Bank regulator proposes higher mortgage stress test level, making it harder to qualify for home loan

Canada’s top banking regulator is proposing to raise the mortgage stress test level to 5.25 per cent or two percentage points above the market rate, whichever is higher.

That’s a hike from 4.79 per cent, which is the current average posted rate at Canada’s biggest lenders.

Thursday’s change by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) means borrowers will need to prove that their finances can pay for the loan at that higher rate, regardless of what a lender is willing to lend them. This would make it harder to qualify for a home loan, shrinking the pool of qualified borrowers and ultimately bringing down some of the upward pressure on house prices in the country.

The regulator says it is seeking submissions from stakeholders about its proposal until May 7th, before the new rules would be put into place for uninsured loans as of June 1.

Known colloquially as the “stress test,” the rules came into force in early 2018 and had the effect of cooling down what was at the time an overheated property market — although after they were announced in late 2017, there was a flurry of last-minute buying by people trying to get in before they would be locked out of buying.

Once they were in place in early 2018, the frenzy died down.

While there are a number of different facets to the rules, officially known as the B-20 Guidelines, they boil down to essentially one principle: would-be home buyers would have their finances tested to see if they could cover their mortgage payments should rates rise much higher than they were at the time they signed up for the mortgage.

The testing bar was set at whatever was higher: two percentage points higher than the mortgage rate they were offered, or whatever the average five-year posted fixed rate is at Canada’s big banks. 

Functionally, that five-year average rate has been the bar that most uninsured borrowers have been asked to meet, since market rates have been much lower than two percentage points below that level for almost the entire period of the stress test’s existence.

A look at the numbers

Currently, the average posted five-year big bank mortgage rate is 4.79 per cent, but it’s not difficult to find a loan at about half that rate, a little over two per cent, by shopping around.

A look at the numbers shows how easy it is to get in over your head.

At two per cent, a 25-year mortgage of $300,000 would cost $1,270 a month. But if rates were to rise to 4.79 per cent, where the big bank posted rates already are, that monthly payment goes up by almost $500 a month, to $1,709.

That’s an increase of almost 35 per cent to a borrower’s monthly budget. 

At 5.25 per cent, the new stress test rate, the monthly payment would jump to $1,788 a month.

If the numbers show that a borrower’s finances wouldn’t be able to withstand a significant rate hike, the borrower fails the stress test, and a lender isn’t allowed to lend them money. 

COVID-19 changed the plan

The banking regulator was looking into perhaps setting some other sort of benchmark for the stress test prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic shelved those plans.

In addition to the higher rate, OSFI also says it plans to “revisit the calibration of the qualifying rate at least once a year to ensure it remains appropriate for the risks in the environment.”

The move by OSFI comes as the average price of a Canadian home rose by 25 per cent in the year up until the end of February.

That’s prompted a flurry of calls for policymakers to step in again to make sure borrowers aren’t getting in over their heads.

“The current Canadian housing market conditions have the potential to put lenders at increased financial risk,” OSFI said in a statement Thursday. “OSFI is taking proactive action at this time so that banks will continue to be resilient.”

While the regulator’s goal is to ensure the stability of the system for banks, not for borrowers, James Laird, co-founder of and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial, says ultimately the move may be what’s best for homebuyers, too.

“In the near term, this change will make it more difficult for first-time homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage,” Laird said, adding that the move will have the effect of lowering buyers’ purchasing power by about five per cent once it’s in place in June.

“However, if this policy has the desired effect of slowing home value appreciation, it may be a good thing for first-time homebuyers in the long run.”

Sherry Cooper, chief economist at Dominion Lending Centres, says the move may well take some of the froth out of market in the long term, but in the short term it’s likely to make this year’s feverish spring market even hotter.

“This all but ensures that the current boom in home buying will accelerate further in the spring market — providing an impetus for borrowers to get in under the June 1 deadline,” she said. “OSFI’s move will trigger an even hotter spring housing market as demand is pulled forward just as it was before the January 1, 2018 implementation date of the current B-20 ruling.”

