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Outlook 2020 – 5 things you need to know about real estate this year

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Outlook 2020 – 5 things you need to know about real estate this year

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Outlook 2020 – it’s a new year and a new decade, and with that come new challenges and opportunities. When it pertains to the housing industry and homebuying, we’ve boiled it down to a handful of items to keep your eye on. Here are five things you really need to understand about real estate – specifically the GTA market.

1 REAL ESTATE IS LOCAL

This is a good place to start, because it’s a simple but important fact that escapes many consumers: Real estate is local. There is no such thing as a Canadian housing market, just as there’s no Canadian traffic or Canadian weather.

Sure, organizations such as the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) are mandated to analyze what goes on across the country. But what’s most important to you is what’s happening in your market. When you buy a home, you don’t buy a national market. You buy one property, on one street, in one neighbourhood, in one city and region.

If you live in Ontario, why do you care that Alberta’s ongoing oil industry struggles are affecting sales and prices in markets in that province? Or that Vancouver’s affordability challenges are even more serious than those in Toronto?

Forget the national headlines. Examine what’s happening in your market. The same applies to the economy.

Why does this matter? Read on.

2 THE ECONOMY

Globally, geopolitical uncertainty and softening economic growth will mean Canada faces some challenges with export and investment, leaving the heavy lifting to the consumer, according to Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist at RBC.

RBC forecasts the economy to grow about 1.6 per cent in 2020. The unemployment rate remains at fourdecade lows, though may rise to 5.9 per cent in 2020 from 5.7 per cent in 2019. Companies are having difficulty finding skilled workers, leading to stronger wage growth.

Ontario’s real GDP growth is forecast to slow to 1.6 per cent for 2019 and 1.5 per cent in 2020, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Job creation remains strong, with the province adding more than 200,000 new jobs over the first 10 months of 2019, much of them in full-time work.

Ontarians are among the most positive about the economic outlook, according to a recent public opinion survey from the nonprofit Angus Reid Institute, with 22 per cent of respondents indicating they believe the economy will improve. Only residents in Quebec, at 30 per cent, and BC at 23 per cent, are more optimistic. In Alberta, by contrast, 79 per cent of residents expect their economy to deteriorate over the next year.

Keeping in mind what we wrote about real estate – and even the economy – being local, Ontario is looking strong on both counts for 2020.

Craig Wright, RBC
Craig Wright, RBC

“We continue to see strong employment gains, Ontario is leading Canada in terms of employment growth on a year-over-year basis, and strong population growth,” Wright told Homes Publishing. “So, strong fundamentals supporting it, in a low rate environment.”

The GTA’s robust population growth will continue to drive demand for both ownership and rental housing, Wright says.

Housing markets in Southern Ontario, in fact, led in home price growth last year, and are expected to continue to do so in 2020, according to a new report from ReMax.

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“Southern Ontario is witnessing some incredibly strong price appreciation, with many regions still seeing double-digit gains,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president and regional director, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Thanks to the region’s resilient economy, staggering population growth and relentless development, the 2020 market looks very optimistic.”

Toronto is set to experience a strong housing market this year, thanks to lower unemployment rates, economic growth and improved overall affordability in the GTA. ReMax is forecasting average sale price growth of six per cent, two points higher than the increase from 2018 ($835,422) and 2019 ($880,841).

The Niagara region is also showing strong growth, with average residential sale price increasing almost 13 per cent, from $378,517 in 2018 to $427,487 in 2019. Value-conscious consumers from the GTA are buying in droves, with many choosing to live in the region and commute to Toronto.

3 INTEREST RATES

In its most recent interest rate announcement, the Bank of Canada maintained its target for the influential overnight rate at 1.75 per cent, where it has been since October 2018. Though there is some global uncertainty, the Bank says, the Canadian economy is resilient, citing moderately expanding consumer spending, stronger wage growth and housing investment, increasing population and continuing low mortgage rates.

Many experts foresee mortgage rates holding where they are throughout 2020 – if not declining.

Indeed, James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage, predicts BoC will cut the overnight rate by a quarter point in the second half of 2020.

In 2019, central banks around the world cut their rates, but Canada was not among them. Facing somewhat slowing economic growth driven by decreased exports and a slightly higher unemployment rate, Canada will follow this trend and cut the overnight rate by 0.25 per cent in the latter half of 2020, Laird says.

