Tag Archives: homebuyers

Empire Home Reimagined

Empire Communities prioritizes lifestyle needs

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Empire Communities prioritizes lifestyle needs

Empire Communities, one of North America’s largest private homebuilders, is seeing a significant increase in home sales throughout Southwestern Ontario as homebuyers re-evaluate how and where they live and what they need out of a home in response to COVID-19. Now, homebuyers are prioritizing rooms in their home based on the unique needs of their family and new lifestyle.

Empire Home Reimagined

Since March, Empire has sold close to 500 homes in communities across Southwestern Ontario. With home now the hub, homebuyers are highly motivated on their search to prioritize space and accommodate the needs of their family and the new realities of spending more time at home. Additionally, many buyers are looking to more affordable markets outside the GTA for space and value, with interest rates historically low and with the newfound flexibility of working from home.

To help guide homebuyers through their homebuying journey, Empire has launched a new platform to match homebuyers with the features and home designs that will best serve their needs. With Home Reimagined, homebuyers will discover which room is the heart of their home and get insight on design features to consider during the home search.

Through Empire’s Home Reimagined campaign, homebuyers can take a short quiz designed to match them with a persona that will provide insight on home designs that pair well with their values and family life, and the Empire communities they are available in. In addition to receiving suggested home designs, homebuyers are also offered content curated just for them based on their quiz results.



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How will the pandemic affect the future of real estate?

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How will the pandemic affect the future of real estate?

The past few months have been challenging for everyone and in the process of adapting to COVID-19 conditions, and we have learned a lot about ourselves and our lives. Throughout the social isolation and distancing, though, people continued to purchase homes and condominiums, because as cliche as it sounds, life goes on. Despite a global pandemic, people continue to experience various major life changes, such as new jobs and growing families, and they need to move. Since March, the real estate industry has been evolving to address current and future needs of buyers and renters. Some changes will persevere well into the future.

Take technology, for example. Purchasing homes and condos online has increased drastically. We are providing potential buyers with more up-front information than ever before, so they have a lot of time to digest it all before signing on the dotted line. We have found that with new project launches, many of the deals are done online using various technologies. Before the pandemic, we mainly did these types of deals with investors who live abroad; now, we are selling virtually with both local investors and end-users. Certainly, any potential buyer is able to come into the sales office if they prefer, but they can do a lot of their due diligence beforehand.

The second area of lasting change is in home and condo designs. With so many of us forced to work and study at home, the need for office space has become paramount. Even if it is a nook in a condo bedroom with space for a desk, or an optional finished basement in a lowrise home, there is a massive need for a designated workspace in the home. Technology goes hand in hand with this – high-speed Internet is a given, along with multiple plug-ins and ports so the entire family can benefit from productive home time.

During the summer months, combined with uncertainty over how long the pandemic will last – or be repeated – more and more people are looking for pool-sized lots or homes with a pool to make social distancing more bearable.

For condo buyers, the type of amenities included is being scrutinized more carefully. Is there a place for kids? An Internet lounge? Outdoor space?

Importantly, the phrase “location, location, location” is taking on a whole new meaning. Flexible work schedules that lessen personal contact each day, as well as transitions to more work-from-home jobs mean people can live anywhere and not necessarily close to their place of employment. With homebuyers not so connected to their workplaces, they can shop with a new attitude. We may see people moving into or out of the city for different reasons than in the past.

Whatever the impact of the pandemic, many of the changes will be long lasting. For our industry, many were positive and will continue to evolve and change with the times.

Debbie Cosic is the founder and CEO of In2ition Realty, an innovative real estate brokerage that specializes in project marketing, merchandising and selling of new home communities and condominiums. The professional team she has assembled assists clients with land assembly, market research, sales and marketing, design services, broker relations, and leasing and property management. in2ition.ca


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New home sales centre app

Program helps builders get back to business safely after COVID-19

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Program helps builders get back to business safely after COVID-19

Toronto-based real estate marketing and advertising firm Ryan Design has created a customizable and innovative turnkey safety COVID-19 program for new-home builders.

New home sales centre app

When sales offices reopen, they will need to be ready to provide an environment that is safe for everyone and continues to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A leading marketing firm serving numerous homebuilders across Canada, and trained by the World Health Organization (WHO), Ryan Design has created a complete COVID-19 safety program that is innovative and customizable to any builder.

