per cent of sales.
Government continues to consider measures to deal with the impact of foreign owners and the federal finance minister has promised to create a working group of provincial and municipal counterparts to consider the issue in Toronto and Vancouver. On Monday, British Columbia agreed to grant Vancouver the right to tax owners of vacant property — a move seen as being at least partially aimed at foreign investors.
Soper cautioned against government getting too involved in the housing market.
“We remain convinced that heavy-handed use of tax policy in an effort to artificially influence asset values in an open-market economy like ours is fraught with peril, particularly in a cyclical industry like housing.”
Still, he left no doubt his industry has some concerns about the fast-paced nature of the market and some of the impact it has on prices. Soper even issued a warning to speculators.
“At Royal LePage, we see residential real estate as a long-term investment supporting family life. A home is ill-suited as a buy-and-flip investment. People that engage in this kind of activity are inevitably burned when a market slows and the time it takes to sell the property increases substantially,” he said.