Mortgages Stress Tests Are Slowing Canadian Real Estate Market

The head of one of the country’s largest and most influential real estate bodies has made a strong case to one of the nation’s foremost regulatory bodies to ‘revisit’ its support of stress tests. The head of the Toronto Real Estate Board has complained that stress tests are too cautious and are having an extreme dampening effect on the market.

As a reminder to our readers, stress tests were implemented by the federal government in 2017 to reduce risk of poor mortgage lending and to shore up the housing market.

Stress tests scrutinize mortgage buys from prospective buyers with deposits at less than 20% of the purchase price and with no mortgage insurance. Stress tests provide incentives to purchase mortgage insurance, which can be costly, and add another layer of analysis to the already comprehensive mortgage approval process. Canada’s already notoriously conservative banks were made even more scrupulous with the introduction of the stress test.

Stress Test Have Dampened Demand

Stress tests were designed to demonstrate whether a low deposit mortgage could withstand a 2% added interest rate cost from the BOC. The effects of these stress tests have been to dampen demand. Research has shown that stress tests effectively blocked up to 100,000 first time home buyers from being approved for a mortgage. They were supported by risk-averse bureaucrats and economists who fear a housing bubble and who are worried about the quality of mortgage issuance in the country.
In response to these complaints, the OSFI, or Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Canada’s core banking regulator, stated that it will be sticking to the stress tests. In addition, it made the point that the stress test adds a margin of safety that is ‘prudent.’ With weakening real estate data spreading around the country, pressure from real estate bodies and experts on regulators and the Bank of Canada will continue. 

Bank of Canada Hikes Rates

The Bank of Canada to increased rates at its decision meeting on Wednesday, July 11th. The central bank increased its key rate to 1.5 per cent from 1.25 per cent.

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The forces that favoured an increase in the cost of money outweighed those that supported continued loose money policies. The Canadian economy remains in very good shape. Inflation hasn’t reared its ugly head, household consumption is neither increasing recklessly nor falling precipitously. Growth and unemployment figures are very positive. Lack of price growth dynamism in the real estate markets, trade issues with the United States, and high levels of private and public debt are the key structural problems. Weighed against one another, the balance skews toward a rate hike.

Central Banks Around The World Are Adamant.

Central banks have begun and will continue a long term policy plan of ever higher rates, and more scrutiny on international banks and financial institutions. The Bank of Canada is no different. The key facts that most worry senior officials, politicians, and Central Bankers are the enormous levels of household and government debt, particularly mortgage debt. A generation of historically unprecedented record low interest rates has blown up large debt bubbles which elites are now desperate to deflate as carefully as possible.

Rates Hike To Negatively Impact Consumers

The likely hike will no doubt have a negative impact on consumers and on the real estate market. Banks are likely to raise their mortgage rates in response. The debt to disposable income ratio in Canada has hit a record of almost 175%, much higher than in the United States before the start of the Great Recession. A rate hike will be of no help to those looking for high prices for their real estate holdings. Debt to income ratios for the poorest Canadians are especially high. The lowest quintile of earners average a debt ratio of almost 350%. While higher rates will come at a cost, many believe they are absolutely necessary, and few doubt they are avoidable.

 

 

Ontario Election Predictions And Real Estate Implications

Housing Is One Of The Biggest Issues In The Upcoming Ontario Elections 

With the middle class increasingly squeezed out of the housing market, government intervention will be increasingly called for and more and more political capital will be tied up in ‘resolving’ real estate issues. Whichever party wins Ontario’s 2018 election and forms government will grapple with growing discontent and increasing expectations from an electorate focused on housing issues. On the one hand, there are equity affluent baby boomers content with the status quo, and millennials and generation Xers struggling with low supply, high costs, and stringent demands desiring systemic change. Here’s Tembo’s analysis on how party’s would handle real estate if they win.

PC Candidate Doug Ford

PC Candiate, Doug Ford

PC: A PC government under Doug Ford would likely focus on supply side reforms, incentivizing and encouraging developers to build more housing. Permitting and regulatory processes would likely be streamlined, more land would be freed up for development, and financial incentives and corporate welfare to housing builders would not be out of the question. Funding for affordable housing is not expressly cited as a priority for the PCs and never has been. The PCs philosophically believe that affordable housing is not a prudent use of resources and that the market can solve the supply and price problems.