As an essential service, homebuilders continue to build the homes people have been promised across the province. Using technology and an app, staff and trades workers on construction sites can help to ensure everyone’s safety.

Touchless job site sign-in portal

To keep everyone on the job site and in the community safe, Ryan Design has created a Touchless Job Site Sign-In and Sign-Out Portal. Tradespeople can now scan at arrival and departure and conduct health screening using an app on their phone.

A complete signage package for the app can been created for a builder’s job site. This part of the program also includes staff training and a complete reporting package for builders regarding trades on site.

Reopening sales centres and decor studios

When builders are allowed to reopen sales centres and design studios, these spaces will have to function differently and be safer for everybody, yet still be welcoming.

Another part of this new program for builders is a retrofit plan for existing sales offices. It includes easy installation of materials to add physical distance and innovative COVID-19 branded kits to help them feel safe and more comfortable in their homebuying journey.

COVID-19 changed the way sales consultants connect with prospective homebuyers and close a sale. Early on, Ryan Design developed a proprietary virtual selling system so that homebuilders could continue doing business. For many, this system has led to more new-home sales than anticipated after their sales office closure.

This customizable and innovative turnkey COVID-19 safety program for new-home builders by Ryan Design is a way to plan for a safe and secure reopening. With this program, both builders and homebuyers can feel safe and comfortable when it’s time to reopen.



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Homebuyer intentions still high: HPG COVID-19 Real Estate Survey

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Homebuyer intentions still high: HPG COVID-19 Real Estate Survey

Prospective homebuyers have understandably slowed their intentions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing is clear: When the crisis is over, they still hope to achieve their new-home dreams.

And, importantly, they have very specific expectations of new home and condo builders.

The message to those in the industry – builders, developers, marketers, associations and others – then, is, be ready.

Demand still high

These are among the findings of the HPG COVID-19 Real Estate Survey, a flash poll sent to subscribers of HOMES Publishing Group’s Real Estate Newsletter and posted on myhomepage.ca. Results confirm a number of important points:

  • 93 per cent of respondents had been planning to buy a new home or condo before COVID-19.
  • More than 32 per cent of them still plan to buy a new home or condo – and more than 37 per cent within the next three to six months.
  • COVID-19 has led almost 58 per cent of respondents to consider buying a highrise condo instead of a lowrise home; almost 24 per cent still plan to buy a lowrise home, though maybe a smaller home.
  • An overwhelming majority – more than 80 per cent – are counting on new home and condo builders to continue to market their products.
  • Almost 54 per cent of them expect to continue to see new home developments and condos advertised.
  • More than 90 per cent of respondents say it’s either “critical” or “very important” that new home and condo developers remain visible – in advertising and social media – during this time.

“The reality is that the pandemic has placed unusual challenges on the new home market,” says Michael Rosset, president and publisher of HOMES Publishing Group. “But there remains an unrelenting desire for homeownership, which is sure to feed a strong rebound when a sense of normalcy returns. Buyers will continue to look to all of us in the industry for innovation, guidance and leadership as we navigate our way through the turbulence, and help them fulfill their dream.”

Homebuyer incentives

When things do return to “normal,” whenever and whatever that might be, homebuyers are clear about that they expect from builders and developers – incentives to lure them back to their projects or otherwise entice them to buy with them, as opposed to the competition.


How buyers can prepare for the busy buying season – post-COVID-19

What the coronavirus means for Canadian real estate

Seventy-two per cent of respondents, in fact, expect builders and developers to offer pricing discounts – as well as other incentives – to secure their business.

Many buyers, however, are also realistic, appreciating that new home supply in the GTA is very tight – certainly before and possibly more so, at least initially, post-COVID-19. More than 62 per cent of respondents acknowledge that supply is low, and they will buy what they can find and that they’re happy with.

Only 9.4 per cent say they may pursue the resale market instead of a new home or condo.


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In Conversation With Frank Clayton, Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, Ryerson

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In Conversation With Frank Clayton, Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, Ryerson

Builders and developers have long been calling for the Province and municipalities to loosen up on land supply and approval processes to allow more new homes to be built, and more quickly. To the uninitiated, however, this seems a self-serving request, since, of course, they believe these companies want to build more and make more money.

