This Year’s Federal Budget

Budget 2019 is the final Liberal budget before this year’s election. It outlined billions of dollars in new spending to please key Constituencies across the country. The Federal government has seen its revenues rise by over $10 billion from a strong and growing economy and wasted no time in maintaining its deficit figures and boosting outlays.

The budget does, however, deliver major initiatives designed to address housing anxieties, this blog post will discuss those measures.

 

First time home-buyer incentive program

The Feds have announced a $1.25 billion first time home buyer incentive program. Households with less than $120,000 in income will be able to receive up to 10% of a home’s down payment interest free from the CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). This amount of money is expected to be repaid on the eventual sale of the home. For a $400K condo, this equates to $40K in government money for a down payment. In other words, the government will provide you with tens of thousands of dollars which will be taken away from the overall equity of the home. This will also lower monthly mortgage payments by roughly $200 a month.

 

RRSP usage

The budget also boost the amount of money a first-time buyer can withdraw from his or her RRSP for a home purchase. Individuals can withdraw up to $35,000, and a couple can withdraw $70,000 for their home purchase. This was the first time this amount was amended in over 10 years. The Feds are aiming to get both the RRSP increase and incentive program initiated and out the door by September.

 

New housing builds

The Feds also announced the construction of over 40,000 new housing units in low-supply areas to be built over the next decade. These units will be rental. This announcement builds on past promises to build more housing and honours the government’s election promise of adding housing stock.

 

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.

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 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.

Now Creative Group September 13, 2017 No Comments

Bank of Canada tightening tough on Markets

The Bank of Canada’s (BOC) decision to raise interest rates by a quarter basis point again last week came as a surprise to many and solidified the reality that the Bank has taken an aggressively hawkish position on the cost of money. The BOC had already reversed a historically unprecedented 7-year policy of record low interest rates on July 12th by topping the rate up to 0.75%. The second-rate rise in less than 2 months sent the value of Canadian dollar up but also had a direct impact on increasing mortgage costs and making business and commercial lending more onerous on borrowers as well. 

Canada’s big five banks immediately responded to the hike by announcing that their own respective mortgage rates would increase as well. The increase will have a powerful impact on the national housing market. In some regions where recent changes already had a significant cooling effect, the increase will only further make borrowing costs higher, particularly for first time buyers trying to enter the market. The move will also dissuade better prepared buyers who already have equity in the market from buying more or better-quality housing as equity growth and buying demand cools due to loss of market dynamism.

30% of Canadian homeowners who have variable rate mortgages will now have to adjust their household spending to make ends meet. While the rate rises may seem insignificant, the pace of the rate increases means that incrementally more expensive borrowing costs will accumulate and add up. This month’s increase also suggests that the Bank will likely increase rates again in October, as this matches the now emerging pattern of accelerating rates and lines up with the BOC’s increasingly hawkish and tightening rhetoric, and market expectations.

Why?

Many are scratching their heads as to why the BOC is raising rates so quickly. Inflation is very low at 1.2%. The BOC is known and respected throughout the world as one of the most successful inflation targeting Central Banks. This reputation was earned in the late 80s and early 90s as the Bank increased and maintained very high interest rates to break the back of double digit inflation caused by the 80s stock market and credit growth booms. The effect of these rapid rate rises on real estate, borrowing costs for consumers and businesses and consumer spending will be adverse. Tembo has several ideas.

First, the national economy is experiencing a big growth spurt and GDP growth rates increased by 4.5% in the second quarter. This was largely due to strong consumer spending, made affordable by a stable and healthy job market, some modest wage gains, and cheap borrowing costs. By raising rates, the BOC expects growth to cool to more sustainable medium to long term levels while sending signals to consumers to spend and borrow more Conservatively. There is also a broader international push by Central Banks to end the era of dirt cheap money, and the BOC, in the trendsetting style its admired for, is charging ahead.

Now Creative Group September 5, 2017 No Comments

Why Toronto is Immune from a Real Estate Crash

The imposition of a foreign buyer tax, stricter and more comprehensive rules and regulations, higher interest rates, and higher taxes has upended the Toronto real estate market. What was once the most dynamic sellers’ market in the history of the region in February of this year has now shifted in a much more balanced way towards buyers. A market where sellers were seeing double digit price increases and massive demand has been extinguished and now prices and sales are faltering with huge influxes of inventory hitting the market.

The talk now is of where the market will be in the medium to long term. Will prices and demand remain steady, recover, or crash? This is the grand question on the minds of professionals, buyers, sellers, politicians, regulators, bankers, and everyone else interested and affected by real estate. The best way to predict and ascertain the future is to look back to the past. The last time the market experienced a genuine, painful, and widely feared crash was in 1989. At the time speculation was rife, price growth explosive, money reasonably cheap, and demand strong.

But what triggered the ultimate inflection? What was the spark which led to a near decade long depression with a 40% real drop in prices? Ultimately, two factors broke the back of Toronto real estate. The first was a rapid increase in interest rates unveiled by the Bank of Canada to stem the inflation from the cheap money of the 80s boom and the second was a subsequently massive and sudden spike in unemployment. These two forces unleashed the early 90s recession which particularly hurt Ontario and caused 11% unemployment.

