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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.
Home sales continued to fall in July
From the National Bank of Canada
On a seasonally adjusted basis, home sales fell 5.3% from June to July, bringing the level of sales 12.8% below its 10-year average. This was the fifth consecutive decline for this indicator, with sales down a cumulative 31.1% between February and July. The slowdown was broad- based, with the number of transactions declining in three-quarters of the markets covered. We expect the current moderation in sales to continue going forward as the Bank of Canada is expected to raise its overnight rate further in September. The rapid rise in interest rates by the central bank is certainly having a psychological effect on buyers who are waiting to see how high rates will stabilize before taking action.
Rising interest rates also seem to be having an effect on sellers who are postponing their decision to sell to a later date. Indeed, new listings declined 5.3% between June and July. Overall, the number of months of inventory rose from 3.1 to 3.4 months in July, the highest level in two years. Based on the active-listings-to-sales ratio, market conditions loosened in every province during the month, and the housing market in the country as a whole is now on the verged of indicating a balanced market. Six provinces out of 10 are now in balanced territory: B.C., Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and P.E. (the latter having switched this month). The others continued to indicate market conditions favourable to sellers mainly due to lack of supply.
On a year-over-year basis, home sales were down 29.3% compared to the second-strongest month of July in history last year. For the first seven months of 2022, cumulative sales were down 20.3% compared to the same period in 2021.
Housing starts in Canada decreased for the first time in three months, dropping 8.3K in June to 273.8K (seasonally adjusted and annualized), in line with consensus expectations calling for a 274K print. With high commodity prices, labour shortages, and ongoing supply chain issues, this moderation in housing starts was expected and should continue in the coming months. However, with building permits remaining high and housing supply still tight, this moderation should stabilize at levels that remain strong on a historical basis.
Higher interest rates and household debt: Cause for recession?
From National Bank of Canada
There is a great deal of concern regarding the vulnerability of Canadian households not only to inflation shock but also to sharp interest rate hikes.
For heavily indebted households, the bill could prove hefty. Those that contracted mortgages 4.Sx their gross income could see their monthly payments increase by $187 to $281 from 2022 to 2024 and absorb as much as 2.6% to 4.0% of their net income.
At the macroeconomic level, however, the story is far different given the high proportion of properties without mortgages. By our calculations, the payment shock related to servicing the accumulated debt will represent 0.65% of disposable income over the next three years. The amount is significant but manageable in that it alone will not suffice to pull the economy into a recession.