But now we have more and more third parties, without any vested interest, expressing the same concerns, and citing hard, objective numbers. One of them is Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development.

“Toronto’s booming economy has brought with it housing affordability challenges that will continue throughout the next decade,” Frank Clayton, PhD and senior research fellow, said at a recent Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) event. The Centre’s recent study, An Economic Outlook for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and What it Means for Housing Affordability, examined the economy and its impact on housing to 2031.

We spoke with Clayton to explore the issues discussed in the study, what government and the industry can do, and what it all means for homebuyers.

HOMES Magazine: Your recent report doesn’t exactly sound like good news for those still looking to buy a home. What positive news can they take from your findings?

Frank Clayton: The affordability picture painted in our report means that, comparatively, more prospective buyers will have to devote more of their budget to housing, rely on parents for down payment assistance or reduce their housing expectations in terms of location, size and type of structure. On the positive side, many prospective buyers (especially double income professional couples) will still be able to afford to purchase a home. Also, once prospective buyers purchase, they will benefit from the appreciation in home values.

H: Given the findings of your study, where do you see the most promising opportunities for prospective homebuyers – in terms of location and housing type?

Clayton: This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on where people work, household composition and lifestyle preferences. Durham Region is the most affordable of the 905 areas, and has become more attractive with the extension of Hwy. 407 and improved GO train service. For buyers who want to locate closer to Toronto’s central area, there are wide swathes of existing low-density housing in the city’s post-Second Word War suburbs, such as much of Scarborough, which are priced much lower than neighbourhoods closer to the core.

Unit types depend on lifestyle preferences and affordability. The housing choice menu that I have seen over the years goes like this: Many households prefer a single-detached house, but if they can’t afford it, they move up the density ladder until they can afford to purchase. So, if a single-detached house is unaffordable, a semi-detached house, followed by a townhome becomes the targeted housing type. If a townhouse is not affordable, then a stacked townhouse unit, followed by other types of lower-rise condos (four storeys of less) are preferred. If a prospective buyer is considering purchasing in a highrise, they should look at new units being built in a mixed-use project such as those being built on redeveloped shopping centre sites.

H: You note that average home prices and rents are to rise four to five per cent over the study period. This seems low, given that TRREB forecasts home price growth to hit 10 per cent for this year… Why the disparity?

Clayton: Our home price and rent forecasts represent average annual per cent increases from 2019 to 2031. If prices rise by 10 per cent per year early in the period, it will likely be due to irrational exuberance like in 2016-17, when home purchases exploded as buyers and investors rushed to buy before prices rose more. By doing so, they pushed prices up even higher. Typically, these price surges are unsustainable and are followed by stagnant or slightly lower prices. So, if prices rise by 10 per cent for a year or two, there will be years when prices may rise only slightly, if at all.

H: If figures such as TRREB’s are accurate and continue for a couple of years, and are not just an anomaly for 2020, what does that mean for housing affordability? How much worse could it get?

Clayton: It would be very damaging for affordability, and the picture would be bleaker than what our study predicts. Even more potential buyers would be relegated to the rental market, which would put added pressure on rents. If prices were to rise by 10 per cent per year for several years, we could expect to have a rather serious market readjustment so that prices would cease to rise or even decline moderately as they did following 2016-17.

H: What kinds of things can or should builders and developers do in the short-term to deal with these challenges?

Clayton: There isn’t a lot builders and developers can to increase the supply of housing in the short-term. It is important that the industry continue to pressure municipalities to expedite development applications for all kinds of housing, to bring developments to market much more quickly than at present. Builders should be exploring ways to bring more affordable units to market by reducing unit sizes and finding locations where underlying land values are lower, such as in Scarborough and Durham Region.

H: And what can or should municipalities do?

Clayton: Municipalities first have to recognize that they are a primary cause of the shortage of housing. Their land use planning systems have bogged down the production of new and innovative types of housing. The planning system is burdensome, uncertain, time-consuming and costly. What is needed is a change of priorities. The rapid increase in the production of a range of new housing by unit types and price ranges should become the number one priority of all municipal councils and staff in the GTA. Without this, a shortfall of new housing will continue to keep prices much higher than need be.

H: What kind of response or reception has your study received from the Province or City of Toronto?

