On The Value Of Land In The GTA

In May of 2017, the RGF Real Estate Fund LP bought the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Woodbridge area golf course. The 290-acre course was iconic, the sight of many golf tournaments, networking events, and business function since its opening in the mid 1960s. Many golf courses are being sold across North America. High land values, declining golf use, and enormous demand for housing is driving the changes.

Woodbridge Golf Course
Only one third of the land sold can be developed; roughly 100 acres. The other two thirds of the sold golf course are green space off limits to real estate construction. Even though this is the case, the developer has said that the capacity to develop the 100 acres will be very profitable. The developer plans some 600 detached residential units and 60 townhomes. This plan was presented to the city of Vaughan and has yet to be fully approved. Many local residents are opposed to the development proposal, fearful of increased traffic, noise, and pollution.
In April of 2015, the 400 acre York Downs golf course was sold for $412 million. Both York Downs and the Country Club are courses adjacent to valuable suburban real estate and they are similarly sized. Assuming a similar valuation, it can be assumed that RGF bought the Country Club for roughly $300 million. Despite the fact that only a third of the course can be developed, this massive purchase will likely be very profitable. These transactions highlight the extent of housing demand in the GTA.

October Was A Good Month For GTA Real Estate

Positive numbers marked the overall situation for GTA real estate. Both the detached and semi-detached home and condo markets saw positive figures. Condo prices rose 7.5% and semi-detached home prices were up 6.6%. The average selling price for a home rose past the $700K range where it has languished for roughly to hit $810K, This was the first significant increase in prices in over 3 months. 

The positive sale price increases highlight a recovery that is steadily building momentum. Analysts saw the figures as proof that the perennial forces of supply and demand were returning to their general positions in the GTA market. The supply of homes continues to be a significant factor impacting the market – with recent inventory showing a tightening of listings. The slowdown the market saw exacerbated this issue because many prospective sellers are waiting for prices to increase again before listing their homes.
The condo market continues to show its heft. Impressive price figures and demand has not been shaken by government intervention. Higher interest rates in the medium to long term may damage the health of the condo market but it continues to be seen as a haven for young professionals trying to get into the market affordably. The recovery continues. 

The Fed eases off on its tightening

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell did not signal another rate hike in its most recent announcement this week. The Board was unanimous in its support for the not raising rates. With the U.S. economy absorbing large stimulus through tax cuts, increased government spending, and still very low rates, economic activity and job growth is on the rise. This has strengthened the Fed’s longstanding argument that rates have to be increased.
Caption: U.S. President Donal Trump shaking hands with Fed Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell at the White House
The big opponent to higher rates has been Donald Trump. Irritated at the propensity for these rate increases to dampen economic growth, the President has vocally attacked the Federal Reserve. He has argued that all of its actions have been ‘wrong.’ It’s a possibility that the Fed’s decision to hold off on rate increases could have been prompted by this language and a desire to placate the President, especially given the U.S. mid-term elections.
The results of these mid-terms has been mixed for the President. On the one hand, his party gained Senate seats and tightened up its control of the U.S.’s upper house. On the other hand, the Democrats won back control of the House, albeit not with the momentum many in the media had predicted. Many key gubernatorial races were also won by Republicans, particularly in the key states of Ohio and Florida. The next two years will be tumultuous and difficult, and the partisan divisions in America will only increase.

Toronto Commercial And Industrial Real Estate Is On Fire

The traditional condo, detached, and semi-detached housing market is in relatively good shape in the GTA. This week, Tembo will focus on another component of the market; commercial and industrial properties.

Toronto Commercial Real Estate
In a few of our past blogs and newsletters, Tembo has outlined that the general trajectory for commercial properties has been positive – with healthy stats; strong demand, high prices and soaring investment. In 2017, commercial property investment hit an all time high. Some of Canada’s biggest pension funds, corporations, firms, and banks invested huge amounts into building, leasing, and buying commercial real estate.

Commercial Real Estate Trajectory Continues

Commercial and industrial real estate availability hit a record low of 3.9% this year, according to the CBRE. Toronto’s availability is the lowest in the country, at 2.2%, even lower than Vancouver’s tight 2.4%. 
Massive socio-economic changes and strong growth are driving the ongoing surge. Warehouses are in high demand, as is real estate that caters to the e-commerce and food sectors. Recently, multinational Amazon announced several large scale warehouse, or Fulfillment Center investments across the country, most notably in Ottawa.
The massive commercial demand has seen the market respond with huge increases in construction activity; a 47% rise from earlier years. In provinces with relatively weak economies and increasing commercial vacancy, such as Alberta, new sectors such as cannabis and e-commerce are replacing traditional ones. Overall, residential real estate will be competing for capital that could be allocated to the commercial sector.
The boom, in all things real estate, continues.