Weekly Showing Report

Since the markets were more or less turned off this time last year, we took a look at the ten year averages to compare instead of comparing year over year. The total amount of sales across Alberta in March exceeded the ten year average for the month by 56%.

The hot spots in the Province continue to be the bedroom communities such as Cochrane, Okotoks and Airdrie…plus Canmore.  The markets across the Province are all moving quite well with most out performing the ten year averages for sales.

The big question right now is how long this can last, and will the newly implemented restrictions have an impact. The truthful answer is that no one knows for sure as anything can, and has happened in Real estate….and then you add a Pandemic to the mix.  We continue to be in unknown territory.

However, given that we have come through the past year without the bottom falling out of the market, consumer confidence has returned to Real Estate. All indications support the strong markets to continue as the first time home buyers are fuelling the market, allowing teh move up buyers to make a move up the property ladder. With incredibly low interest rates, increased savings and limited options as to where to spend money, people are choosing Real Estate.

While the current pace is not fully sustainable, there are currently more buyers than homes available. Based on the fact that we had just under 14,000 showings on CIR Realty’s listings alone for the month of March, that suggests that there are many buyers still seeking homes.

Busy is an understatement as CIR Realty’s activity continues to skyrocket!  While showing activity has continued to taper down across the Province, we had 13,908 showings on CIR Realty’s listings in the month of March!!! The week over week showings have slowed coming into April, but that is not the case for transactions. To put it into perspective, March was our busiest month in company history by over 55% the last company record!!  In the first week of April we are 10% ahead of the first week in March which suggests that it is going to be an even busier month to come!

Airdrie had one of the best months on record for total transactions in the month of March!   In fact, the sales numbers were 96% higher than the ten year average for sales in March. The increased sales activity, and lower inventory has kept most of the market in a sellers market, with the exception of the Apartment style condos which are edging towards a balanced market. These trends continue to lower days on market, and are having upward pressure on pricing.

The sales in Brooks were 62% higher in total sales compared to the ten year average for the month of March.The market remains to be in very balanced conditions, which is helping lower days on market and the total months of inventory.  With sales occurring in the higher price ranges, the pricing has risen but that does not seem to be indicative to the values in the area, just which price points are currently selling.

Calgary’s sales in all price ranges have greatly exceeded the recent years past for the month of March! In fact, the total volume of sales exceeded the ten year average for the month of March by 55%.  With the lower inventory levels, and increased sales, the months of supply continues to lower as all sectors with the exception of Apartment style condos have moved into the sellers market territory.  This has led to lower days on market and increases in prices across the board.

The hot streak continues in Camrose as sales in March exceeded the ten year average for the month by 84%!  The starter and move up markets are both doing well and we are seeing prices continuing to edge upwards as inventory levels remain low.

Canmore has now moved all sectors of its market into a sellers market as the months of supply are all below 2 months.  Interestingly enough, as the price points in the market increased from $200,000 to $1,000,000+, so did the number of transactions. With sales in the town exceeding the 10 year average for March by 140%, it continues to be one of the hottest markets in the Province!

Cochrane continues to be one of the hottest markets in Alberta, as the total number of sales in March exceeded the ten year average by 122% and hit all time new records for both sales and new listings coming onto the market!  With the steady performance of the market over this past year, each sector has moved into a sellers market with the exception of the Apartment style condo which remains in balanced territory.  The increased sales combined with lower inventory is leading to lower days on market and increases in prices.

Crowsnest Pass had another large jump in activity with the sales in March exceeding the ten year average for the month by 109%!  With the continued performance in sales, and lower inventory rates, the months of supply have dropped and are helping stabilize pricing in the area.

Lethbridge’s market continues to be carried by most of the sales occurring in the $200,000 – $400,000 price range, but sales did increase across all price ranges.  In fact the sales for the month outperformed the ten year average for the month by 61%.  The detached and semi detached markets continue to rise while the row and apartment style are still lagging behind with the row housing remaining balanced, and apartment style still well within a buyers market.