Clayton: The Province is aware of the causes of high and rising housing prices and is doing what it can to persuade GTA municipalities to increase their housing production sharply. Unfortunately, many municipalities aren’t on side, so it will be a struggle to greatly increase housing production.

Many councillors at the City of Toronto, for instance, fail to recognize how the city’s planning system, along with those in neighbouring municipalities, is a primary cause of the current housing shortage in the GTHA. While the City’s efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing over the next decade is in the right direction, this will not get at the root cause of the affordability crunch – not enough new housing is being built, particularly, non highrise varieties.

H: ReMax is citing Ontario markets as already some of the least affordable in Canada. Even with the economic growth in the GTA, how well will household incomes be able to keep up to housing costs?

Clayton: Our study is clear that average incomes are very unlikely to keep up with rising average prices and rents in the GTA. The only sure-fire way to change this projection is to significantly increase the supply of new housing in the GTA.



GTA home price growth to hit 10 per cent this year: TRREB

Get ready for a hot market in the GTA this spring

The Power Seat – building industry CEOs call for government change



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It’s time for the federal government to update the mortgage stress test

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It’s time for the federal government to update the mortgage stress test

It has been nearly two years since the federal government’s mortgage stress test was first introduced with the intent to cool the hot Canadian housing market. Since then, particularly in the GTA and Vancouver, there has been a softening of demand in the housing sector as the market adjusted and potential homebuyers looking to purchase a new home have stepped off the sidelines. In the GTA, the stress test did its job in reducing demand, but did so by shutting out hundreds of thousands of potential homebuyers. It did nothing for the real issue, that being that the GTA has a housing supply problem.

The stress test came into effect in 2018 to protect consumers by limiting the amount of money they could borrow for a new home. It meant that all home purchasers have to qualify under the Bank of Canada benchmark five-year rate (5.34 per cent) or the rate offered by the lender plus 200 basis points or two per cent.

Unfortunately, the stress test addressed demand and not supply. Home prices stabilized because tens of thousands of young families and newcomers to Canada were locked out of the housing market. In markets with growing populations, it is very difficult to solve supply side problems with demand side solutions. Furthermore, reducing demand did not improve affordability because any stabilization of pricing was matched with reduced spending/borrowing ability.

Why do we have a supply issue? The GTA’s population is growing at the rate of 115,000 per year and the inability to build enough new homes fast enough is a problem. We are falling short by about 10,000 units a year. The result is the affordability challenge we have seen across the GTA over the last five to 10 years. Demand side measures like the stress test have only proved to be a bandaid solution.

With markets now stabilized, and the cumulative effects of changes now surpassing the original policy goals, it is time for the federal government to update the stress test to better align it with current market conditions, specifically replacing the current “blanket” two-point stress test with a declining rate stress test based on the mortgage term. The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) has some recommendations that would see the stress test remain unchanged for mortgages with open terms and variable rates, but reduced for fixed rate, locked-in terms, eventually diminishing to 0.75 for terms of five years, and be eliminated entirely for seven- or 10-year terms.

The CHBA also recommended reintroducing 30-year amortization periods for first-time buyers. First-time homebuyers have been inordinately affected by the federal government’s changes, yet they are amongst the lowest-risk group of buyers. It’s time to reintroduce the 30-year amortization for insured mortgages taken on by well-qualified first-time buyers. This will address growing inequities in mortgage access that disproportionately impact younger first-time homebuyers trying to enter the housing market.

Implementing the CHBA recommendations would return the top 64 per cent most qualified of buyers to the market and would allow 89 per cent of first-time buyers, a low risk group, to re-enter the market with the hope of homeownership. Those returning would still be lower-risk as they would still need to pass the adjusted stress test, debt service ratios, down payment requirements, credit rating scores and mortgage insurance requirements.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).



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Fixed mortgage rates hit two-year low

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Fixed mortgage rates hit two-year low

Mortgage rates in Canada have been ultra-low for more than 10 years, but in most cases the variable rate has still beat out the fixed rate. Until now.

Recently, the Canada five-year benchmark bond yield fell to 1.29 per cent – the lowest level in two years. The big banks have responded by slashing fixed rates on mortgages. Anyone shopping for a mortgage right now should take a closer look at the five-year fixed. This could be a big money saving option. That’s because in many cases, it’s cheaper than the variable rate. It also means peace of mind knowing your monthly payments won’t change for the next five years

M2M condos by Aoyuan International.

