Vancouver and Toronto house prices set for rise, says CIBC

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

The housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver could resume their previous upward trajectories amid conditions of tight supply and burgeoning demand, according to a new report from CIBC World Markets.

The Canadian housing market, in general, is in an important transition period — especially Vancouver and Toronto, economist Benjamin Tal said in the report, which was released Tuesday.

He said activity is likely to stabilize and perhaps soften in the coming quarters as markets adjust to recent and upcoming regulatory changes, including tougher rules for getting a mortgage.

“But when the fog clears it will become evident that the long-term trajectory of the market will show even tighter conditions,” Tal said. “The supply issues facing centres such as Toronto and Vancouver will worsen and demand is routinely understated.”

“Short of a significant change in housing policies and preferences, there is nothing in the pipeline to alleviate the pressure,’ he wrote.

As prices shot up dramatically in the Vancouver and Toronto areas, governments took steps to try to cool the markets.

Vancouver real estate

Vancouver saw the August 2016 introduction of a 15 per cent tax on purchases by foreign buyers. Tal pointed that following a period of adjustment, a recovery in the Vancouver market is now underway.

Toronto real estate

In Toronto, the market is already showing a rebound following a slowdown in the wake of the introduction of the Ontario government’s Fair Housing Plan. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, 7,118 homes were sold in the area in October, up 12 per cent from September, but still down down 27 per cent from the same month last year.

In his report, Tal said the recently introduced tighter lending rules will only slow demand by five to seven per cent this year, owing to a combination of the “creative imagination” of borrowers, some exceptions to the rule and increased activity among alternative lenders.

At the same time, Tal said that actual demand in the housing market is stronger than official estimates. He pointed out that Canada’s annual immigration quota is slated to rise from 250,000 to 300,000, and eventually 450,000. That comes amid a current tight land supply based on rules that don’t capture the changes in the market, he said.

Also, official estimates of household formation in the Greater Toronto Area tend be 10,000 below the mark if adjustments are not made for immigrants and non-permanent residents, who Tal said tend to be younger than the general adult population.

“Actual demand is much stronger than official numbers often used to determine the extent to which we overbuild relative to household formation,” Tal said.

Finally, the growing percentage of young adults living at home translates into pent-up demand of roughly 9,000 household, including about 6,500 in the Greater Toronto Area.

“That army of potential buyers can be seen as an insurance against long-lasting significant price decline,” said Tal.

Source: CBC News
http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/housing-prices-cibc-tal-1.4401743

Vancouver home prices may have finally shaken off foreign buyers’ tax

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

It’s taken nine months, but the Vancouver housing market may have finally shaken off the foreign buyers tax, data from a home price index suggested on Wednesday.

The Teranet-National Bank of Canada House Price Index showed that Vancouver home prices grew by 8.2 per cent year-over-year in May, and 1.46 per cent month-over-month.

At 252.30, the index reached its highest level since September 2016, which was one month after a 15 per cent property transfer tax on foreign buyers came into effect in Metro Vancouver.

The index has fluctuated since then, hitting as low as 242.64 in December.

Meanwhile, data provided by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) showed the composite home price for Vancouver hitting $941,100 in April, the highest it’s ever been.

The composite had dropped from $933,100 in August 2016, when the tax first came into effect, to $896,000 in January, but now it appears to have recovered.

House prices largely remained unchanged in the eight months following the tax’s introduction, as noted in a chart released by BMO economist Douglas Porter on Tuesday — a marked contrast with growth of 20 per cent in the months before it came into effect.

But the ninth month appears to have bucked the trend.

At 8.2 per cent, Teranet said Vancouver house price growth was strong, but it was still below the national average.

Toronto’s housing market saw the strongest price growth, jumping 3.6 per cent month over month and setting a “record for any month,” Teranet said.

Home prices there jumped by 28.73 per cent year over year, a rate that also topped all other cities.

Toronto’s home price growth is expected to take a breather with the implementation of the Fair Housing Plan, which includes a 15 per cent tax on non-resident speculators in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area, which includes Toronto, Niagara and Peterborough.