Okotoks continues to have low inventory levels and sales are trending well above average which has led to sellers market conditions in all sectors.  The sales in March exceeded the ten year average for the month by 81%.  Home prices have continued to rise in the detached, semi detached and row sectors due to the market conditions, however the apartment style condos have yet to see increases but we anticipate that to change with the low inventory and active market.

Olds is one of the slower markets in the Province….which sounds funny to say because sales are trending 23% higher than the ten year average for sales in March.  With inventory levels being lower than years past, combined with the heightened sales, the months of inventory continue to lower bringing the market closer to a balanced market. We are seeing prices stabilize and anticipate balanced conditions coming into Spring.

Red Deer’s market continues to be a very busy balanced market for across all sectors except for the Apartment style condos that are still in buyers market territory.  The total sales for the month of March exceeded the ten year average for the month by 37%, and listing inventory remains low which is contributing to the market picking up. There are upward trends on pricing in the detached sector as a result of the low months of supply.  We expect these trends to continue into the Spring market.

Rocky Mountain House had the strongest sales in March since 2014 with sales exceeding the ten year average for the month by 33%. With the sales activity and the lower inventory, it has helped lower the months of supply, and the days on market. While the market remains to be more of a buyers market, these improvements are moving it towards a balanced market which is stabilizing pricing.

The Strathmore market continues to strengthen as sales in March exceed the 10 year average for the month by 69%.  The large portion of the market selling is in the $200,000 – $400,000 range.  Given where the most sales are occurring will likely explain the benchmark price lowering month over month but if this activity continues we do anticipate stronger pricing around the corner.

Stettler had a great March with sales trending 25% higher than the ten year average for the month. What we are seeing in Stettler is different from much of the rest of Alberta as there is a relatively normal amount of inventory on the market for this time of year. This is a result of more new listings coming onto the market which should help keep market conditions balanced.

Sundre’s sales continued to climb in 2021 as the transactions in March were 25% higher than the ten year average for the month.  The steady sales, and low inventory is leading to improvements in pricing as the Benchmark price rose month over month.

-Steve Phillips, CIR Realty

What’s behind your mortgage rate

Here’s what determines the interest rate on your mortgage—and why that rate can go up and down.

Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. If you’re like most people, you won’t pay cash—you’ll borrow most of the money by taking out a mortgage. And over the life of the mortgage, you’ll pay a lot in interest.

Small changes in interest rates can make a big difference in how much you’ll pay. So it’s important that you understand what determines the interest rate on your mortgage, even if you already own a home.

Many factors go into the interest rate you pay.

Some factors are part of the cost of all mortgages

Think of a mortgage as a product you buy. Any business that sells you something tries to make a profit. To do that, the price they charge for the product has to be higher than the cost to make it. A lender profits on your mortgage because you pay more in interest (the price it charges) than what they paid to borrow the money themselves (their funding cost).

This funding cost makes up most of the interest rate on your mortgage. Other factors include your lender’s operating costs and how much the lender needs to cover the risk that you won’t repay the loan. But funding cost is the most important factor.

So, what determines funding cost?

The state of the economy, in Canada and elsewhere, matters a lot

The money that banks lend out comes from depositors and investors, both here in Canada and in other countries. So, funding cost is largely driven by the interest rates in these places. And these rates move up and down for several reasons.

Strong economic growth means more demand for money

In general, strong economic growth tends to lead to higher interest rates, while weak growth leads to low interest rates. Here’s why: When the economy is strong, more companies want to borrow from investors to expand their business. So, a mortgage provider has to pay a higher interest rate to get investors to lend to it. And when the economy is weak, the reverse is true.

The global economy matters

Many Canadian banks borrow money in other countries, particularly the United States. And keep in mind that the world’s financial markets are interconnected. Interest rates in Canada respond to what happens elsewhere. For example, foreign interest rates fell during 2019. Interest rates for Canadian five-year fixed mortgages dropped in response.

