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Canadian home sales set record in March
According to statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales posted their third monthly increase and broke all previous monthly records.
The number of homes trading hands via Canadian MLSSystems rose by 1.5 percent month-over-month to set a new all-time record in March 2016. Though sales edged lower in Greater Vancouver (-0.3%) and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) (-1.8% m-m), both remain near record highs reached the month before. (Chart A)
Sales in March were up from the previous month in about 60 percent of all local markets, including Victoria, Chilliwack, the Okanagan Region, Edmonton, Calgary, Woodstock-Ingersoll, Kingston, Barrie and Montreal.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity was up 12.2 percent from one year ago and set a new record for the month of March. It also stood 14.2 percent above the 10-year average for the month.
It surpassed year-ago levels among nearly two-thirds of all local markets, with B.C.s Lower Mainland and the GTA contributing most to the year-over-year increase in national activity. Sales in a number of other markets in B.C. and Ontario also posted double-digit gains, with Chilliwack sales double what they were one year ago.
With sales up on the month and new listings down, the national sales-to-new listings ratio rose to 61.7 percent in March 2016, the ratios tightest reading since October 2009. A sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 percent is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings below and above this range indicating buyers and sellers markets respectively.
The ratio was within this range in fewer than half of all local housing markets in March and was above the range in a nearly equal number of markets, almost all of which are in British Columbia and Ontario.
The Aggregate Composite MLSHPI rose by 9.1 percent on a year-over-year basis inMarch 2016 the biggest gain since June 2010. For the second consecutive month, year-over-year price growth accelerated for all Benchmark property types tracked by the index. (Chart B)
Two-storey single family home prices posted the biggest year-over-year gain (+10.8 percent), followed by townhouse/row units (+8.6 percent), one-storey single family homes (+8.1 percent), and apartment units (+7.3 percent).
Greater Vancouver (+23.2 percent) and the Fraser Valley (+22.1 percent) posted the largest gains, followed by Greater Toronto (+11.6 percent) and Victoria (+10.8 percent). Meanwhile, year-over-year price growth on Vancouver Island picked up slightly to 7.1 percent.
By contrast, Calgary home prices were down 3.7 percent from where they stood a year ago, while Saskatoon slipped by 2.7 percent. Year-over-year price growth remained in positive territory (+0.5 percent) in Regina and edged higher on a year-over-year basis in Ottawa (+1.2 percent) and Greater Montreal (+1.5 percent). Home prices in Greater Moncton recorded their eighth consecutive year-over-year gain, rising 4.9 percent from where they stood one year earlier.
The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, which are among Canadas tightest, most active and expensive housing markets. If these two housing markets are excluded from calculations, the average is a more modest $366,950 and the year-over-year gain is reduced to 10.4 percent.
Even then, the gain reflects a tug of war between strong average price gains in housing markets around the GTA and in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia versus flat or declining average prices elsewhere in Canada. The average price for Canada net of sales in British Columbia and Ontario was down one percent year-over-year to $299,591.
Further information can be found atwww.crea.ca/statistics
Residential Real Estate
The following is an excerpt of the Economic Update for Q2 2016 released by VERICOs Economic Consultant Michael Campbell.
Read the full report on the VERICO blog.
At last count Ive seen or heard 2,463 warning since 2012 about the coming collapse in Vancouver and Torontos housing markets. Were still waiting.
Forgive the glibness but there was so much wrong with that analysis that I dont know where to begin. Hint: The price vulnerability at the $2 - $3 million plus price range has little to do with affordability as so much analysis suggests.
At the risk of oversimplifying allow me to divide the residential market into two segments single detached Vancouver homes and entry to mid level condos and houses in the distant suburbs.
Prices of entry to mid level condos and lower priced houses in the suburbsare principally impacted by low mortgage rates and in-migration. So the question about the price risk is really about the likelihood of falling demand due to rising interest rates and a significant drop-off in the number of people moving to Greater Vancouver (and to a lesser extend Toronto).
Theres no evidence to suggest that those two critical factors are changing. As I mentioned the Bank of Canada has stated rates are going to remain stable into 2017 and the strong BC economy continues to attract in-migration from Alberta and other parts of Canada.
Theres also no sign that new building supply will be sufficient to meet the demand created by newcomers moving to Greater Vancouver (and millenials moving out of their parents basements).
So What About The Danger of a Big Price Decline at the Upper End?
Its only in the last year that people are starting to understand the impact of foreign buying on the price of single detached houses in Vancouver and the accompanying ripple effect on the immediate suburbs. We still dont have a lot of data but some firms and financial firms have provided some insight but I suspect most dont understand the nature of the trend and why the probability is strong that it will keep going.
The foreign buying from China, Iran and other troubled areas is motivated by a lack of confidence in their home government. So they move their capital in search of safety. The list of preferred destinations and investment vehicles is relatively small compared to the amount of capital moving ($1.2 trillion left China in 2015). US treasury bonds are the first choice followed by other assets like stocks, real estate and art. And when it comes to real estate New York and London top the list of preferred markets but Vancouver and Toronto, along with Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore now occupy a close second.
Billions of dollars are pouring into these markets, which has resulted in sharp being increases in prices along with complaints about foreign ownership.
The question about the stability of the $2 - $3 million plus residential markets in Vancouver and Toronto is really about the prospect for continued inflows of foreign capital, especially from China. If that capital stops coming due to escalating efforts by the Chinese government to stop money from leaving the country or the federal, provincial or municipal governments enacting laws that prevent discourage foreign buying, then activity at the upper end will decline significantly. But without that type of push by government there is no reason to suspect that the inflows will stop because the problems in other parts of the world arent going to go away.
But would a price collapse necessarily follow if the inflow of capital slowed and purchases declined due to government intervention. I think the probability is no. Sharp price declines are usually precipitated by forced liquidation as a result of credit problems. I dont think thats the nature of the market in Vancouver or Toronto. While we dont have the statistics, anecdotal evidence suggests that a big percentage of the upper end purchases are made with cash not credit.
For the high-end foreign buyers the whole point is to get as much money out of the home country (China, Iran etc) as possible and out of the reach of their government. The market may cool but unless some event or government action forces liquidation then prices will remain relatively stable due to the large cash component in the purchases.
One more factor - the drop in the loonie versus the Chinese renminbi continues to put our real estate on sale, which further adds to the probability that the current trend of capital moving into the upper end of the real estate market in Vancouver and Toronto will continue.