Like in Vancouver, experts expect the effects of the plan to be short-lived.

Source: Jesse Ferreras, Global News
http://globalnews.ca/news/3529481/vancouver-home-prices-foreign-buyers-tax/

After a lull, Vancouver housing prices are set for a rebound

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Prices of detached homes in Vancouver may have hit bottom in the first quarter of this year, but are poised for a rebound this spring as sales activity surges across the region, according to a Royal LePage survey.

The Royal LePage quarterly house price survey, released Tuesday, shows home prices in the Greater Vancouver region dropped 1.9 per cent in the quarter ended March 31 compared with the last quarter of 2016, driven by a decline in prices of detached homes. Two-storey houses were down 3.1 per cent in the quarter while bungalow prices fell 1 per cent.

The Vancouver market began softening last spring and the market cooled even more after the B.C. government imposed a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in August. But sales activity has grown so far in each month of 2017, suggesting the market for detached homes in Vancouver could rebound even sooner than people expected, said Royal LePage chief executive officer Phil Soper.

Mr. Soper said the number of units sold in Greater Vancouver climbed more than 48 per cent in March compared with February this year, which is much stronger than seasonal norms. He predicts the slowdown caused by the introduction of the foreign-buyer’s tax could lead to “market whiplash” this summer as pent-up demand is unleashed in coming weeks, sending prices sharply higher again.

“Frankly, I thought the correction would be deeper and longer, but that unit-sales number says to me that there’s still a lot of demand in the region and people may not sit on the sidelines for as long as we thought they would,” he said in an interview.

On a national basis, home prices are a tale of two cities, with Vancouver slumping while the Toronto region sees soaring prices, marking the first period in years in which Vancouver and Toronto’s housing markets have headed in opposite directions.

The combination has driven the average price of a home in Canada up 12.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, compared with the same time last year. The average home sold for $574,575, according to sales data from 53 of Canada’s largest real estate markets.

Removing the hot Ontario market from the calculation shows a more modest national price increase of just 6.4 per cent in the first quarter this year.

Mr. Soper said growth in the rest of Canada outside of Vancouver and Southern Ontario is strong but sustainable, and higher prices in cities in Alberta and Quebec are particularly welcome news.

“Generally it is shaping up to be the best and healthiest year we’ve seen in Canadian real estate probably since before the global financial crisis,” he said.

Prices soared not only in the Greater Toronto Area, but also in other cities across Southern Ontario. Prices climbed 12.4 per cent in London, 9.9 per cent in Kingston and 8.5 per cent Windsor, all of which are two hours or farther from Toronto.

Mr. Soper said the growth well beyond the Toronto region is being fuelled by Ontario’s strong economic performance, with the province now leading Canada in economic growth.

Closer to Toronto, the city with the greatest year-over-year price gain was Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, where prices climbed by 31.5 per cent in the first quarter this year compared with the first quarter of 2016. Oshawa, which is east of Toronto, saw prices rise 28.2 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year.

The price growth in suburban cities is being fuelled by single-family home buyers, who have concluded they can get more “bang for your buck” outside of central Toronto, Mr. Soper said.

He added he sees no sign that Toronto’s market is cooling yet, but believes a slowdown is coming soon as prices move too far out of balance.

“There is so much momentum in the market that it will carry through the spring market at full steam,” he said. “The earliest I believe we’ll see a slowdown in the GTA market will be this summer or fall. Save a really heavy-handed move by regulators, I don’t see anything slowing this market this spring.”

Source: Janet McFarland, The Globe and Mail
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/the-market/vancouver-housing-market-poised-for-spring-rebound-royal-lepage/article34726396/

Vancouver has the least number of affordable homes in Canada

Friday, March 31st, 2017

The slowdown of Vancouver home sales has helped affordability a bit, but we’re still the country’s costliest market by far.

Royal Bank research shows “Housing affordability improved in the Vancouver area for the first time in almost three years” during the fourth quarter of 2016. It says the slowdown in home resales that began last spring had a “cooling effect” on prices for single-detached homes by late in the year. The bank’s economists say the affordability of houses improved the most since the first quarter of 2009 when Canada was in a recession due to the financial crisis.

