7 reasons why it’s hard to know whether your house will lose value

Friday, April 13th, 2018

In some ways it would be easier to plan if we really knew for sure whether Canadian home prices were about to fall off a cliff as so many people keep predicting.

But of course that’s not how markets work. A difference of opinion about the future is one of the reasons why there is always a buyer for something you are anxious to unload.
Decisions on where the market will go next depend on too many factors to include here.

But as Canadians wait for tomorrow’s latest data on house sales and pricing from the the Canadian Real Estate Association, here are some considerations people may use to gauge if or when house prices will tumble.

1. Interest rates

As usual, the biggest threat cited for home prices is how much we pay for the money we borrow.

In previous times a two percent increase from 8 to 10 percent would be painful but incremental. In the current market, a sudden rise in interest rates, say two or three percentage points, would double the cost of interest payments, popping a decade-long bubble blown up by the Bank of Canada’s artificially low rates.

A more moderate path would give the housing market a chance to adjust. Even if, as expected, our central bank follows the U.S. to higher rates, a lot of uncertainty remains over how fast North American rates will rise.

2. Inflation

The main reason rates could rise suddenly would be that central banks might feel compelled to quell a sudden burst of inflation. So far, inflation has been tame.

Historically, inflation rises and falls in a long cycle and while after the fact economists will tell you why it happened, there are wide differences in opinion over where the cycle is heading next.

While inflation could lead to higher rates, some homeowners may see Canadian property as a long-term inflation hedge.

3. Pent-up demand

In many parts of Canada, not just Vancouver and Toronto, following years of rising prices and bidding wars, housing demand remains strong.

Government policy, including a rule that new buyers must be able to handle interest rate increases, may mean a pent-up demand for housing, including by large numbers of new immigrants, will support prices if incomes begin to catch up.

Even if market conditions begin to change, it may mean house hunters — schooled in a market of ever-rising prices — will take time to adjust to the new reality, leading to a softer landing.

4. Rate of construction

Home building in Canada’s hottest markets remains strong. Toronto’s skyline is still a sea of cranes, and the ground is full of busy holes.

This week the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. revealed that housing starts slowed in March.

The ability of construction companies to keep pace with demand could affect the value of existing homes, with overbuilding leading to falling in prices.

If instead builders overreact to the fear of falling prices and produce too few,  that could have the opposite effect.

5. Investment properties

On my short Toronto block, two houses sit empty. In the bank of condos out the window by my desk, many balconies show little sign of life and the lights don’t go on at night.

Owning a condo in Vancouver or Toronto over the last decade has been a lucrative investment even without the bother of renting.

According to the CIBC that’s changing. As those stunning returns disappear, as author and financial adviser Hilliard MacBeth has said, people may decide to invest their money elsewhere, accelerating a downturn.

6. Economic health

Potential home buyers may be less inclined to go out on a limb if they think the economy is going bad.

Various economic commentators have warned that a pattern where short-term interest rates exceed long-term rates may be a signal that the current long period of economic growth is heading toward recession.

As with inflation, economies go through cycles. A moderate slowdown, however, could reduce the impact of inflation and thus the need to raise interest rates.

That said, strong economic growth creates jobs and increases the wealth of Canadians, making them better able to cover housing costs.

7. Local differences

Partly due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling over Syria, oil prices seem to be on the way up.

An oil recovery could come to the rescue of home prices in oil-producing areas of Canada, languishing since the 2014 oil price slump.

Interest rates will have an effect on everyone, but whether the price of your house will rise or fall will also depend on where you live or where you want to buy.

Housing prices are regional, and homes in areas that are in demand because the economy is strong or because they are close to services are more likely to hold their value.

Source: Don Pittis, Business reporter, CBC

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-real-estate-home-prices-1.4613215

“Big Six” banks have raised mortgage rates as Bank of Canada decision looms tomorrow

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

The “Big Six” Canadian banks have now all hiked mortgage rates ahead of a Bank of Canada policy announcement on Wednesday.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank raised mortgage rates last week, citing “recent activity by competitors” and “Bank of Canada rate changes” as some of the factors that go into an increase.

Bank of Nova Scotia has now hiked as well, increasing its posted five-year fixed-rate mortgage rate to 5.14 per cent from 4.99 per cent. The lender also boosted its one-year, two-year, three-year, four-year, seven-year, and 10-year fixed-rate mortgages by 20 basis points.

“Our number one focus is providing value for our customers — we manage our pricing very actively to do just that,” said Scotiabank spokesman Lukas Gerber on Monday in an email. “We use a variety of market benchmarks to set rates.”

Bank of Montreal has likewise lifted rates, raising its posted five-year, fixed-rate mortgage to 5.14 per cent from 4.99 per cent, as well as hiking its posted four-year fixed-rate 55 basis points  to 4.79 per cent, among other adjustments.

National Bank Financial analyst Gabriel Dechaine said last week in a note on the banks that approximately 80 per cent of outstanding mortgage debt is made up of fixed-rate loans, “of which we believe the majority has five-year terms.”

Montreal-based National Bank of Canada, the sixth-largest bank in the country, has also increased its posted five-year fixed rate mortgage by 15 basis points to 5.14 per cent and bumped its four-year fixed loan to 4.59 per cent from 3.89 per cent.

Laurentian Bank of Canada’s five-year fixed mortgage is also up  15 basis points to 5.14 per cent.

“These changes reflect an increase in the cost of funds and are in line with the rates offered by the market,” said Laurentian spokesperson Benjamin Cerantola in an email.

