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Canadian home prices expected to keep rising this year, outpacing inflation
Poll of property market analysts finds prices expected to rise 5% this year
Authors of the article:
Mumal Rathore and Richa Rebello
The Canadian housing market has showed resilience, helped by record low mortgage rates and massive fiscal spending.
BENGALURU Canadian house prices will continue their upwards march this year, outpacing inflation after hitting record highs in 2020, according to a Reuters poll of property market analysts who said the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence derailing activity was low.
Renewed lockdown restrictions after a second wave of infections hit the country are threatening expectations for a strong recovery after the economy likely posted its biggest GDP drop on record of 5.1 per cent in 2020.
Yet the Canadian housing market showed resilience, helped by record low mortgage rates and massive fiscal spending.
The Jan. 12-29 poll of 15 property market analysts showed house prices would rise 5 per cent on average this year nationally. That was the highest prediction since Reuters began polling for 2021 in February 2019.
Prices were expected to jump 4 per cent further next year compared to 3 per cent forecast in September. Both 2021 and 2022 predictions are significantly higher than inflation expectations.
Historically low interest rates, changing housing needs, high household savings and improving consumer confidence will keep demand (for homes) supercharged, said Robert Hogue, senior economist at RBC.
The main restraining factors will be a lack of supply, waning pandemic-induced market churn, a modest creep-up in interest rates and an erosion of affordability. Call it a 2022 soft landing.
The Bank of Canada was predicted to keep its key interest rate unchanged at near-zero levels until at least 2024, according to a separate Reuters poll.
House prices in Toronto and Vancouver were expected to rise 5.3 per cent and 4.1 per cent this year respectively, up from 2 per cent predicted for both in September.
Apart from easy monetary policy, a desire for more living space and a successful vaccine rollout were identified as the potential drivers of Canadian housing market activity this year, the poll showed.
While prices are set to rise again this year, nine of 14 economists who answered an additional question on whether activity would be faster or slower than in 2020 said it was likely to be slower over the coming year.
But most economists who responded to another question said the risk of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases derailing the housing market this year was low.
Fading income support, expiring mortgage deferrals and rising interest rates would strongly suggest that the housing market will downshift over the course of 2021, said Brendan LaCerda, senior economist at Moodys Analytics.
Housing is at risk, but not from COVID-19.
Affordability remains a concern. When asked to assess house prices on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is cheap and 10 is expensive, respondents rated national, Toronto and Vancouver at 7, 8 and 9, respectively.
Lower interest rates have improved affordability despite the increase in prices. However, that only implies homes are cheap conditional on rates. Rising rates in 2021 will strain affordability, said LaCerda.
Index growth slows further in January
In January the TeranetNational Bank National Composite House Price IndexTM was up 0.3% from the previous month. It was the third consecutive month in which the index rose less than the month before. The increase was led by five of the 11 constituent markets: Hamilton (2.0%), Montreal (1.0%), Victoria (0.6%), Halifax (0.4%) and Vancouver (0.4%). Rises of less than the countrywide average were reported for Quebec City (0.3%) and Ottawa-Gatineau (0.1%). Indexes were down from the month before in Toronto (0.1%), Calgary (0.2%), Edmonton (0.4%) and Winnipeg (0.4%). After three months September, October, November in which all 11 markets of the composite index were up from the month before, it was a second consecutive month in which one or more markets were down on the month.
The price rise is consistent with the rise of home sales volume over the last several months as reported by the Canadian Real Estate Association. For a fifth straight month, the number of sale pairs entering into the 11 metropolitan indexes was higher than a year earlier. The unsmoothed composite index, seasonally adjusted, was up 0.9% in January, suggesting that the published (smoothed) index could continue its uptrend.
Canadian home sales continue their momentum to start 2021
In January, Canadian home sales increased 2.0% month-on-month, building on Decembers 7.0% gain. On a year-on-year basis, they were up 35.2%.
Provincially, sales were up in 8 of 10 provinces in January, with strong gains recorded in PEI (+20.5% m/m) and Alberta (+11.9%). On the flipside, a relatively steep decline was recorded in Nova Scotia (-8.3%).
New listings dropped by 13.5% m/m in January. The combination of rising sales and falling new listings brought the months supply of inventory measure to under 1.9 months.
The national sales-to-new listings ratio also increased to 90.7% its highest level by far. Every province was in sellers territory in December, and many of those in the eastern part of Canada had ratios over 100% (Quebec: 128.3%; New Brunswick: 116.0%; Nova Scotia: 114.3% and PEI:101.5%). This means that there were more sales than new units listed last month in these provinces. This is a rare situation, but has occurred before in the Atlantic Provinces. However, January marked a first on this front in Quebec. Elsewhere, ratios were particularly elevated in Manitoba (86.1%) and Ontario (88.6).
Strong demand and historically tight conditions were reflected in prices. Indeed, Canadian average home prices surged by 4.7% m/m in January. On a year-on-year basis, they were up 22.8%, marking an acceleration from December. However, prices were up in 8 of 10 provinces during the month, with the largest gains occurring in Alberta (+8.1%) and Ontario (7.4%).
Compared with the average sales price, the MLS home price index, a more like for like measure, increased 2.0% m/m. Single family home prices rose 2.6% m/m (and a robust 17.4% y/y), whereas apartment prices advanced by a smaller 0.2% m/m (and decelerated to 3.3% y/y). In Toronto, apartment prices increased 0.4% m/m, the first gain in 4 months.
Home sales picked up right where they left off to start 2021. Demand was likely given a lift by ultra-low mortgage rates, which dropped again during the month. Januarys robust gain coupled with a strong handoff into this year virtually ensures that sales will increase in the first quarter. However, with sales likely running above fundamentally-supported levels, we think some cooling in activity will take place, especially in the second half. A dwindling supply of inventories, when benchmarked against the current sales pace, could also weigh on activity moving forward.
With todays data showing a solid gain in prices last month and new supply collapsing across nearly the entire country, markets were historically tight. This points to further strong price gains ahead in the near-term.
Also notable was that benchmark condo prices grew for the first time in several months in Toronto. Although supply remains elevated, conditions are becoming tighter than what we saw last fall. This suggests that further gains are in store.