Nonetheless, RBC says it takes 84.8 per cent of the median household income to pay the costs of owning the average detached bungalow in Vancouver.

Condos are a different story, with RBC saying “No such affordability relief took place.” Its measure of condo affordability worsened slightly for the seventh quarter in a row. Condos costs are at 46.1 per cent of household income.

RBC also says there are signs that “affordability stress” is spreading to regions near Vancouver and Toronto, including Victoria which the bank says “has experienced booming demand in the past year which has propelled prices significantly higher,” pushing its afforability measure “well above its long-term average.”

Source: Richard Dettman, News 1130
http://www.news1130.com/2017/03/30/vancouver-still-number-one-unaffordable-homes-rbc/

Vancouver home price gains still among world’s highest despite slowdown

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Metro Vancouver’s residential real estate story was a tale of two halves in 2016.

There were scorching sales leading into summer, a cooling off, and then a marked retreat after the province imposed a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax in August.

Many big-picture pundits say it will take another six months or more to fairly assess the impact of the tax. Others point to falling sales, and in some cases prices, as a small number of deals eke on.

Despite this, in 2016, Vancouver residential prices moved up 18 per cent, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s composite benchmark price report released on Wednesday. Most of the gains were notched in the first half of the year, with the index moving back 2.2 per cent in the second half, according to the board’s report.

The number of sales — including detached houses, condos and townhomes — came in as the third-highest on record for Vancouver in 2016, falling 5.6 per cent from a record year in 2015.

Digging into the latest report, there are early signs of a bounce if you look at median prices. With so few listings, and as such, sales, some prefer to use this gauge, which means the “in the middle price” where half the homes sold went for above this mark and half for below as opposed to taking the average of only a handful of sales, where the result could be easily skewed by one very expensive or slumped sale.

For example, the median price for detached homes is steadying because it has been sitting in the $1.275 million to $1.3 million range for the last four months. Meanwhile, the median price for town homes, at $659,000, is now nearly at its June peak median price of $666,000. Condo median prices show an even stronger stride, hitting a new high of $495,000.

To put the slowdown into perspective, consider Knight Frank’s latest Prime Global Cities Index, which tracks the prices of the top five per cent of homes in metro areas of 35 cities around the world. Vancouver outstripped all other contenders in 2015 and in September 2016 it was still at the top, posting a 32 per cent change year-on-year.

Knight Frank’s Global Residential Cities Index — which more widely tracks “city house prices” in 150 locations — showed Vancouver was the highest ranking city outside of mainland China.

“Urbanization and rising household wealth are behind the surge in Chinese prices,” wrote Knight Frank researcher Kate Everett-Allen. “Vancouver, a longtime front-runner, slid down the rankings this quarter, from fifth to ninth position. This shift is not as a result of slowing prices, annual growth is much the same as in June, close to 24%, but due to the phenomenal ascent of the Chinese cities which have supplanted it.”

Overall, house prices increased in more than 75 per cent of the 150 cities surveyed, year-on-year, but only in 13 of them did the increase in prices exceed 20 per cent. Victoria, B.C. just missed being one of those cities on the list, coming in 15th on the list with an 18 per cent gain.

It’s an “interesting report. I really like the global comparison that it facilitates,” said Andrey Pavlov, who specializes in real estate finance at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. However, he cautioned that: “First, the data is as of end of September, 2016. This was still very close to the peak, which occurred around June or July. Second, the report uses year-over-year increases, and all of the Vancouver increases occurred earlier in 2016, and some in 2015. With this in mind, the report captures historical trends, but does not really address the recent developments in our market.”

Source: Joanne Lee-Young at Postmedia
http://www.theprovince.com/business/real-estate/vancouver+home+price+gains+still+among+world+highest/12645598/story.html

How capital gains is affected in a falling real estate market

Friday, October 14th, 2016

When property prices are rising, even just a little, there is almost no better place to keep your money than invested in your own home.