The Bank of Canada influences interest rates

The Bank of Canada also affects interest rates, mainly through changes in our policy interest rate.

When the economy is strong, we may raise this rate to keep inflation from rising above our target. Likewise, when the economy is weak, we may lower our policy rate to keep inflation from falling below target. Changes in the policy interest rate lead to similar changes in short-term interest rates. These include the prime rate, which is used by the banks as a basis for pricing variable-rate mortgages. A policy-rate change can also affect long-term interest rates, especially if people expect that change to be long-lasting.

In the past, high and variable inflation eroded the value of money. In response, investors demanded higher interest rates to offset those effects. This increased funding costs for mortgage lenders. But since the Bank of Canada began targeting inflation in the 1990s, interest rates and uncertainty about future inflation have declined. As a result, funding costs are now much lower.

Mortgage rates and the pandemic

It looked like a puzzle: As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, central banks—including the Bank of Canada—quickly cut interest rates to cushion the blow. But rates on new mortgages didn’t decline much, and some actually went up. Why?

Remember that your lender’s funding cost determines most of the mortgage rate. The cost of funding jumped in the early days of the pandemic as investors became nervous. Many simply wanted to hold on to their cash given how uncertain everything was. So, the funding that is normally easy for lenders to get slowed to a trickle. This drove up the funding cost, even as the Bank of Canada’s policy interest rate fell.

The Bank of Canada has taken many steps to help financial markets work better during the pandemic, along with the federal government and other public authorities. The goal is to ease strains in funding markets, so lenders can keep supplying credit to households and businesses.

These steps include launching programs to make sure lenders can access the funding they need. As a result of these actions, funding costs fell and some mortgage rates on new loans started to decline.

Keep in mind: existing mortgages didn’t become more expensive during the pandemic. They either have an interest rate that is fixed until its next renewal, or a variable interest rate that declined along with the Bank of Canada policy rate.

You and the characteristics of your mortgage also affect how much you pay

Your past credit history and some of the features you choose for your mortgage determine how much risk lenders face when lending to you. More risk means a higher interest rate.

Repayment or credit risk

The most important risk for the lender is that you won’t repay the loan. A high credit score can help lessen this concern, as it shows the lender you’ve been good at repaying your debts. So, you may pay a lower interest rate than those who have a lower score.

If your mortgage is worth more than 80 percent of the value of the home, you’ll have to buy mortgage default insurance. But since insurance protects the lender from the risk of default, you may get a lower interest rate than if you go for an uninsured mortgage with a bigger down payment.

Interest rate risk

Most mortgage loans in Canada are renegotiated every 5 years, but they can be as short as 6 months or as long as 10 years. The more often you renegotiate, the more often you face the risk that the new interest rate will be different than the old one. If you are more comfortable with having your rate fixed for as long as possible, prepare to pay a premium for that peace of mind.

Prepayment risk

The lender risks losing money if you repay your mortgage early—known as prepayment risk. That’s because the lender won’t be able to profit as much from the funds they raised, particularly if interest rates have dropped since the mortgage started. So, an “open” mortgage, which lets you repay all of the loan early, usually has a higher interest rate than a “closed” mortgage, which limits how much you can prepay.

It’s important to shop around!

You’ll most likely find a lower interest rate if you do your homework and are willing to negotiate. Remember, you have a choice of lenders—large banks; smaller, regional banks; credit unions; or mortgage financing companies.

Monthly Showing Report

The first two months of 2021 rival even the busiest of markets that Alberta has ever experienced! 

With sales in February rising 56% year over year, and new inventory selling faster than it can come onto the market, the conditions are quickly changing to favour sellers in many markets across the Province.

The hot spots in the Province continue to be Cochane, Canmore, Okotoks and Airdrie. With notable mentions to Camrose, Brooks, Rocky Mountain House and Sundre who all had strong months compared to February’s past. The slowest markets continue to be our more Northern communities like Grand Prairie and Fort McMurray.

