Archive for December, 2012

The lowdown on what’s happening – and what is forecast – for Vancouver’s real estate market

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The slowdown in Vancouver’s real estate market is one factor leading the Canadian Real Estate Association to cut its sales forecast for this year and next on Monday.

Vancouver’s sales numbers dropped 27.6 per cent — the second biggest drop in the country behind Halifax — in November 2012, compared to the same month last year, after tighter lending rules that came into force this summer. The average price is down 6.3 per cent for the same period to $682,215, while the MLS home price index is down 1.7 per cent from a year ago. The average price reflects the mix of sales, while the HPI reflects price changes for typical homes.

While BMO deputy chief economist Doug Porter said most cities across Canada would see a soft landing for their real estate markets, he called Vancouver a “rather obvious exception.”

“I don’t know that I’d call it a hard landing in Vancouver, but it’s definitely a bumpier landing than most cities in Canada are going through right now,” Porter said.

Meanwhile, it appears people thinking of selling their homes may be holding off, especially in Metro Vancouver, as the region saw the largest drop in the country for new listings.

New supply reached its lowest level in more than two years, CREA said.

“That may help avert a harder landing for prices because sellers do have the leeway to back off,” Porter said. “Fundamentally, I think that’s one of the reasons why the Canadian housing market is likely not going to have a hard landing because you’re not going to have a lot of motivated sellers — people aren’t going to be forced into it by rising interest rates or declining employment so they can take their time and wait for the market to stabilize.”

Source: Tracy Sherlock and Craig Wong, Vancouver Sun

Further evidence of a slowdown in Canada’s housing market.

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Lower home sales in November have prompted the Canadian Real Estate Association to cut the sales forecast it released in September for this year and next.

The association said today that sales over the Multiple Listing Service fell 1.7 per cent from October to November, with activity last month coming in 11.9-per-cent lower than last November.When it released its forecast in September the market was just showing the first signs of a slowdown, but it now expects the decrease in demand to persist, it added.

“Lower than projected third quarter sales have downgraded the prospects for activity this year in almost every province,” the association, which represents realtors across the country, said as it updates its projections. It also suggested that the continued slowing is the direct result of Ottawa’s decision to tighten mortgage rules this summer.

“Interest rates have remained low and the economic backdrop has remained supportive for housing activity, so that should leave little doubt that recent changes to mortgage regulations are responsible for having cooled activity,” said CREA’s chief economist Gregory Klump.

The slowdown is beginning to show up in prices, which have lost their momentum. The national average price of houses that sold in November came in 0.8 per cent lower than a year ago. The MLS Home Price Index, which seeks to account for changes in the type of houses sold, rose by 3.5 per cent, its smallest increase since May 2011.

CREA now expects resales of existing homes across the country to come in at 456,300 units this year, down 0.5 per cent from last year and nearly one per cent below the ten-year average.

In September the association said it expected resales to rise by 1.9 per cent this year to 466,900 units, a figure that it had already revised down.

There are regional variations to the trend. Alberta is expected to see a 13.1-per-cent rise in sales this year, while British Columbia will see a 10.7 per cent decline.

CREA now expects next year’s sales over the MLS system to come in at 447,400 units, down 2 per cent from this year. In September it estimated that that number would be 457,800 units – again, a figure that it had already revised downwards.

“The continuation of moderate economic, job, and income growth will temper the impact of recent mortgage rule changes, which are not expected to dampen activity much more than has already been felt until interest rates are expected to begin rising in late 2013,” the association stated in its new forecast.

It now expects the national average home price will rise by 0.3 per cent for all of 2012 to $363,900. Most provinces should see higher increases than that, but a decline in sales of more expensive homes in British Columbia and Ontario is weighing on the average, it said.

CREA also said Monday that the number of newly listed homes in Canada fell 0.9 per cent in November from October, with Greater Vancouver posting the largest decline.

“With sales and new listings moving in the same direction and by similar magnitudes, the national sales-to-new listings ratio was little changed at 50.3 per cent in November compared to 50.7 per cent in October,” it added. “Based on a sales-to-new listings ratio of between 40 to 60 per cent, three out of every five local markets were in balanced market territory in November.”

Sales have now contracted in eight of the last 11 months, and the decrease compared to last November is “hefty,” Toronto-Dominion Bank senior economist Sonya Gulati said in a note.

The slowdown in both prices and sales is most noticeable in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, she added, saying those cities “are more vulnerable to experience a greater-than-average housing adjustment.”

Nationwide, TD expects market conditions to stabilize early next year “as tighter mortgage rules loosen their grip on market trends and low interest rates lure homeowners back into the market,” the note said.

Source: Tara Perkins, The Globe and Mail

Latest news on the real estate market across BC

Friday, December 14th, 2012

The total value of homes sold in B.C. dropped by nearly one-quarter in November, with declines in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley leading the slide.

The dollar volume of homes sold through the Multiple Listing Service in B.C. declined 24.6 per cent to $2.3 billion in November compared to the same month last year, the B.C. Real Estate Association reported Thursday.