The Bank of Canada is set to make its next policy announcement on Wednesday, with the potential for an interest rate hike having increased in recent weeks thanks to strong economic data. Another rate hike could provide a boost to bank margins, according to National Bank Financial’s Dechaine.

“2017 provided not only surprise rate increases from the Bank of Canada, but a steady increase in the key five-year benchmark bond yield,” he wrote. “Both trends have contributed to an early turnaround in the trend of shrinking bank margins.”

Source: Geoff Zochodne, Financial Post/Postmedia

http://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/big-six-have-now-all-raised-mortgage-rates-as-bank-of-canada-decision-looms

Greater Vancouver home sales and prices set to soar in 2016

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Home sales in Greater Vancouver are on a hot streak, and the professional association representing all the real estate boards in the province is bumping up its forecast for 2016, predicting escalating prices and a jump in the number of homes sold.

The British Columbia Real Estate Association forecasts unit sales in the Greater Vancouver region will increase 8.9% in 2016, from 43,145 homes sold in 2015 to 47,000 this year.

For B.C. as a whole, unit sales are forecast to increase 12.3% to 115,200 units, breaking the previous record of 106,310 units sold in 2005.

“Robust employment growth and a marked increase in migration from other provinces is buoying consumer confidence and housing demand in most regions of the province,” said BCREA chief economist Cameron Muir.

“Record housing demand has depleted inventories in many urban areas, and the resulting imbalance between supply and demand has pushed home prices considerably higher.”

The average sales price for homes in Greater Vancouver is expected to reach $1.125 million this year, up 24.6% from $902,801 in 2015. Across the province, the average price is forecast to increase 20.4% this year, from $636,600 last year to $766,600 in 2016.

This latest forecast is in sharp contrast to the BCREA’s previous release, in which it had predicted an 8.2% drop in unit sales across Greater Vancouver and a 6.2% decline across the province as a whole.

The BCREA had previously said home sales would fall because of a lack of supply. It now says a jump in new home construction is set to help meet demand.

“Waning inventories of newly completed and unoccupied units are being offset by a market increase in the number of homes under construction,” the BCREA said in a news release.

“Total housing starts in the province are forecast to climb 20% to 37,800 units this year, before edging back to 34,200 units in 2017.”

Source: Emma Crawford Hampel, Business in Vancouver
https://www.biv.com/article/2016/6/greater-vancouver-home-sales-and-prices-soar-2016-/

When will the Bank of Canada raise interest rates?

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

The short answer is ‘not yet’.

Just announced today is that the Bank of Canada is holding its main interest rate at one per cent, where it has been since September 2010.

Economists widely expect the central bank to hold its trendsetting rate steady well into next year, so Wednesday’s announcement came as no surprise.

“The bank did precisely what was expected of them today: nothing,” BMO Capital Markets chief economist Doug Porter said in a note to investors.

“If anything, the tone of the statement was slightly more dovish, noting the more moderate global backdrop, less certainty on the output gap and still relatively relaxed on the household debt front.

“The bottom line is that we are still looking at a very long period of inactivity by the bank, and may well be talking about four years of unchanged rates a year from now.”

That wait-and-see approach would appear to suit Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz just fine. He has been on the job since early June and shows no sign of breaking from the monetary policies of his predecessor, Mark Carney, who took up a new post this summer as head of the Bank of England.

“Add it all up and this is a central bank that believes that growth will pick up in 2014 and that will eventually require higher rates, but which is happy to sit on the sidelines and wait for substantial proof such an acceleration is underway before raising rates,” CIBC World Markets economist Avery Shenfeld said in an investors’ note.

“We still look for the first hike in early 2015, with some risk of a move late in 2014 if there are upside surprises to our forecast.”

In the explanatory note to Wednesday’s announcement, the Bank of Canada said it intends no changes as long as considerable slack remains in the economy, inflation remains muted and household finances continue to improve.

Sluggish exports and business investment have slowed the country’s economic growth, the bank said.

“Uncertain global economic conditions appear to be delaying the anticipated rotation of demand in Canada towards exports and investment.”

To underscore that point, new figures Wednesday from Statistics Canada showed the country’s exports fell to $39.2 billion in July, down 0.6 per cent from the month before.

At the same time, imports grew slightly, to push the country’s merchandise trade deficit with the world to $931 million in July from $460 million in June.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada noted the housing sector has been slightly stronger than anticipated, while household credit has continued to slow and mortgage interest rates are higher, the bank added, all of which point to “a continued constructive evolution of household imbalances.”

The bank also said the global economy has less momentum than anticipated.

“In Europe, there are early signs of a recovery and Japan’s situation remains promising,” it said.

“In a number of emerging market economies, financial volatility has increased, adding uncertainty to growth prospects, although China continues to grow at a solid pace.”

While commodity prices have been relatively stable, the bank says geopolitical tensions — which presumably include the bloody conflict in Syria and the continued unrest in Egypt — are raising the global price of oil.

The bank took a slightly dimmer view than it has previously of short-term economic growth in the United States, said RBC assistant chief economist Dawn Desjardins.

“While today’s statement incorporated a slightly less optimistic view of the near-term outlook for U.S. growth and acknowledged that in turn, a firming in Canadian export and business investment was evolving slower than projected, the main thresholds required for the bank to start to reduce the amount of stimulus remained intact,” she wrote in an investors’ note.

The bank’s next rate announcement is scheduled for Oct. 23.

Source: Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press

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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