How low are fixed rates

To put fixed rates into perspective, the five-year benchmark bond yield is lower compared to last year at this time. Then it would cost up to 2.06 per cent. It is also much lower than the long term average of 3.52 per cent. This is leading big banks to ramp up their mortgage business. As is always the case, banks are enthusiastic to sell mortgages and are willing to offer the lowest rate to get your business. With low bond yields, many are offering rates lower than three per cent fixed.

Good for homebuyers

This is all great news for anyone shopping for a mortgage right now. If you have job security, fixing your rate, rather than going variable (for the next five years), could mean better cash flow if rates were to rise.

Looking at variable, too

It’s important to understand how variable rate works as well. The Bank of Canada’s floating benchmark rate is tied to the variable rate. When the Central Bank raises rates, commercial banks raise prime, which affects your floating rate loans, such as variable rate mortgages and lines of credit. The Bank of Canada raised rates five times between the summer of 2017 and the fall of 2018, but has since held rates steady at 1.75 per cent. In the past, the Bank has cited global trade tension between the U.S., low oil prices and record high debt levels as a reason to leave rates unchanged.

Not all good news

It’s important to note that plunging bond yields may be great for borrowers in the market for a mortgage right now, but they do spell trouble for the economy. Low bond yields often indicate a slowing economy. It can also encourage Canadians to pile on more debt. If trade tension were to ease and the new United States, Canada and Mexico agreement was to firm up, bond yields would rise. This would push fixed rates up right away.

Turning attention to the U.S.

So far, the U.S. Federal Reserve has held rates steady, but has indicated it is open to a rate cut if the economic conditions allow it. If the U.S. Federal reserve was to cut rates, that would put pressure on the Bank of Canada to do the same.

Do your own stress test

Regardless of how low of a rate you secure, you still have to pass the federal stress test. That is the higher of the following — a rate two points higher than your contract rate or the Bank of Canada conventional mortgage five-year rate.

It’s important not to get carried away with how low the rate it is; calculate your affordability, not only using the stress test, but also by adding in the cost of emergency repairs and extenuating circumstances. All of these events can cost a lot of money. If you’re already stretched financially, managing them can be difficult. Make sure you can afford the mortgage you’re taking on for the long term.

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a journalist and personal finance expert. She is HPG’s Finance Editor. She regularly appears on CBC Radio and TV. She is a contributor on CTV Your Morning and Global Toronto. She has a BA from York University, received her post graduate journalism diploma from Humber College and has completed the CSC. Follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney.


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GTA waterfront homes

Budget 2019 comes up short

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Budget 2019 comes up short

GTA waterfront homes

The federal government released the much-anticipated Budget 2019 this week, with homebuyers, builders and others awaiting measures to address housing issues.

And in short, it comes up, well… a little short.

First-time homebuyer help

Much of the housing focus in Budget 2019 was on addressing the needs of first-timers, namely with a new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive.

  • The Incentive would allow eligible first-time homebuyers who have the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage to apply to finance a portion of their home purchase through a shared equity mortgage with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC).
  • About 100,000 first-time buyers would benefit from the Incentive over the next three years.
  • Since no ongoing payments would be required with the Incentive, Canadian families would have lower monthly mortgage payments. For example, if a borrower purchases a new $400,000 home with a five-per-cent down payment and a 10-per-cent CMHC shared equity mortgage ($40,000), the borrower’s total mortgage size would be reduced from $380,000 to $340,000, reducing the borrower’s monthly mortgage costs by as much as $228 per month.
  • CMHC to offer qualified first-time homebuyers a 10-per-cent shared equity mortgage for a newly constructed home or a five-per-cent shared equity mortgage for an existing home. This larger shared equity mortgage for newly constructed homes could help encourage the home construction needed to address some of the housing supply shortages in Canada, particularly in the largest cities.
  • The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive would include eligibility criteria to ensure that the program helps those with legitimate needs, while ensuring that participants are able to afford the homes they purchase. The Incentive would be available to first-time buyers with household incomes of less than $120,000 per year.
  • Budget 2019 also proposes to increase the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000, providing first-time buyers with greater access to their Registered Retirement Savings Plan savings to buy a home.