Cameron Muir, BCREA’s chief economist, said that tighter mortgage rules introduced this summer had squeezed some buyers out of the market, but he expects sales to go up in 2013.

“When I suggest that we’re going to see an increase in sales levels next year, it doesn’t mean we’re going to return to the heady days before the recession. But the longer we see sales levels fall below the long-term average, the more likely we’re going to see pent-up demand (grow) in the marketplace, which may contribute to increased sales activity in 2013,” Muir said.

The number of units sold this November was down 17 per cent in the province from November 2011 to 4,680, while the average price was down 9.1 per cent to $480,891.

In 2011, there were large numbers of single family luxury homes sold, which elevated the average, Muir said. This year, a more typical mix of homes is being sold, so the average is lower. But prices are also coming down.

“There has been some modest downward pressure on prices in Vancouver, particularly in the single detached market on the west side, for example,” Muir said. “For the first six months of this year, the west side of Vancouver is down 9.7 per cent on the home price index. West Vancouver is down nine per cent and Richmond is down 6.2 per cent.

“We’ve seen those markets floating a little bit back down to Earth, and they’re having an impact on the aggregate numbers for the region.”

In Metro Vancouver, the dollar volume of sales fell 32 per cent from $1.74 billion to $1.18 billion, while in the Fraser Valley total sales fell 25 per cent from $498 million to $371 million.

“More promising numbers are coming from … the area around Kelowna — they’re up 13 per cent in unit sales,” Muir said. “And B.C. Northern has been incredibly stable in this post-recession period. That’s likely the result of much more diversification of the economy in Prince George, for example, and relatively buoyant demand for commodities. Unemployment did not skyrocket there in the recession — it’s very resilient in B.C. Northern this time around.”

While sales in the Okanagan are up for the year so far, Muir said that region has not seen the same rebound Vancouver prices did from the recession.

“Prices in that region have come off in the past three years, but not as much as people might have expected them to, given that inventory levels have been extremely high relative to sales for about three years now,” Muir said.

For the year to date, across B.C. sales dollar volume was down 18.7 per cent, while the number of units sold was down 11 per cent, and the average price dropped 8.6 per cent to $515, 611.

Source: Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun

Will Canada’s housing market crash? Unlikely, says Scotiabank

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Canada’s cooling housing market has made a soft landing with steady sales and pricing through the fall, reveals a real estate trends report from Scotiabank which anticipates a gradual decrease rather than a U.S.-style housing market crash.

“Canada’s national housing market is shifting toward a more sustainable path, though significant differences in regional conditions continue,” Adrienne Warren, Scotiabank’s senior economist, said in the report.

Housing demand is expected to be soft which could lower sales and home prices, especially in buyers’ markets such as Vancouver or where there is over supply such as the condominium market in Toronto, it added.

“However, with the Canadian economy continuing to post healthy job growth, and sellers proving responsive to the underlying shift in market conditions, a sharp decline in prices nationally is unlikely.”

Nationally, sales in October were down about 10% from strong spring levels, but only slightly below the average pace of the past decade. Home sales in Alberta and Saskatchewan have increased this year, supported by stronger economic and labour market performance; in contrast in B.C., which faces the greatest housing affordability challenges, sales have dropped about 10% this year, the report said.

Another report released Monday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Canadian housing starts fell last month for both single-and multi-family homes, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts was 196,125 units in November, down from 203,487 in October and well below the high above 250,000 hit early in the year.

Canada’s housing market has been slowing since the spring after years of red-hot growth that sparked debate about a bubble. The market boomed as historically-low interest rates fuelled purchases, driving up prices and adding to household debt. The high and rising home prices combined with the tightening of mortgage insurance rules in recent years have made houses less affordable, notably for first-time buyers.

Source: Melissa Leong, Financial Post

The latest info on property sales in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

The housing market continues to cool off in the Lower Mainland, as the number of home sales dropped to 10-year lows in the Vancouver area and average sale prices dipped across the region.

Year-over-year sales decreased nearly 29 per cent, from 2,360 home sales in November 2011 to 1,686 last month, according to the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board’s monthly report. The 28.6-per-cent decline includes detached and attached homes, as well as condominiums.

Sellers are now more likely to remove their homes from the market than drop their asking price, and buyers are expecting even lower prices, said board president Eugen Klein, leading to a stalemate.

“There’s a tug of war happening between buyers and sellers.”

November typically marks a slowdown in new listings and homeowners prefer to move in the spring, he said. But both sales and new listings are below the 10-year November averages of 2,420 and 2,758, respectively.

The benchmark price for a home in Greater Vancouver — which includes the Sunshine Coast, Bowen Island and Whistler — also fell to $596,900, a 4.5-per-cent drop since this year’s peak of $625,100 in May, and down 1.7 per cent compared to last November.