“These savings will be passed along to variable rate mortgage holders in the form of a lower prime rate,” Laird says. “Therefore, Canadians who are in a variable rate will see their interest rate drop in the second half of the year.”

The Bank’s rate policy will cause fixed mortgage rates to remain low throughout the year, he adds. This should provide peace of mind to Canadians who have a mortgage up for renewal or those who have plans to purchase a new home in 2020.

4 GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Ontario Home Builders’ Association, Building Industry and Land Development Association, Toronto Real Estate Board – and other relevant industry bodies – are all lobbying hard for the various levels of government to address the issues facing housing. Ranging from the First-Time Home Buyers’ Incentive Program, the mortgage stress test or land-use policies that affect the level of homebuilding – and therefore buying – one thing is clear: Federal, provincial and municipal levels of government are listening.

(Many of the executives in our Outlook 2020 Q&As in the following pages touch on these issues, and we’ll have another related special feature in our February issue.)

At least one major source says governments have little choice but to take action. The Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), a real estate investment education, analysis and research firm, cites increasing immigration as the catalyst for change.

“An increase in the influx of migrants amounting to over one million people in three years is tantamount to increasing rental demand,” says Jennifer Hunt, vice-president of research at REIN. “This is good news for rental housing providers, as migrants have higher tendencies to rent property rather than to purchase their own homes, especially within the first four years of settling in Canada.”

Once settled and secure in employment, however, many of these new Canadians want to become homeowners, which leads to higher demand for housing, including new homes and condos.

5 FTHBI & THE STRESS TEST

The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive is a shared equity mortgage through CMHC. The program is intended to reduce monthly mortgage payments for first-time homebuyers, without increasing the amount they need to save for a down payment.

Though some recent adjustments to the program, including raised purchase limits for high-priced markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, have helped, some are calling for further improvements to the plan.

REIN, for one, suggests watching for a potential increase of the FTHBI’s purchase price limit to nearly $800,000 in high-priced markets.

Ratehub is not convinced, expecting that the FTHBI will not be enhanced, and the existing program will see minimal traction.

“Less than five per cent of Canadians who are eligible for the FTBHI program will elect to use it,” says Laird. “Most Canadians do not want the government to own part of their home.”

REIN and Laird agree the mortgage stress test, which many in the industry have been calling to be changed, will likely remain unchanged.

Special Report: Outlook 2020:

Jordan DeBrincat, Director of Operations, Altree Developments

Fan Yang, Deputy General Manager (Eastern Canada), Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd.

Nick Carnicelli, President, Carriage Gate Homes

Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes High Rise

Anson Kwok, Vice-President Sales & Marketing, Pinnacle International

Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp

Samson Fung, Vice-President Marketing, Tridel

Jim Andrews, Director of Sales & Marketing Fieldgate Homes

Shakir Rehmatullah, President Flato Development Inc.

Mike Parker, Vice-President Sales & Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

Brad Carr, CEO Mattamy Homes Canada

Deena Pantalone, Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation National Homes

Art Rubino, Contracts Manager & Marketing Manager Regal Crest Homes

 

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The housing outlook for 2019

GTA among the most promising new home outlooks for 2019, Altus Group says

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GTA among the most promising new home outlooks for 2019, Altus Group says

The new home sector in Canada had a challenging year in 2018, but markets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including the GTA, have among the most promising outlooks for 2019, according to Altus Group.

Increased regulations, higher interest rates, new taxes and higher Development Charges are testing the industry,  Altus Group says in its New Home Outlook for 2019.

Altus Group is a leading provider of software, data solutions and independent advisory services to the global commercial real estate industry, and tracks new home development and sales activity across the country.

At the start of 2018, the supply of available new homes in both the Vancouver and Toronto markets was constrained, particularly in the condominium apartment sector. The lack of available product contributed to the rapid rise in pricing in 2017 and impacted sales volumes at the start of 2018.

In Alberta, the new home sector, along with the rest of the housing market, continued to be impacted by low energy prices and weaker economic activity. The opposite was the case in Montreal, where a sharp increase in demand for new homes led to peak sales levels.

The outlook at the end of 2017 was that the market would continue to see reasonably strong demand in 2018, but sales would be impacted by the new mortgage regulations and other new policies, taxes, and regulations – the degree to which was unknown.

Looking at 2018’s market performance year-to-date, Altus can see that demand was impacted in the major markets, most significantly in the single-family and higher-end townhouse segments. New condominium apartment sales have also moderated in Vancouver and Toronto where the incredibly strong demand seen in 2017 has softened in the current year. Some of the moderation is normalization from the frenzied market pace noted in recent years.