Over the past few years most of the buyers that wanted to buy, also had a home they needed to sell. With many first time buyers finding improved buying power and entering the markets, due to low interest rates, the disposable income savings rate remaining around 13%, strengthening confidence in the energy sector and other areas of employment, along with a new appreciation for home they continue to feed the property ladder as homeowners are now able to move up.

Another real challenge for the Alberta Real Estate Market over the past six years has been consumer confidence. With other major Canadian cities price points rapidly climbing, and buyers being priced out of the markets, we are seeing investors shifting their focus to Alberta. Whether it is in the energy sector or the pandemic, there is returning confidence and consumers are once again seeing value in Alberta’s market. 

As always, there are many variations and conditions within each market that help determine what is happening in each “micro” market.  Understanding these variances are critical in proper pricing to achieve the best results for our clients.

CIR Realty’s activity continues to skyrocket!   With the showing activity increasing 31% month over month, and over 42% higher than February of 2020, it continues to improve the markets.  The activity increased across all price ranges month over month, and we are seeing a larger percentage of showings occuring in the middle and upper price ranges.  The activity has led to higher transaction counts as our Brokerage exceeded February of 2020 sales numbers by 69% and has set a new company record for February,  as well as being the fourth highest sales volume for any month in our company history!  This sales activity is carrying over into the first week of March exceeding sales by 85% compared to the same week last year. This marks a 34% increase in transactions over any other year for the first week of March .

Airdrie experienced an incredible month in having the largest amount of sales recorded for the month of February! This marks one of the top five months over all in the past decade! With the months of supply dropping into sellers markets across all sectors with the exception of the Apartment sector, which has moved into a balanced market, the Benchmark price is now rising and the average days on market is lowering.

The sales in Brooks have been strong for the month of February, and have continued to outpace new inventory coming onto the market.  This has helped continue to lower the months of supply as the market edges closer to a balanced market.

Calgary’s market is one of the most affordable major Cities in Canada, and buyers from across the country are recognizing the value here.  The sales activity in all price ranges increased in February, while new inventory once again failed to keep up to the volume of sales.  With the detached sector being the most competitive and in a sellers market, prices are edging upwards and days on market are dropping.  The Semi-detached and Row sectors are all in competitive balanced markets, while the Apartment sector continues to make large improvements getting closer to balanced territory.

Camrose a big jump in sales activity in February and is on record as one of the strongest February’s in history.  With less inventory coming onto the market, and the increase in sales the inventory levels have dropped bringing the market into a healthy balanced market.  If continued, these trends will improve pricing and lower days on market.

Canmore is on the verge of all sectors moving into a sellers market as the months of inventory continue to drop across the board.  With sales over $700,000 having the largest jump in activity the Median and Average prices are moving up but the Benchmark price for the area remains relatively stable for the time being.

Cochrane’s market has had dramatic upticks in sales across all price points with the exception of under $200,000 year over year for the month of February.  With the continued hot streak, and the strongest sales for February in history, the days on market for listings continue to drop, and price points are rising.

Crowsnest Pass had a large jump in activity in the under $200,000 price point in February.  With the steady sales activity continuing, the balanced market conditions persist.

Lethbridge’s markets between $200,000 – $400,000 continue to move at a fast pace. Due to the increased sales activity thedetached and semi-detached markets are continuing to get closer to sellers market conditions while the Row and Apartment sectors remain in a buyers market.

The Row sector in Okotoks is the only sector that remains in a buyers market and has signs of continued challenges ahead.  The Detached and Semi-detached sectors are in sellers markets with prices increasing and days on market dropping, while the Apartment sector remains in a balanced market but has signs of moving closer to a sellers market.