Noticeably absent from the housing measures was any adjustment to the stress test, which a number of experts say is necessary.

Industry reaction

“The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) agrees with (Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s) comments that there aren’t enough homes for people to buy or apartments for people to rent,” says Dave Wilkes, president and CEO.

“BILD feels the policies presented in (the) budget are a step in the right direction to help first-time homebuyers. We will continue to advocate for a review of the stress test so that first-time homebuyers can realize the dream of homeownership. Supply challenges still exist and are at the centre of the current unbalanced market, and we call for action on these by the provincial and municipal government.”

Supply challenges in the Greater Golden Horseshoe are serious, and Budget 19 fails to address them.

“This was a re-election budget that didn’t move the dial for new-home buyers in the GTA,” Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) told HOMES Publishing. “While increasing RRSP borrowing for first-time homebuyers is helpful, creating The First-Time Homebuyer Incentive at a maximum of $500,000 doesn’t help many Torontonians or GTA residents.”

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) had been recommending a shared appreciation mortgage approach for some time, as a tool to help those who can’t get into homeownership but have the means to pay rent.

The modification to the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan will help get Canadians into their first home, but will also act as a burden because the loan has to be repaid within 15 years, including a minimum of 1/15th per year.

“This means that, in the years following their home purchase, a homeowner has the additional financial responsibility of repaying their RRSP,” says James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial.

Important details of the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program have yet to be released. For example, says Laird, it remains unclear whether the government would take an equity position in homes, or whether the assistance would act as an interest-free loan.

“This is an important distinction because if the government is taking an equity stake in a home, the amount the homeowner would have to pay back would grow as the value of the home increases,” he says.

The very launch of the program is surprising, Laird says, given that the BC Government implemented a similar measure a couple years ago, with unsuccessful results, and it was terminated in 2018. First-time home buyers found it difficult to understand and unappealing to have the government co-own their home.

Let’s do the math

Under existing qualifying criteria, including the stress test, homebuyers can qualify for a house that is 4.5 to 4.7 times their household income.

Under the new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, however, the government has set a purchase limit of four times household income for the mortgage, plus the amount provided by the government, according to Ratehub.

By participating in this program, first-time homebuyers effectively reduce the amount they can qualify for by about 15 per cent, and their monthly mortgage payment naturally decreases in lockstep.

A household with $100,000 of income, putting a minimum down payment of five per cent, can currently qualify for a home valued at $479,888 with a $2,265.75 monthly mortgage payment.

Affordability calculations

The maximum purchase price for the same household, if they participate in the first-time homebuyer incentive, drops to $404,858.29 with a five-per-cent minimum down payment. The total mortgage amount would then be $400,000 (or four times their household income).

Mortgage payment calculations

If the household took a five-per-cent incentive from the government (for resales), their mortgage amount goes to $378,947.37, and monthly payment is now $1,810.90.

If the household took a 10-per-cent incentive, (for new homes) their mortgage amount goes to $357,894.73, and  monthly payment is now $1,710.29.

Stress test modifications

The CHBA is among the industry groups that is pushing for modifications to the existing mortgage stress test, which has served to lock out too many well-qualified Canadians due to the market and interest rate changes of the past year.

“The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, if coupled with immediate adjustments to the stress test, has the potential for getting the housing continuum functioning again,” says CHBA CEO Kevin Lee. “It is essential that these changes come quickly, though. Current restrictions on mortgage access mean that many millennials and new Canadians are seeing homeownership slipping away, and in many markets the economic impacts are substantial.”

Looking ahead to the 2019 federal election, CHBA will be encouraging all federal parties to address housing affordability in very meaningful ways in their respective platform documents.

Budget 2019 housing measures

Budget 2019




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GTA buyers head west ReMax

GTA homebuyers continue to look west in search of affordability

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GTA homebuyers continue to look west in search of affordability

GTA buyers head west ReMax

Homebuying patterns in the GTA have increasingly shifted west over the last five years, particularly to Halton Region and west Toronto, according to a new report from ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

“Growing demand for affordable housing buoyed new construction and contributed to rising market share in Halton Region (from 2013 to 2018),” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Product was coming on-stream at a time when the GTA reported its lowest inventory in years and skyrocketing housing values were raising red flags. Freehold properties in the suburbs farther afield spoke to affordability.”