KEY FINDINGS

Greater Toronto Area

The GTA market came off a record new condominium apartment sales year in 2017. However, the impacts of mortgage rule changes and new development charges contributed to a decline in project launches and lower sales to start the year. Sales and project launch activity have increased in the back half of the year, but year-to-date sales remain down by almost 50 per cent compared to 2017.

While sales have been lower, pricing for new condominium apartment product in the downtown area has remained fairly stable with overall average prices trending towards $800,000.

New single-family sales continued to decline in 2018. Although availability of product to purchase has increased, it remains beyond the reach of most buyers.

Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo

Markets outside of the GTA have continued to benefit from their relative affordability compared to Toronto, particularly in Kitchener-Waterloo, where the new supply of condominium apartment product experienced strong demand in 2018. Both markets benefit from markedly better pricing compared to the GTA, where lower average prices for both new condominium apartment and single-family housing makes it a much more buyer-friendly market.

Promised improvements to transit, which will take several years to implement, will enhance commuting options throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe, thus providing greater opportunities to live in markets outside of the GTA.

Montreal

Montreal saw a strong increase in new home sales over the past three years and continues to experience robust demand for new condominium apartment homes. Given the growth in sales, many of the challenges seen in the other large markets have started to impact Montreal – rising costs, elevated inventories of under construction product and increased investment activity. Despite the challenges, year-to-date sales activity remains strong and is trending slightly higher than last year.

Edmonton

The Edmonton market has been facing challenges from elevated inventory levels, a large stock of completed and unsold new homes and the impact that weak energy prices is having on housing demand. Consumers’ mortgage qualification has become a more significant challenge for new home projects, resulting in a year-over-year decline in sales levels by almost 50 per cent for both townhouse and condominium apartment product. The slow pace of sales has also meant that several projects have shifted to purpose-built rental.

While the market has been slow, there are some bright spots with development in the Ice District experiencing reasonably strong demand, along with well-priced townhouse developments in the suburban markets.

Calgary

The Calgary market is performing stronger in 2018, with increased sales of both new condominium apartment and townhouse product on a year-over-year basis. This growth has been exclusively in the suburban markets where new condominium apartment and townhouse sales have exceeded 2017 numbers.

While sales in the suburbs are tracking higher, the inner city and downtown markets are seeing weaker demand and lower sales volumes with higher office vacancy and lower downtown employment impacting housing demand near the core. Conversely, the strongest new home sales in the suburbs have been occurring in regions near employment centres.

Vancouver

Leading into 2018, the Vancouver market was the tightest of the markets examined, in terms of available new homes with only 1.8 months of inventory. This year, new project launches, particularly along transit lines and in the Fraser Valley, have added much needed inventory and boosted the supply to 3.3 months of inventory – although this remains the lowest in the country.

The frenzied pace in the market has softened with the sales rate at launch moderating, while price growth has stopped and even pulled back in certain segments of the market. A key challenge that has become more apparent as of late has been the price sensitivity of consumers, with higher-priced projects, or those priced above the competition, experiencing below average sales rates.

2019 Outlook

The outlook for housing demand in 2019 remains positive across the country with elevated immigration levels, continued demand from first-time homebuyers and tight rental vacancies and elevated rents encouraging homeownership. The key pressures that Altus Group sees continuing to impact the new home market in 2019 are higher interest rates and housing affordability constraints, rising construction costs and development charges impacting developers, and weaker economic growth potential in certain regions constraining demand.

Across the major markets in Canada, Altus Group believes the markets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including the GTA, have the most upside potential for an increase in sales activity in 2019 given the depth of the decline in 2018 and building off of the sales recovery noted in the back half of 2018.

Calgary and Edmonton will continue to be impacted by the weaker economy, but are not forecast to experience a material decline in overall sales volumes given the current levels of activity in each market.

The two markets that may see a decline in sales activity in 2019 are Montreal and Vancouver – but for very different reasons. Montreal had a strong sales year in 2018 and 2019 volumes are expected to decline as the market returns to more normal conditions. The Vancouver market, which is currently exhibiting the most potential for downside risk, is expected to see a modest decline in sales volumes as consumers react to higher borrowing costs and developers react to escalating construction costs in the face of lower revenue opportunities. With that said, the sales volumes in 2019 are still anticipated to be at or close to the 10-year sales average for the market.

altusgroup.com


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