June Was Good to Toronto Real Estate

Sales had their best month in over 14 years as growth hit 18% from June 2017 figures.

Toronto Real Estate Update
Prices rose almost 3%, with the average home now exceeding $800,000. Listings also declined, tightening supply and beginning a trend which will benefit sellers in the long term. Overall, numbers in all respects were positive for both buyers and sellers.

Sellers Are Feeling The Pinch

The very strong data comes at an important time when market watchers and participants could use good news after a very tumultuous period. Real estate is under huge pressure from multiple fronts. New insurance rules, extreme conservatism among banks, a higher interest rate environment, and lack of supply hurt buyers. Sellers are feeling the pinch from government intervention which was designed to deflate sky high prices, and which worked. 

Toronto Condo Market Continues To Soar

The condo market continues to do very well, with prices up over 7.5% on average in the city of Toronto. In all, these positive numbers and the move to a healthier market overall is a strong signal which sheds a light on how resilient the GTA real estate market is. Many experts believe these numbers point to a broader, positive long term trend which will hold for the rest of year as long as macroeconomic indicators remain in decent shape. 
If

Interest Rate Increase Is Imminent

Interest Rate Increase Is Imminent

higher interest rate sign

Prepare for another increase in interest rates on Jan. 17th, the date of the Bank of Canada’s next monetary policy announcement (decision on rates). It is Tembo’s prediction that the possibility of another hike from 1% to 1.25% is extremely high. While it is possible that the Bank will hold off on a hike until later, given the recent release of some important economic statistics, the likelihood of a hike is sky-high. Economists, bankers, and the media are all anticipating a hike.

interest rate increase

Low unemployment is the likely precursor to a hike

  In December of 2017, the Canadian economy added 79,000 jobs, lowering the country’s unemployment rate to 5.7%, the lowest in over 40 years. Every region of the country added jobs, with most of the growth in Quebec and Alberta. Most of the jobs were full time and private sector, another sound aspect of the increase. More jobs will increase spending and will further add pressure to inflation, which is creeping up, albeit very slowly. The consensus among experts was that the Bank of Canada would wait for the latest employment statistics before making its decision and essentially every economist was amazed at the sheer number of jobs created. The Canadian dollar surged to almost 81 cents on the strong news.

CDN Dollar rate

Job market is booming

The sectors that are seeing the most job creation are services and manufacturing, public sector job growth which was strong in 2017 is beginning to decrease. Across the country, job numbers are growing and there is a growing diversification away from construction and energy related jobs which is a positive sign. January jobs numbers will be interesting as they will reveal if so much of the reduction of unemployment was seasonal due to the holiday season. Either way, higher interest rates will make it more expensive for Canadians to acquire mortgage debt, especially first-time buyers.

unemployment rate

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Is Affordable Housing A Human Right?

Is Affordable Housing A Human Right?

Prime Minister Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the government’s National Housing Strategy at the Lawrence Heights Revitalization Project in Toronto. (Photo Source: https://pm.gc.ca/eng/photos).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to think so, and recently declared that the federal government would make “adequate housing” a right in Canadian law. At the same time, the Prime Minister announced a $40 billion plan over 10 years to a national “Human Rights-Based Housing Strategy.”

What Is The Rights-Based Housing Strategy?

The strategy has several components, first the government will provide $2,500.00 in annual rent support a year for low-income vulnerable families called the Canada Housing Benefit. Second, more social housing will be built across the country. Third, 100,000 new affordable housing units will be completed, along with repairs to 300,000 affordable housing units, and removing hundreds of thousands of households from “housing need.”

The plan is also geared to “protect” 385,000 households from losing their affordable housing (social housing), and commits to cut chronic homelessness in the nation for 50%. The aforementioned Canada Housing benefit will cost $4 billion over 8 years with cheques starting to get mailed in April 2020 until 2028, shortly after the next federal election in late 2019. The Canada Housing Benefit is the only part of the overall strategy that is receiving new government money, most of the funding for the $40 billion plan was announced in last year’s federal budget. The plan will also see certain federal lands transferred to private sector partners for housing development if they meet strict environmental standards.

Does This Mean Housing Prices Will Start To Cool?

While stakeholders and expert groups say the plan will have a positive impact on disadvantaged, low-income Canadians, the overall state of housing affordability for middle class Canadians will continue to worsen. The below graph outlines average family incomes and average home prices in some of Canada’s major cities. Overall, as supply constraints and price increases continue, first-time buyers will have to save and leverage more to afford their first home.