Those numbers represent a moderation of the formerly overheated housing market in Vancouver, but not a full-on correction to record-setting home prices in recent years, Klein said. The days of $100,000 monthly price increases in Richmond or the west end or West Vancouver might be over, but “after all of that, where a $400,000 house became a $900,000 house, we’re seeing a price adjustment of just over six per cent. We’re not going back to the (original) level.”

Of the nearly 15,000 homes for sale in the region, almost half were listed at less than $600,000. Last month, 273 of 1,686 home sales last month went for more than $1 million.

Klein pointed to the introduction by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty of new mortgage rules this summer as part of the reason for the slowdown: lenders can now only provide home equity loans of up to 80 per cent of the home value, down from 85 per cent, and a reduced amortization period from 30 to 25 years, which increases monthly mortgage payments.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, which includes Surrey, also reported a 19-per-cent year-over-year decline in home sales.

Board president Scott Olson agreed home buyers are adjusting their price range. But he pointed out that some areas outside Vancouver — such as Abbotsford, Delta, central Surrey and Cloverdale — have seen the benchmark price for a detached home go up.

The region’s “bread-and-butter buyers” — young families buying homes in the $400,000 range — are still in the market.

“We could argue we’re actually saying thank you to Minister Flaherty for his rule changes,” Olson said. “We’re seeing a net migration in from people closer to the city because we’re more affordable.”

However, the average price has decreased 6.6 per cent since last year — from $473,550 to $442,200 — and the number of new listings on the board’s Multiple Listing Service has dropped 11 per cent compared to November 2011 and 32 per cent compared to last month, which the report described as the “slowest new listings in a decade.”

The benchmark price for a townhouse in the Fraser Valley dropped 1.5 per cent to $298,900, while the same for apartments increased 2.6 per cent to $202,800.

On average, it takes 59 days to sell a home in the area, up five days from November 2011. Townhouses were on the market 70 days and apartments 74 days, according to the real estate board.

Source: Zoe McKnight, Vancouver Sun

Interest rate stays at 1%, announces Bank of Canada

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The Bank of Canada is keeping its trendsetting interest rate anchored at one per cent for the remainder of the year and sending a message that it still believes the cost of borrowing in Canada will go up at some point in the future.

The decision by the central bank’s policy setting panel was in line with the expectations of markets and economists, who had given only low odds to governor Mark Carney removing a mild bias towards raising rates sometime.

Canada’s dollar gained strength after the announcement. It was up 0.19 of a cent to 100.7 cents US — slightly higher than just prior to the central bank’s announcement.

The bank’s statement Tuesday suggests it is looking through the disappointing third quarter result as a temporary aberration.

Last week, Statistics Canada reported the country’s gross domestic product output had slowed to 0.6 per cent — about half what the bank had predicted in October, and the weakest result in more than a year.

The bank’s statement Tuesday said that “economic activity in the third quarter was weak, owing in part to transitory disruptions in the energy sector” — referring to some maintenance shutdowns.

“Although underlying momentum appears slightly softer than previously anticipated, the pace of economic growth is expected to pick up through 2013. The expansion is expected to be driven mainly by growth in consumption and business investment, reflecting very stimulative domestic financial conditions.”

Tying improved conditions to 2013 suggests governor Carney, who has announced his intention to step down in June to take charge of the Bank of England, now realizes the economy is unlikely to live up to his 2.5 per cent hopes in the current fourth quarter as well.

In a bit of a surprise, Carney says he is not as yet convinced the recent cooling in housing activity in Canada, and slowdown in credit accumulation, represents a fundamental shift.

On Monday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he was pleased housing was moderating and that Canadians were starting to pay off debt, a shift in the credit and mortgage market he attributed in part to his decision to tighten borrowing rules in July.

Carney says, however: “It is too early … to determine whether the moderation in housing activity and credit will be sustained.”

That is likely because the bank expects to keep interest rates, and as a result borrowing costs, at historic lows for likely another year.

Part of what has Carney in a holding pattern, both in terms of rates and his language, is that he does not know the outcome of the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington. Canadian policy-makers say if no deal is reached in the next month to extend tax cuts and program spending, the U.S. economy could take a battering amounting to about four percentage GDP points next year, sufficient to send it and likely Canada back into recession.

As it is, Carney said the uncertainty over whether Washington will be able to avoid figuratively going over the cliff is already impacting the economy.

Otherwise, not much has changed in the past month or so, the bank says. Europe is still in recession, the U.S. is recovering but at a gradual pace and Chinese growth appears to be stabilizing. If there is good news for Canada in all this, it’s that commodity prices have remained elevated, which helps the country’s terms of trade.

For many economists, those conditions might warrant the central bank jettisoning its pretence that it will raise rates “over time,” and acknowledge a rate cut may equally be in the offing in the next year or so.

But Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter said in a note Tuesday morning that Carney will want to await the results of the fiscal cliff talks in Washington, and is holding his fire — if he has any to shoot — until the announcement date on Jan. 23 when he knows better the situation.

Tuesday’s decision was the 18th consecutive time Carney has kept the policy rate at one per cent, comprising over two years, the longest stretch of stability since the 1950s.

Source: Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press

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