NDP Candidate Andrea horwath

NDP Candidate, Andrea Horwath

NDP: The NDP have released a platform which heavily focuses on investing in affordable housing. Close collaboration with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals on meeting a national affordable housing plan’s targets would likely be sought out. The NDP would also take a greater hand in mandating certain types of development, increasing tenant rights, and spurring densification. This would have certain short-term benefits but would also irk developers who would likely hold back on investment and see profits decreased. The last NDP government under Bob Rae built affordable housing spaces across the province, in rural and urban communities.

Liberals Candidate, Kathleen Wynn

Liberals Candidate, Kathleen Wynn

Liberals: A centrist approach would continue, with the government occasionally increasing involvement significantly and intervening (foreign buyers tax), with nods to the private sector and developers in balance. As the Liberal party and NDP are largely competing for the same pool of voters, the long term implications of a re-elected Liberal government would see an approach to real estate that would lean to more government intervention over the long term.

What Is The Greenbelt And How Does It Affect You

Ontario PC Party Leader Doug Ford was recently caught in the headlines in Ontario’s heated election campaign after a video was released showing him discussing Ontario’s Greenbelt. Ford said that he wanted to open up large tracts of the Greenbelt to additional housing development to increase the supply of homes and reduce their sky-high prices. Ford mentioned discussing the plan with developers and that he would still keep the Greenbelt largely intact. The video sparked a heated debate and saw Ford take heavy criticism which prompted him to eventually retract his position and clarify that the Greenbelt would remain as is.

 

What Is The Ontario Greenbelt And Why Is It’s Significance?

The Greenbelt is an area of over 7,000 square kilometers of protected land that is essentially closed off from development and construction that surrounds the GTA. It is 11 times the size of the City of Toronto and contains woodland, agricultural space, important wetlands, and open green space. The Greenbelt was established by the present Ontario Liberal government in 2005, fulfilling a 2003 election campaign commitment. The Greenbelt was created to protect vulnerable and ecologically important spaces and to set a clear limit on the extent of urban and suburban sprawl and construction. Large construction companies and developers and their lobbyists accept the Greenbelt and it is generally seen as a popular, positive, and strategically important legislative accomplishment.

Ontario Greenbelt photo

Is Protecting The Greenbelt The Reason For High Price Of Homes In The Greater Toronto Area?

The Greenbelt, in limiting construction and development, is sometimes blamed by groups and certain politicians as a factor in the high price of real estate. Tembo Financial is eager to dispel these minority concerns and to provide more objective background information:

  • The legislation which created the Greenbelt was pragmatic. It set aside large tracts of land adjacent to the Greenbelt and closer to urban and suburban areas for construction.
  • Experts have stressed that very small amounts of land that was set aside for development has actually been used. The Greenbelt does not need to modified or changed.
  • Most developers accept these facts and do not want to antagonize environmental groups or voters by encroaching on protected spaces. Doug Ford’s proposal had little broad public support.
  • Only 4% of Canadian land is arable (can be farmed). While we are the second largest country in the world, some of the best quality farmland in the country is in southern Ontario and protected by the Greenbelt.

Bank of Canada holds its ground despite surging economy

Bank of Canada holds its ground despite surging economy

Yesterday the Bank of Canada held firm and its very recent change in tone and policy by confirming it would hold its benchmark interest rate to 1%. The Bank increased rates twice in quick succession, once in July, as the housing market was searing hot in some parts of the country, and again in September, after a wide spate of government measures had by then significantly cooled prices and demand.

Bank of Canada Headquarters

The Bank offered no hint as to when rates would be raised again and this week’s decision is the final rate decision for 2017.

We will have to wait until next year to wait and see for further hikes. Some market watchers were expecting a hike as strong economic activity, robust GDP growth, and very high employment growth were all recently reported.

The most recent employment numbers are off the charts, with 80,000 new jobs being created in the month of November – market expectation was 10,000 new jobs. Ontario generated the lion’s share of these jobs (44,000).

The national unemployment rate hit a 10-year low because of these gains, falling to 5.9%. in Quebec, unemployment has hit an all-time record. Unemployment should continue to fall as retailers add some more positions for the holiday surge before year end. Hourly wages are also up just under 3% nationally, an unusually big increase.

 

Canada unemployment chart

The best piece of news is that 37,400 manufacturing jobs were created. These are solidly middle-class, high paying, productive positions that Canada has generally underperformed in creating.

Usually, central banks respond to strong figures like these by raising rates in fear of higher inflation from more spending and more borrowing. The Bank of Canada is internationally recognized and renowned as being extremely focused and hawkish on meeting its inflation targets. The broader market expectation is that further rate hikes will be on the table early next year if wage, employment, and GDP growth continue their robust increases.