2017 mEDIAN fAMILY iNCOME VS. oCTOBER 2017 AVG HOUSE PRICE ACROSS CANADA

Source: CREA, StatsCan, Bank of Canada

Now Creative Group October 6, 2017 No Comments

Stress Tests May Squeeze Homebuyers

Home buyers could lose a quarter of their home buying power if federal officials get their way in establishing guidelines to prevent people from borrowing too much. Federal officials are proposing stress testing uninsured mortgages. Uninsured mortgages are ones with a 20% minimum down payment. The government is wary about the financial sustainability and serviceability of these mortgages if interest rates rise.
If stress testing becomes a norm, it will reduce the ability of Canadians to borrow money and take on mortgage debt, and will place enormous pressures on an already pressured market to respond. Developers will see their pool of potential customers decreased, and demands for cheaper housing, which is already high, will continue to increase.
The federal agency responsible for stress tests in the financial system is the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), located in Toronto with offices around the country. OSFI’s mandate is to ensure that risk and contagion in the financial system is a low as possible. One particular area of concern has been the long-term reality of low-interest rates and their impact on mortgage insurance, banks, overall debt in the country, and the stability of the financial system.
While many recent changes to regulation, down payment standards for housing purchases, and interest rate increases have added stability and cooled what was an inflamed market, OSFI continues to work towards tougher and tighter standards in anticipation of future market risks. When recently questioned about the state of the housing market and the need for tougher measures, Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau made the point that he felt enough had been done and that further action was not necessary for the time being.
With future interest rate rises on the horizon and the possibility of stress tests, it is clear that regulators are weary and vigilant about the potential risks to Canada’s housing market – a market that has become crucial to economic activity and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands.

Now Creative Group September 26, 2017 No Comments

News from Washington and Ontario Real Estate

The Federal Reserve is the Central Bank of the United States. Like the Bank of Canada, the Federal Reserve, known as the Fed, manages the U.S. dollar by determining interest rates, and controlling the money supply (regulating the amount of money printed or injected into the system). The Fed also has significant regulatory powers – having a great deal of power in inspecting and administering American commercial and investment banks. It plays a significant role in determining capital reserve requirements (how much money banks keep on hand), and keeps an eye on banks to ensure their activities do not harm the U.S. and international financial system; largely to prevent a repeat of the 2007-8 crisis.

The Fed is the most powerful central bank on the planet by far, and plays a massive role in influencing the global economy and broad economic and financial trends. For the last decade, it led the way and began the international trend of lowering interest rates, printing money to inject liquidity into the international financial system, and loaned commercial and other Central banks trillions of dollars to keep them stable, functioning, and healthy. This Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen announced that the Fed would no longer continue its policy of quantitative easing (money printing and asset buying) to support the credit and financial markets. It also sent strong signals that its decade long policy of low interest rates, easy money, and loose credit is fully and totally ending.

The Fed will likely raise rates one more time before the end of the year. The effects of these announcements are very important for Canada and the southern Ontario real estate market. The Bank of Canada almost always mimics the Fed’s actions and follows in its footsteps, as do other Central Banks because of the weight of the U.S. dollar and the size of the U.S. economy. The Bank of Canada has already bucked the Fed and is raising rates faster than the Fed. But the announcement that the Fed will no longer continue its loose policies will only encourage and reinforce the emerging trend by Bank of Canada (BOC) Governor Stephen Poloz in making money more expensive and in increasing interest rates.

A recent report by the Bank of International Settlements in Switzerland (BIS), the “central bank of central banks”, indicates that some members of the BIS believe that higher interest rates will now become the new norm and that the firm orthodoxy of easy money is now truly and completely, a thing of the past. The great international financial institutions of the world are moving to make money more expensive, and in the long term this will mean higher and higher mortgage rates, and less flexibility for our already Conservative banks to approve new mortgages.

Now Creative Group September 18, 2017 No Comments

After the Rate Hikes

The Government of Canada is carefully examining the effects of two rapid Bank of Canada rate hikes on the economy, the real estate market, and consumers. The immediate impact of the hikes saw prime mortgage rates increase across the entire spectrum in Canada, with variable rate mortgage holders affected the most. The rate hikes will likely slow down economic momentum, cool the housing market, and encourage consumers to keep on eye on their borrowing and spending habits – which were the intentions of the rapid hikes to begin with.

The economic data to be released in the next few weeks will likely influence the Bank’s decision on rates in October. There is a strong expectation that the Bank will likely increase rates again, as its position has become very hawkish. If the economic and real estate data is exceedingly poor and falls flat of baseline expectations, the Bank is likely to send warmer signals to the market that it will take its time on rates and raise them in a more gradual way over the medium to long term.

Governments around the world are very sensitive to interest rates. Increases that are too fast and too significant can significantly dampen economic growth and can spawn considerable resentment and unpopularity amongst voters. One of the key indicators of a government losing an election is the trajectory of interest in the run up stages. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not appear to voice his intention or opinion to act further on cooling the housing market. Interest rates in Canada are set by the Bank of Canada, which is fully independent of the government and which has complete and total purview over monetary policy.