For the Toronto real estate market to crash, rates and joblessness would have to soar. The Bank of Canada has little reason to spike interest rates, as inflation is very low, and the economy is stable. Canada’s banks are healthy and sound, prices for many key commodities still remain competitive, and there are several economic sectors which are growing, particularly real estate, high tech, robotics, and advanced services. Leaving out a spectacularly sudden and damaging event, likely offshore, stability remains foreseeable in the medium to long term and jittery observers have little to fear from a full on 1989 real estate crash occurring

Now Creative Group August 29, 2017 No Comments

Canada’s Banks are Booming

Strong and sustained real estate activity nationwide, coupled with high consumer spending and a reasonably strong Canadian economy means the latest bank earnings are hitting all time records. Recently released figures show essentially all of the country’s banks generating massive quarterly profits. The first bank to disclose was RBC – generating a massive $2.8 billion quarterly profit.  The bank’s retail banking division posted a 6% increase in profits, showing that the recent increase in interest rates and the changes in the housing market did little to shake the bank’s trajectory and growth. One of the first acts the bank did after reporting the strong result was to increase its dividend by 5%, beating all expectations and fulfilling its obligation to shareholders.

CIBC, the smallest of the big 5 banks reported a $1.1 billion profit, also beating expectations and also increased its dividend. The bank recently acquired a Chicago based bank and has been expanding aggressively in the United States. Further results for TD, Scotiabank and BMO are incoming by the end of this week and next week. Analyst expectations are that strong results will be in the cards. A recurring theme among commentators and experts was to remain conservative and to brace for worse than expected news due to recent turbulence in real estate even as earnings expectations were high because of a strong economy.

The banks that did report voiced their approval of recent government measures introduced, particularly in British Columbia and Ontario, that were designed to halt rapid price growth and which have succeeded. The strong bank results underpin the general message that Tembo has repeated for the last several months; that is, that while ebbs and flows in real estate should always be expected, the fundamentals underlying pillars of the real estate sector are strong and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Now Creative Group August 24, 2017 No Comments

Buying A New Home Vs. Buying A Resale

There are many decisions to make when beginning your search for a home in the current real estate market. Not only do you have to consider financial aspects such as your budget and mortgage costs, it is also important to consider the type of home and area that you would like to live in. There are advantages and disadvantages to purchasing both a new development as well as a resale property.

Move-In Date

From the time of purchase, new homes can take years to build and are often met with delays that prolong your move-in date. If you are looking to make a quick move, purchasing a resale home is your best option as you are able to secure a move-in date within a reasonable time frame.  On the other hand, purchasing a home that will be built within a few years from the purchase will allow the buyer to save more money over time for the down payment and closing costs. Depending on your needs and financial situation, it may be best to purchase a new development and make smaller payments until closing.  

Warranties & Costs

New construction homes in Canada are typically protected by a warranty, which will cover any costs related to issues with the construction and maintenance of the home. In Ontario, these concerns are addressed through the Tarion Warranty Program. This allows homeowners to save on costs and protect themselves financially from any damages related to the assembly of the home. Resale homes do not come with such a warranty, leaving any maintenance or fixes to the expense of the purchaser. Older homes may also require more maintenance over time, as the lifespan of the furnace and other appliances may be limited.

Customization

Depending on what you are looking to do with the home, either option may be feasible. New homes have limited options when it comes to design and available upgrades, whereas older homes can be purchased for a lower price and remodeled to meet the exact needs of the home owner. Some individuals purchase homes as investment properties, which can be renovated and resold. If you are looking to flip a house or customize your dream home, purchasing an older home may be in your best interest. Whereas others may prefer to select a model from a new development and move right into a brand-new home.

There is no definite answer to determine which type of home to purchase. Purchasing a new home versus a resale home is dependent on the buyer’s needs and preferences. Depending on the location and necessary amenities, some may prefer to purchase an older home as opposed to a new development, and vice versa.

Now Creative Group August 22, 2017 No Comments

Toronto’s Condo Market Crackles On

As Tembo previously reported in its newsletter and past blogs, the Toronto condo market is undergoing a massive upsurge in activity and dynamism. In the last 20 years, Toronto’s real estate sector has enjoyed tremendous growth in activity, prices, and supply, especially in the form of condos. The city’s previously impressive skyline is now on track to surpass many American megacities traditionally viewed as architecturally and structurally more imposing, such as Chicago’s. A huge number of the new skyscrapers and high rises built in the city are condo buildings.

New figures show astronomical price increases in many Toronto neighbourhoods, particularly in Scarborough, where some prices increased over 60% from a year ago. As the price of detached homes continues to steadily increase with demand remaining strong, many first-time buyers continue to turn to the condo market to begin their respective real estate journeys. Despite a vast slew of new factors impacting the market, condos continue to be available in strong numbers and are far more affordable than detached, semi-detached homes or townhomes.

The most dynamic price growth was seen in much of Scarborough, north-west Etobicoke, and along the downtown core and lakeshore areas of the city. While 20-40% price growth was common throughout the city, it is important to note that base prices a year ago for many condos in the city’s periphery were very low, partially explaining the explosive nature of the price increases. Prices increases were most modest in the city’s midtown area.

The supply of condos continues to increase and generally is meeting demand as approvals and new construction continues to improve market supply. Another important factor is that many millennials are now in a position to afford an entry into the real estate market, and are turning to condo purchases to start building equity. Investors, foreigners, and retired, affluent baby boomers are also buying condominium units.