Monthly real estate numbers released Friday show the price of the average Canadian home rose again in September, up almost 10 per cent in the past year. But if and when that trend reverses and prices turn flat or start to fall, the investment advantages of owning a home can take a dramatic turn for the worse. The reason is tax.

At various times in the past, different governments have decided that having citizens own their own homes was a good thing, worth encouraging with tax breaks.

In the U.S., the government decided the way to encourage and reward home ownership was to sweeten the pot by allowing buyers to deduct their interest costs from their taxable income.

That effectively means lower costs in the early stages of home ownership when interest costs are high. In fact, one U.S. home ownership strategy is to pay off a house very slowly, since the interest costs are subsidized by government.

In Canada, the federal government chose a different policy tool to accomplish a similar result.

Instead of giving you a deduction for your payments, the Canadian tax department saves up the entire tax break for when you sell your family home. If during the years you own the property, the value increases, that gain is tax-free.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced changes in the law to try to deny foreign buyers the tax break. Under the old rule, when you sold your principal residence you didn’t even have to mention it to the tax department.

Just as U.S. interest tax deductions affect how people buy and pay off their houses, the Canadian policy has its own consequences.

When property prices are on the way up, rising more than 20 per cent in a year as they have in Toronto and Vancouver, for tax purposes, there is almost no better place to keep your money.

In fact, a good tax strategy might be to buy a house with the biggest mortgage you can afford the payments on. The law can also make it a good strategy to up-size when you can afford it.

The math is clear. If you put down $100,000 on a million-dollar home, and get a $900,000 mortgage for the rest, you own 10 per cent of the house while the bank owns 90 per cent. But if that $1 million home goes up in value by 20 per cent, the bank doesn’t get a share of that increase — all of the capital gains are yours.

Sell, and you’ve just turned a $100,000 investment into $300,000, tax-free.

That’s also why there are so many contractors who buy a house and keep it for a year while they fix it up for resale. Not only do they get the standard capital gains that other sellers get, if they do a good job on the renovation, they get an added premium, and by claiming the house as a principal residence, all the money they earn is free of tax.

The capital gains tax also affects elderly homeowners. While house prices are rising, retired people, especially the well-heeled, have little reason to sell their houses and downsize. Capital gains on their houses are tax-free, but the income from the proceeds of selling a house that are invested outside tax shelters (such as retirement savings plans, tax-free savings accounts and registered retirement income funds) is fully taxable.

Canadian house prices have continued to increase over the very long term. With population continuing to rise strongly, that’s unlikely to change over the long term.

That means people who buy a house with the intent of raising a family will very likely be able to take advantage of the federal capital gains break on principal residences even if real estate goes off the boil for a few years.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, when my family came back to Canada at the end of the 1990s, we visited friends who told us their home had just climbed back to the value they had purchased it for 13 years before.

If you own a home, declining house prices are bad for your finances in any case. But the capital gains tax break makes it even worse.

For some potential homebuyers, the effect of a medium-term slide in property prices and its impact on the capital gains advantage could alter the calculus for thinking of a home as an investment.
In such a case, potential short-term buyers might be wiser to rent. Flippers will have to recalculate their profit margins. Up-sizing may lose its advantage. Retired people might be better off selling and investing the cash, because income taxed is better than no income at all.

And unlike other investments that can be claimed as a loss when they fall in value, a house cannot. In other words, capital gains on your principal residence are sheltered from tax. But so is a capital loss.

It’s hard to be sure to exactly what degree capital gains tax breaks affect people’s decision to use their principal residence as an investment. But it would seem that during a period of declining prices, that tax break would have the effect of further reducing demand for houses.

Source: Don Pittis, CBC News
http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-house-prices-capital-gains-1.3801499

Canadian real estate prices forecast to see largest annual increase this century

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

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.

Source: Garry Marr, Financial Post
http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canadian-real-estate-prices-to-see-largest-annual-increase-this-century-forecast-says

Average Metro Vancouver home price climbs 20% in January

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Vancouver’s hot real estate market isn’t showing signs of slowing. January saw year-over-year growth of more than 20 per cent for the Metro region, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

That brings the average price of a home in Metro Vancouver to $775,300.

