Greg Klump says Canada’s housing bubble is bunk!

Rumours of the great Canadian housing bubble are greatly exaggerated, says Greg Klump, chief economist for the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

While Canadian housing prices have increased an average 6.9 per cent so far this year (the highest in a decade), the more accurate housing price index (HPI) has increased 5.2 per cent for the first 10 months of 2014, which is the best in three years, according to CREA.

Moreover, if you take Toronto, Vancouver and to a lesser extent Calgary out of the picture, the average price increase would be several percentage points lower, while other market measures, like sales-to-listings ratios and month’s supply of homes for sale, are close to their 10-year averages.

“The problem with housing market bubble stories is that they fail to recognize fundamental housing market dynamics,” Klump told the Association of Regina Realtors in Regina Thursday. “For a big price correction to take place, we need a big and lasting run up in supply … or a big and lasting drop in demand … or some combination of the two.”

Since neither a recession (which would result in massive layoffs) nor a big spike in interest rates (which would drive up debt-servicing costs) is on the horizon, Klump said: “I just don’t see that happening.”

Still even reputable agencies like Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp have expressed concern about Canadian housing prices, which have continued to outstrip U.S. home prices in 2013, even when inflation and exchange rates are taken into account. “This Canadian ‘premium’ could be cause for concern because it may indicate that house prices in Canada are overvalued,” CMHC said in its annual Canadian Housing Observer released Thursday.

Following his presentation, Klump said CMHC’s concern is that “average house price growth is being stretched” by increasing average prices in two of Canada’s most active markets, Vancouver and Toronto.

“What’s going on in Vancouver and Toronto reflects a couple of things,” Klump said. “No. 1, you’ve got some very high-priced homes making up a greater proportion of the sales, pulling up the average price in those markets and for Canada as well.”

For example, Toronto saw a nine per cent year-overyear increase in average home prices in October, versus the 5.5 per cent increase in HPI nationally.

In addition, those price increases are largely in the central Toronto area, where “densification” initiatives (i.e., condo construction) have driven up the price of single-detached homes.

“It’s a function of the market because you don’t have enough supply to catch up with the demand,” Klump said.

“In Vancouver, you’re capped by geography. There’s no place to go. So there’s a lot of expensive homes being sold and an ongoing shortage of affordable homes.”

Source: Bruce Johnstone, The StarPhoenix

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