Ontario Election 2018 – What’s in it for real estate?

Ontario Election 2018 – What’s in it for real estate?

In this blog post, Tembo Financial Inc. will analyze the election platform for the Progressive Conservative Party (PCs) and will outline what the official opposition is proposing to do for real estate professionals, prospective homebuyers, and homeowners if it were to replace Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals as the province’s governing party.

 

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1.    Local Infrastructure Fund

This is being touted to create jobs and build infrastructure in small communities.

park infrastructure fund

2.    Investment in Parks and Green Infrastructure

Investing some money to make certain green spaces across the province more user friendly.

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3.    Increased access to apprenticeships, doubling the loans for tools program

This will stimulate people learning an apprenticeship, and could be beneficial to the real estate and construction industries hungry for skilled apprentices.

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4.    Transit

The PCs are making a big push to invest $5 billion over 4 years on top of existing funding into new subways, particularly a downtown relief line which Tembo discussed previously. They will also upload the administrative and maintenance costs of Toronto’s subway system from the TTC while allowing the TTC to keep all the fairs. In return, they want the city to build more LRTs – especially a connection from the soon to be completed Eglinton-Crosstown to UofT’s Scarborough campus. These initiatives will spur development, improve property values, and stimulate construction.

sell air rights to developer icon

5.    Selling transit station air rights to developers

Self-explanatory, the PCs want to develop long along and by transit stations to create more housing stock.

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6.    Reforming the Planning Act

To reduce permit delays, cut red tape, and to stimulate more housing construction and development by sending a clear signal to municipalities.

Selling Property Portfolio icon

7.    Reviewing the province’s property portfolio

In other words, see what the province owns or has rights to and look to sell chunks of it to developers so they can build. Think underused or vacant parking lots, undeveloped land, wills, etc.

Reforming Planning Process icon

8.    Reforming planning processes

This will encourage municipalities to update their planning and zoning processes and to update them routinely so as to send regular signals to developers about what and how to build, the goal is to ultimately increase supply in the long term.

Review Tenancy Act

9.    Reforming planning processes

This will encourage municipalities to update their planning and zoning processes and to update them routinely so as to send regular signals to developers about what and how to build, the goal is to ultimately increase supply in the long term.

 

Overall the PCs are promising to make big new investments in transit and to increase housing supply. The full platform with all of its proposals is available here: https://www.ontariopc.ca/peoples_guarantee

 


Disclaimer:

Tembo Financial Inc. is non-partisan and looks forward to analyzing the party platforms of the Ontario Liberal party and government and of the third party NDP. Let’s hope that the 2018 election sees issues of housing supply, affordability, and infrastructure discussed thoroughly and qualitatively.

Now Creative Group November 14, 2017 No Comments

The Market Rebound Begins

In a promising sign that the traditionally positive seasonal effects of Fall on the real estate market are once again kicking in, October sales of homes in Toronto rose over 12% from September figures. The increase will be well received by realtors and prospective sellers, as it shows that the market is showing renewed resilience and that demand and buying potential remains firm. Growth in October is usually expected by teal estate professionals in a usual year, but the 12% increase is slightly stronger than usual metrics.

Prices for average homes also increase slightly, hitting roughly $780,000.00. Prices have been increasing for very conservative but the October increase shows an acceleration from September numbers – again, this is a very promising sign. The increase in prices and sales shows that a market that had faced rapid and dramatic cooling from a long list of government and regulatory measures after peaking in May is once again begin the slow but steady process of warming up again.

While sales and prices are slowly returning to health, concerns about a continued large gap in the supply of homes versus still shy demand remain with close market watchers and realtors. The gap may be bad for those wanting to sell, but benefits buyers, who at the height of the market in May were hard pressed to get a bid in a prospective home, let alone a fair shot of sealing the deal with a buy. The large amount of supply continues to place downward pressure on sales and price growth.

Condo market surge continues

As a previous Tembo blog has outlined, the condominium market in Toronto remains very strong and shows strong price and demand growth. Although many pockets of the GTA have lukewarm and slow condo markets, the overall market, and particularly activity in the core continues to surge. Average October prices increased over 20% in October. The average price of a condo in Toronto now exceeds $520,000.00

As Tembo has repeatedly stated, the fundamental underlying pillars of the GTA real estate market remain firm and strong, and in the long term, the market will continue to be resilient and will continue to offer opportunities for buyers and sellers.