In analyzing sales trends in nine Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) districts over the past five years, ReMax notes that Halton Region – comprising Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills and Milton – captured 10.1 per cent of total market share in 2018, leading with a 2.3-per-cent increase over 2013. Toronto West, meanwhile, climbed almost one per cent to 10.5 per cent. Toronto Central rose close to two per cent to 18.7 per cent of total market share, while Simcoe County jumped 0.6 per cent to 3.1 per cent. The gains came at the expense of perennial favourites such as York Region (down 3.2 per cent to 15.3 per cent); East Toronto (down 1.7 per cent to 9.3 per cent); Peel Region (down 0.5 per cent to 20.6 per cent); and Durham Region (down 0.3 per cent to 11.5 per cent). Dufferin County remained stable over the five-year period.

The quest for single-detached housing at an affordable price point has sent throngs of Toronto buyers into the Hamilton housing market over the past decade, ReMax says. The spillover effect has stimulated homebuying activity in most areas flanked by Toronto’s core and Hamilton. Burlington, in particular, soared between 2013 and 2018, with home sales almost doubling and average price climbing 50 per cent to $769,142.

Window of opportunity

But with such strong growth in Burlington, how long will this market remain an affordable option?

“The communities in the west will still be affordable compared to Toronto proper, but what we are going to see is a continued uptick in demand for more of the outlying communities like Brantford, Waterdown, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and even as far-reaching as London and Niagara,” Alexander told HOMES Publishing. “What will really impact the growth of these markets, outside of availability and affordability, will be the underlying transit systems and investments in local economies, as people still have a need to be connected to the GTA core.”

The upswing in new construction has contributed to the changing landscape. New housing starts in Halton Region averaged 3,100 annually between 2013 and 2016. In Simcoe County, just north of Toronto, new residential builds averaged close to 1,860 annually from 2013 to 2017.  During the same period, almost 39,000 residential units came on-stream in Toronto’s downtown-central waterfront area, while another 56,855 were active (approved with building permits applied for or issued and those under construction). Another 6,000 units came on the market in North York and Yonge-Eglinton.


GTA home sales ReMax


In Toronto’s west end, affordability has been a strong influence in helping Millennials redefine mature neighbourhoods such as The Junction, South Parkdale, Bloorcourt and Dovercourt Park through gentrification. Average price for the 8,000 plus homes sold in 2018 hovered at $755,658 – although the 10 districts within Toronto West range in price from $557,000 in Downsview-Roding, Black Creek and Humbermede to $1.2 million in Stonegate-Queensway.

“Freehold properties remain the choice of most purchasers in Halton Region and Toronto West,” says Alexander. “The same is true to a lesser extent in Toronto Central, but condominiums continue to gain ground. Just over one in three properties sold in the GTA was a condominium in 2018, and that figure is higher in the core. As prices climb in both the city and suburbs, the shift toward higher-density housing will continue, with fewer single-detached developments coming to pass.”

Toronto Central has seen rapid growth over the past five years, with Millennials fuelling demand for condos and townhomes in developments such as City Place, King West Village and Liberty Village. This cohort has also been instrumental in the gentrification of Toronto Central neighbourhoods such as Oakwood-Vaughan and Dufferin Grove as they snap up smaller freehold properties at more affordable price points, ReMax says.

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Baby Boomers have also been a major influence in Toronto Central, selling larger homes throughout the GTA and making lateral moves or downsizing to neighbourhoods close to shops, restaurants and amenities. Close to 15,000 properties were sold in 2018, with average price of $932,416, up almost 40 per cent since 2013. Properties within Toronto Central averaged 20 days on market and ranged in price from $709,660 in Bayview Village to $2.5 million in York Mills, Hogg’s Hollow, Bridle Path and Sunnybrook.

With an affordable average price point of $611,628 – and a range of $528,942 to $746,332 – younger buyers, empty nesters and retirees have flocked to Simcoe County in recent years. New construction in Adjala-Tosorontio, Bradford West, Essa, Innisfil and New Tecumseth has allowed the area to capture a greater percentage of the overall market between 2013 to 2018.