Thanks to hot markets in B.C. and Ontario, the national average home price grew a staggering 17 per cent to $470,297 – but without those two provinces, there would have been a decline of 0.3 per cent to $286,911.

“January 2016 picked up where 2015 left off, with single family homes in the GTA and Greater Vancouver in short supply amid strong demand standing in contrast to sidelined home buyers and ample supply in a number of Alberta housing markets,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist in a statement.

“Tighter mortgage regulations that take effect in February may shrink the pool of prospective home buyers who qualify for mortgage financing and cause national sales activity to ease in the months ahead.”

New rules for mortgage rates took effect on Tuesday. Canadians are now required to put down a minimum of 5 per cent for the first $500,000 and 10 per cent for every dollar amount after that.

Two-storey single family homes posted the largest year-over-year gains nationally of nearly 10 per cent, followed by one-storey homes at 6.9 per cent, townhouses at 6.5 per cent and apartments at 5.2 per cent.

In stark contrast to Vancouver and Toronto’s housing markets, average home prices in Calgary saw a decline of three per cent year-over-year.

Nationally, the number of newly listed homes in January fell five per cent compared to December, and Canada’s largest housing markets such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton were to blame.

Source: Lauren Sundstrom, Vancity Buzz

Canada’s mortgage rules tightened to cool off red-hot Vancouver and Toronto markets

Friday, December 11th, 2015

The federal government is attempting to take some momentum out of the country’s most expensive — and frothiest — housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto, announcing Friday changes to mortgage lending rules that lift minimum down payment requirements on homes listed between $500,000 and one million dollars.

At a press conference in Ottawa, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that as of Feb. 15, buyers purchasing homes in that price range will have to make a minimum down payment of 5 per cent on the first $500,000, and 10 per cent of the dollar value above that amount.

Morneau used the example of a $700,000 home, which will now require a minimum down payment of $45,000, or an increase of $10,000 above what the existing minimum of 5 per cent would require.

“By targeting higher priced homes, we’ll minimize the impact on first time buyers,” the minister said. “This protects all homeowners, including middle class Canadians whose biggest investment is in their homes.”

Benchmark home prices in Vancouver and Toronto have rocketed higher this year amid ultra-low borrowing rates and sustained interest from foreign buyers, experts say. Each city’s boom has led to market dynamics in those centres that are “not as stable as they should be,” Morneau said.

“The motivation of the [new] policy is clear,” Benjamin Tal, economist at CIBC Economics said. “The attempt is to slow down the only two markets that are really moving (Toronto and Vancouver). Those markets happen also to be the most expensive.”

How effective the new minimums will be in cooling off those markets isn’t clear — the finance minister said the change would affect “one percent or less” of borrowers.

Fears over a possible real estate bubble in the Vancouver and Toronto areas have risen significantly as prices have surged.

In November, benchmark prices in Vancouver surged 17.8 per cent as sales soared 40.1 per cent, the region’s real estate association said.

In slightly tamer Toronto, benchmark prices increased 10.3 per cent as sales climbed 14 per cent compared to November a year ago, making 2015 the most active year on record for the country’s biggest housing market (eclipsing 2007).

The Vancouver and Toronto markets have firmly decoupled from the rest of the country, where home prices are moving at a far slower rate of about 2.5 per cent, according to CREA, the national real estate board.

What’s fueling the torrid price gains remains a matter of fierce debate, but many suspect a wave of foreign cash is playing a key inflationary role. Rock bottom interest rates are also continuing to fuel domestic demand.

“An influx of foreign wealth is one driving force, but lower interest rates — and the witches’ spell of forever-low rates—are also stirring the pot,” Sal Guatieri, economist at BMO, said in a recent note.

Source: Jamie Sturgeon, Global News

Rate cut could add fire to Vancouver and Toronto housing markets

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Sales — and prices — have hit new records in both Toronto and Vancouver this year. A further interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada could further fuel flames in the country’s two biggest real estate markets which are once again showing signs of overheating, housing watchers say.

“It’s another log on the fire for the Toronto and Vancouver housing markets,” says economist Sal Guatieri, vice president of BMO Economic Research, who expects to see a cut next week in an attempt to kickstart lagging growth.