Now Creative Group November 13, 2017 No Comments

The Rebound We’ve Been Waiting For

After having been walloped by a combination of new taxes, higher interest rates, tougher financing rules, and a massive glut of housing listings, the Toronto housing market showed positive signs of resilience and recovery by posting a 6% increase in re-sale home prices in August from September. Market watchers and realtors pointed to the increase as a good sign the market was finally pulling out of a period of price stagnation, low buyer interest, and dampened demand.

Many officials, market watchers, and financial and real estate professionals predicted the market would begin to recover and that prices would increase again in the beginning of fall. The news that this has been confirmed is yet another sign that the Toronto real estate market is in good shape and that it has strong underlying fundamentals. New listings numbers are also beginning to fall, meaning the supply of new homes is dropping, this is another positive trend for sellers who had a very tough summer selling season.

The price increase brought the average September price to $775,546.00, $20,000.00 more than the same price last year. The rebound mirrors long term trends in Vancouver, where a foreign buyer tax gutted demand and prices for almost a year, only to see prices and demand rebound and exceed past levels later. Market watchers are now eager to see if the positive trend continues into the middle of the fall and whether interest rate hikes and tighter insurance rules from federal regulators further increase pressure on the fragile market.

Housing starts increasing in urban areas

The market is responding to strong economic growth and still reasonably low borrowing costs. Urban housing construction is on pace to reach its strongest level since 2007 with a 8% increasing in urban detached housing starts which exceeded 60,000.00 units in August-September.

Now Creative Group October 31, 2017 No Comments

The Bank of Canada Holds its Ground

The Bank of Canada was generally expected to raise its benchmark interest rate from 1.00 to 1.25 this week, but decided to hold its rate at 1.00. The Bank cited strong economic growth and the desire to moderate its pace of rate increases so consumers and the economy can better adjust to more expensive money. The Bank’s decision was met with interest as many expected it to stick to its aggressive rate hike pace. Many, however, believed the bank would hold off as surveys and media coverage showed that consumers were weary about the speed of interest rate increases and were worried about their ability to service the increased costs.

The immediate market reaction saw the dollar fall 0.65 cents and the TSX drop 60 points. Investors reported their view that the interest rate holding would lower economic growth for next year. Market watchers will take mixed views. Those in the real estate sector will cheer, as new taxes and stress test rules recently implemented will inevitably serve as a disincentive for builders to construct new homes and for buyers who are already under tremendous scrutiny from banks and insurers, especially first-time buyers.

The decision to hold shows that the Bank is concerned about excessively pressuring the real estate sector, given the new stress test rules will add cooling effects to an already lukewarm market at best. The Bank is likely to keep a close eye on inflation, GDP figures, and job numbers in the coming weeks and months before deciding to raise rates again in the next quarter. Fundamentally, the international trend is focused on raising rates, increasing the cost of capital, cooling consumption, and adding space and breathing room for central banks to decrease rates in any future economic challenges.

Now Creative Group October 2, 2017 No Comments

How Millennials Can Prepare for a Real Estate Investment

If you’re a millennial thinking of venturing into the real estate world, there’s a few things you need to learn about before taking your journey. You might be already drowning in student debt, and generating low income, however, knowing how to make your process easier will ultimately help you stress a little less and reach your goal a lot faster.

Think about long term property value

The first step you can take is to do your research and to find a location that matches affordability with long term equity (value) growth potential. Once you figure out where you would like to see yourself living, plan around it. Find out about the local community, restaurants, malls, gas stations, neighbours and school districts. Setting a goal for yourself will not only help you narrow down where you want to live, but make your agent’s job easier in finding what you’re looking for.

Increase your credit score

There is a good chance that your credit score may not be as good as you would hope for it to be due to student loans, job insecurity, or unstable financial circumstances. If you plan on making your purchase within the next few years, it would be a good idea to spend the time leading up to it building a good credit score. Money lending officers will scrutinize your credit score and decide whether giving you a loan would be a good fit for them. Spend some time planning your finances and learn to discipline your spending habits.

Save up

Saving up could be a challenge especially if you are a millennial with student loans. But being able to save can be a testament to your self-restraint and what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it. Taking out a percentage of each of your paychecks and stashing it away, paying off high-interest loans first, making bigger minimum payments, and spending the rest on necessities will help you save a lot quicker.

Know the market

Start out by knowing your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on your home. Match this budget to what your desired location of stay is and work around it. Learn about how long it takes the houses in that area to sell, how many times they’ve been sold, and if the price ever drastically changed. Knowing all this information will validate which home will be the best investment.