Olds continues to have a strong start to the year. With sales outpacing the new listing inventory coming onto the market, the overall markets are edging closer to a healthy balanced market.
Red Deer’s market was largely carried by the sales in the $200,000 – $400,000 prince ranges. This has led to solid improvements year over year in the higher price points as well. The increased sales activity, and tightening inventory levels has led to much more balanced conditions across the market but the Row and Apartment sectors remain in buyers markets. The overall market is seeing price improvements and lowering days on market.

Rocky Mountain House continues to have a strong start to the year. The increase in sales activity, and lower amount of inventory has led to the lowest months of inventory in over two years.  This should lead to further balancing of the markets providing more stabilized prices.
 The Strathmore market continues to show signs of strength after a brief slow doesn in January.  The detached sector is the strongest sector in the area, and edges to more competitive conditions of a seller’s market.

Sundre had a pretty standard month as far as February goes.  The market conditions remain in a buyers market but if sales continue, and inventory remains in check there should be more balanced conditions on the horizon.

-Steve Phillips, CIR Realty

Bank of Canada will hold current level of policy rate until inflation objective is sustainably achieved, continues quantitative easing

The Bank of Canada today held its target for the overnight rate at the effective lower bound of ¼ percent, with the Bank Rate at ½ percent and the deposit rate at ¼ percent. The Bank is maintaining its extraordinary forward guidance, reinforced and supplemented by its quantitative easing (QE) program, which continues at its current pace of at least $4 billion per week.

The global economy is recovering from the economic effects of COVID-19, albeit with ongoing unevenness across regions and sectors. The US economic recovery appears to be gaining momentum as virus infections decline and fiscal support boosts incomes and consumption. New fiscal stimulus will increase US consumption and output growth further. Global yield curves have steepened, largely reflecting the improved US growth outlook, but global financial conditions remain highly accommodative. Oil and other commodity prices have risen. The Canadian dollar has been relatively stable against the US dollar, but has appreciated against most other currencies.

In Canada, the economy is proving to be more resilient than anticipated to the second wave of the virus and the associated containment measures.  Although activity in hard-to-distance sectors continues to be held back, recent data point to continued recovery in the rest of the economy. GDP grew 9.6% in the final quarter of 2020, led by strong inventory accumulation. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2021 is now expected to be positive, rather than the contraction forecast in January. Consumers and businesses are adapting to containment measures, and housing market activity has been much stronger than expected. Improving foreign demand and higher commodity prices have also brightened the prospects for exports and business investment.

Despite the stronger near-term outlook, there is still considerable economic slack and a great deal of uncertainty about the evolution of the virus and the path of economic growth. The labour market is a long way from recovery, with employment still well below pre-COVID levels. Low-wage workers, young people and women have borne the brunt of the job losses. The spread of more transmissible variants of the virus poses the largest downside risk to activity, as localized outbreaks and restrictions could restrain growth and add choppiness to the recovery.

CPI inflation is near the bottom of the 1-3 percent target band but is likely to move temporarily to around the top of the band in the next few months. The expected rise in CPI inflation reflects base-year effects from deep price declines in some goods and services at the outset of the crisis a year ago, combined with higher gasoline prices pushed up by the recent run-up in oil prices. CPI inflation is then expected to moderate as base-year effects dissipate and excess capacity continues to exert downward pressure. Measures of core inflation currently range from 1.3 to 2 percent. 

While economic prospects have improved, the Governing Council judges that the recovery continues to require extraordinary monetary policy support. We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achieved. In the Bank’s January projection, this does not happen until into 2023. To reinforce this commitment and keep interest rates low across the yield curve, the Bank will continue its QE program until the recovery is well underway.  As the Governing Council continues to gain confidence in the strength of the recovery, the pace of net purchases of Government of Canada bonds will be adjusted as required. We will continue to provide the appropriate degree of monetary policy stimulus to support the recovery and achieve the inflation objective.

House prices are going bonkers again. Where is the outrage?

Even by Vancouver’s ridiculous standards, it seems absurd. A home on the east side of Vancouver selling for $872,134 over asking?