“It’s not the amount that matters — the reduction in borrowing costs will be quite minimal — it’s the message it sends to homeowners and potential buyers that rates are going lower rather than higher and will almost certainly stay low for quite some time. That just encourages more people into the market.”

Both of Canada’s priciest cities are already swamped with far more buyers than properties for sale.

Sales — and prices — have hit new records in both Toronto and Vancouver this year. The frenzy has been driven by low interest rates, an ongoing shortage of listings and a growing sense of panic, especially among first-time buyers, that if they don’t get in now, they will be locked out of the market forever, particularly the low-rise house market.

“We are becoming concerned again about the possibility of a housing bubble in Toronto and Vancouver because prices are rising so much faster than incomes and because interest rates are continuing to fall rather than go up,” says Guatieri.

“We were much more comfortable a year or two ago when both markets seemed to have cooled off a bit and prices were rising more moderately.”

Both Toronto and Vancouver set new sales records for the month of June.

Almost 12,000 houses and condos changed hands last month across the GTA, up 18.4 per cent from a year earlier. The average sale price of a detached house was $816,583 – and over $1 million in the City of Toronto – up 14.3 per cent year over year.

Greater Vancouver’s 4,375 sales were up 28.4 per cent for the same period. The average detached house was $1.45 million – and a staggering $2.39 million for a stand-alone house in the core City of Vancouver – up 20.2 per cent from June of last year.

Condo sales skyrocketed in both regions, up 22.4 across the GTA and 35.6 per cent across Greater Vancouver, year over year.

All that demand helped push up condo prices 6.3 per cent in the GTA, to an average of $390,894, and up 5.6 per cent in Greater Vancouver to $479,450.

Last January’s surprise Bank of Canada rate cut to .75 per cent has been a contributing factor to those escalating sales and prices, says Penelope Graham, editor and spokesperson with mortgage comparison site RateSupermarket.ca.

A cut to .5 per cent, as is expected, would see the five-year fixed rate dip below the current low of 2.39 per cent and further boost the illusion of affordability, she said.

“There are more people now entering the market with just five per cent down, because that’s all they can afford. There is a real sense of urgency in the bigger markets to get in now, before it’s too late, and get in with what you have,” says Graham.

“That’s potentially putting people in a really vulnerable position in terms of their debt levels.”

Toronto realtor David Fleming says he’s seeing a surge in demand even for condos — especially under $400,000 — and younger buyers than ever, backed by low interest rates and help from their real-estate rich baby boomer parents who want only the best for their children.

“I’ve seen a serious culture change. Young buyers used to be 26 or 27 years old. They’d graduated university, worked for a few years and lived at home then rented and bought. Now buyers are cutting out those middle steps.”

He’s seeing first-time buyers as young as 22 determined to own rather than rent. And he’s hearing from people who stepped to the sidelines three or four years ago, thinking the much-talked-about bubble was about to burst.

Instead, they’ve watched prices climb further out of reach: Back in June of 2012, the average sale price of houses and condos combined across the GTA was $508,622. This June, the average sale price was $639,184.

Where the average sale price of a condo in the sought-after City of Toronto was $364,597 in June of 2012, last month’s average was $418,599.

That was up seven per cent just over June of last year as bidding wars and bully bids — long the hallmark of the highly competitive low-rise house market — have pushed up prices for well-located, unique or larger condos seen as sound investments and house alternatives for the longer term.

“That’s a testament to the froth in the house market,” says BMO economist Guatieri.

“So many people are now priced out, they have no other alternative than to get into the condo market, and that’s pushing up prices, even though there is ample supply.”

Apart from the oil-impacted markets of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canadian house prices are holding up well and consumer confidence appears to be strong, even in the midst of growing talk about a possible recession.

“None of my clients are talking about the Big R word,” says Toronto-based mortgage broker Jake Abramowicz.

“They’re confident that rates will stay low for a very long time now and that the market — both condos and houses — will not correct anytime soon.”

Source: Susan Pigg, Toronto Star


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