“As the Millennials move into their homebuying years, they will displace Baby Boomers as the dominant force in the GTA’s real estate market,” says Alexander. “Their impact on housing will have a serious ripple effect on infrastructure in the coming years, placing pressure on transit systems, roadways, local economies and their abilities to attract investors and new businesses, parks and greenspace development.”

The upswing in demand over the next decade is expected to re-ignite homebuying activity in Toronto East, York, Peel and Durham Regions. These areas still carry significant weight, despite the factors that have impacted softer performance in recent years, such as affordability, lack of available housing and fewer transit options.

GTA west vs east

As the west end of the GTA continues to see growth and price appreciation, a leveling effect will likely come into play (with the east region),” Alexander told HOMES. “Toronto’s GDP and the thriving economy will continue to attract people, so while affordability may continue to decrease, desire is unlikely to waver. That said, the current and next generation of homebuyers are taking this factor into account when they are making their decision to purchase – sacrificing space for lifestyle and convenience.  As they look to the greater GTA, if affordability becomes more leveled out between the west and the east, it’s likely that we will see more dispersion across the entire region as people’s desire to be connected to the GTA core remains strong.

GTA east areas such as Durham region currently don’t have the same appeal as the west. “The West end of the GTA has a greater diversity of communities that are attracting a diverse range of buyers.  In the past 10 years, there has been significant focus on the growth and development of these regions, whereas historically, Durham has not traditionally been viewed in this same regard. With the boom in areas towards the east, like Prince Edward County, and the affordability leveling out, we will likely see the tide begin to turn.”


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Bank of Canada

Bank of Canada holds interest rate for now, but hikes still to come

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Bank of Canada holds interest rate for now, but hikes still to come


Bank of Canada

The Bank of Canada held its target for the overnight rate at 1.75 per cent on Jan. 9, where it has been since October 2018, and is lowering its growth forecast this year for Canada and around the world.

After raising the rate three times last year, some experts expected the Bank would do so again, either in late 2018 or early this year.

So, what does this latest non-action mean, and what can Canadian consumers expect in the coming months?

“The Bank gave several reasons for its decision to keep rates steady,” says Rubina Ahmed-Haq, personal finance guru and Homes Publishing columnist. “This includes lower oil prices, a weaker outlook for the global economy and Canada’s economy slowing more than expected.

Weaker investment

“It was a surprise that market pessimism did not come up,” she adds. “Despite stock market volatility making headlines for the last two months, there was no mention of the wild swings investors have been experiencing. The Bank did talk about weaker consumer spending and housing investment. This could be because of Canadian investors watching their portfolios and not feeling as confident in their spending.”

Sill, Ahmed-Haq says, the Bank remains very rosy on Canada’s economy, noting it has performing well overall. In its statement, the Bank says, “Growth has been running close to potential, employment growth has been strong and unemployment is at a 40-year low.” But still not enough to raise rates at this time.

Energy sector a concern

“The energy sector has been a concern for the Bank for some time now, but there seems to be a new focus on the housing sector, especially on the impact of mortgage guidelines changes and the five rate increases that have happened in the past 18 months,” James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and President of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage, told Homes Publishing.

Ahmed-Haq and Laird agree we should still expect higher rates in the coming months.

“The policy interest rate will need to rise over time into a neutral range to achieve the inflation target,” says Ahmed-Haq.

Rate hikes to come

Forecasters are now predicting two rate hikes this year, down from earlier predictions of as many as three rates hikes in 2019.

“The Bank’s moderated outlook in the last two announcements has caused bond yields in Canada to drop lower than any point in 2018,” says Laird. “However, we are yet to see a corresponding decrease in mortgage rates. We would advise consumers to keep a close eye on mortgage rates in coming weeks.”


Highlights from the Bank’s announcement

  • Bank of Canada maintains target for overnight rate at 1.75 per cent
  • Canadian economy performing well overall
  • Employment growth strong
  • Unemployment rate at 40-year low
  • Canadian consumption spending and housing investment weaker than expected
  • Housing markets adjusting to municipal and provincial measures, new mortgage guidelines and higher interest rates
  • Household spending to be dampened by slow growth in oil-producing provinces
  • Real GDP growth forecast at 1.7 per cent for 2019
  • Growth of 2.1 per cent forecast for 2020



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