The Latest in Mortgage News – An Eye on Real Estate

A number of reports this month have provided some insight into the latest movements in Canada’s housing market.

New data shows that home sales and prices continue to fall in Toronto and Vancouver, with the exception of Toronto condo sales, which have reached a new high.

RBC also came out with its latest affordability report, suggesting homeownership costs are easing, though are still at “crisis levels” in Toronto and Vancouver.

Here’s a recap of some of those reports:

Softer Housing Market Providing Affordability Relief: RBC

Falling home prices have resulted in lower homeownership costs across the country, according to RBC’s latest Housing Trends and Affordability report.

It found the average share of income needed to cover the costs of homeownership fell to 51.9%, down 0.7 percentage points from the previous quarter. Of course, that percentage is still much higher in Vancouver (84.7%) and Toronto (66.1%), and lower in places like Calgary (40.3%), Montreal (44.5%) and Ottawa (40.6%).

“An easing in property values brought most of the affordability relief,” reads the report, noting that the mortgage stress test, prior interest rate hikes and policy tightening in British Columbia pushed many buyers to the sidelines.

The authors expect more relief to come for homeowners due to flat home price growth over the year, with continued declines possible in Vancouver and Alberta.

“With household income still set to rise, the outlook for affordability has brightened somewhat,” the report said.

Will Dunning, chief economist for Mortgage Professionals Canada, noted in a tweet that RBC’s calculation methods “overestimate” the costs of homeownership because they use posted rates. “Since the amount of [mortgage rate] discounting has increased, the charts showing changes over time are distorted versus reality,” he wrote.

Despite the improvements, RBC still notes that there was little relief in Vancouver and Toronto. “Affordability is still at crisis levels in these markets and pressure is intensifying in Montreal.”

Vancouver Home & Condo Sales Plummet

Vancouver condo prices posted their largest year-over-year decline since 2009, according to data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. The benchmark condo price fell to $660,300 in February, down 4% from last year and down 5.1% over the past six months.

There were 759 condo sales in the month, down 36% compared to a year ago, while detached home sales were down 32.8%.

“For much of the past four years, we’ve been in a sellers’ market. Conditions have shifted over the last 12 months to favour buyers, particularly in the detached home market,” said Phil Moore, REBGV president. “This means that homebuyers face less competition today, have more selection to choose from and more time to make their decisions.”

Toronto Condo Prices Reach All-Time High

Fewer condo buyers in the market has resulted in Toronto condo prices soaring to a new all-time high in February, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

The average condo price was $562,000, up 6.1% from last year. Meanwhile sales continue to fall, posting a 6.7% decline from last year.

For the detached home segment, however, prices were down 2.1% year-over-year to $981,000 and sales were down 9.6%.

“With sales substantially lower than the 2016 record peak over the last two years, we have experienced a hit to the economy in the billions of dollars in the GTA alone,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis and Service Channels. “This hit has also translated into lower government revenues and, if sustained, could impact the employment picture as well.”

Vancouver Not Alone in Falling Luxury Home Prices

The fall in luxury home prices in Vancouver has been dramatic, but that city isn’t alone in experiencing this trend.

The Economist magazine noted that prices of “prime” properties in Vancouver were down 12% over the past year. Royal LePage’s Luxury Properties report forecasts a further 7% decline for properties valued at $5 million-plus over the next 12 months.

But falling luxury home prices isn’t unique to the Vancouver market. The Economist recently looked at falling prices in other “desirable cities” like Hong Kong, London, New York and Sydney.

It described the declines as “excess being shed” after years of price increases that resulted in “bulged” valuations.

It noted prices for prime properties in Sydney were down 16% since 2017, while prices in Hong Kong have fallen 9% since August. It said these markets experience similar price movements since they are all impacted by similar international trends in wealth creation and mobility.

New data from Statistics Canada shows that non-resident-owned properties in British Columbia are worth more than resident-owned properties.

The figures show that in Vancouver, the median assessed value of a non-resident-owned single-detached home was worth $236,000 more (36.7%) compared to those owned by Canadian residents. Similarly, non-resident-owned condos were worth $96,000 more in Vancouver, and $37,000 in Toronto.

The report found that the gap was less pronounced in Ontario for single-detached homes, though it begins to widen when analyzing newer units, and particularly condos.

Non-resident ownership rates were highest in Metro Vancouver (16.9%) and Whistler (15.9%) in B.C., and Algoma (14.1%) and Kenora (13.3%) in Ontario.

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