But that’s what happened late last month. The house, listed for $1.72-million, went for $2.6-million after nine days on the market. And while that transaction seems shocking, it actually seems to be part of a trend. Homes going for a half-million dollars or more than the list price isn’t uncommon these days. Sales of places getting snapped up in 24 hours amid multiple offers aren’t unique either.

And it’s not just happening in Vancouver. It is a phenomenon taking place, to varying degrees, across the country.

It’s almost like it’s 2016 again – except, strangely, without all the anger and outrage.

You remember this period, don’t you? When foreign investors were blamed for driving prices beyond the grasp of young Canadians? When governments were forced into action to quell the anger of a citizenry furious that so many of our young people were apparently having their middle-class dreams crushed by mercenary investors from China?

Well those investors have, for the most part, been deterred from returning, but the market is no more accessible to Canada’s young home buyers. Which would suggest we all think an insane housing market is just fine – as long as it’s homegrown Canadians (and domestic monetary policy) that are responsible for it.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, January marked an all-time record in home sales across the country, with actual average sale prices increasing 22.8 per cent from a year earlier.

Vancouver also recently maintained its spot in Demographia International’s latest Housing Affordability Survey as the second-most expensive housing market in the world, following Hong Kong. Median property values rose to 13 times the household income in 2020, compared with 11.9 per cent in 2019, according to a report from the Urban Reform Institute and Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

There now seems little doubt that the Bank of Canada’s decision to keep interest rates low to help a pandemic-battered economy stay alive may have had unintended consequences.

Bank Governor Tiff Macklem himself recently alluded to what he called “excess exuberance” in the market, and suggested low interest rates were likely the reason. He promised to keep an eye on things. Well, we’re glad he’s on it.

Still, my question is: Where is all the fury? Surely, these insane prices are locking out tens of thousands of potential home buyers, no? People from whom dreams are being robbed anew?

Josh Gordon, a professor at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) School of Public Policy, said there are likely a few reasons why this housing frenzy isn’t accompanied by the same degree of protest. While low interest rates are fueling demand, he said, those same rates also mean price increases aren’t being felt as acutely. He also believes that the massive amounts of foreign capital we saw in the 2016 house price era created a sense there was a one-sided competition in the marketplace. That has since been allayed.

“With that dynamic less prominent, the sense of unfairness is less pronounced and hence anger is mitigated,” he said.

Andy Yan, the director of the city program at SFU, says millennials – who now comprise the largest population of Canadians – are driving the market. Some are settling down and starting families and the oldest among the cohort are now 40. Many have excellent-paying jobs and have saved a ton during the pandemic. “What we still don’t know is how much of this demand is first-time buyers versus those who are moving up the property ladder,” he said.

Another factor could be a lack of single-family detached homes, which are in high demand right now because of a pandemic that has incited a craving for more space and privacy. COVID-19, however, has simultaneously made many older Canadians reluctant to give up what they have to move into something that resembles a seniors’ complex, particularly given the disturbing images they have seen over the past year.

Meantime, new supply is coming on stream, including townhomes that were seen as the “missing middle” of the market a few years ago. Build more of that kind of density, developers had promised, and that would be the end of these massive price surges.

Right. Townhome projects are going up all over the place in Vancouver, with modest 1,100-square-foot units starting at $1.5-million and rising quickly from there. That they were ever going to solve housing affordability in our major cities was always a cruel joke.

So utter madness has returned to the housing market. Who could have imagined a pandemic would fuel it?

-Globe and Mail

Calgary home sales, prices spike in February while inventory remains low, CREB says

The Calgary Real Estate Board said Monday that the market has faced low inventory levels compared to sales for the past several months, while prices continued to climb.

The board’s February numbers show that prices jumped by about 8 per cent to reach an average of $485,870, up from $446,690 the year prior.

CREB’s chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie attributed the spike to pandemic conditions.

“Despite continued COVID-19 restrictions, housing activity continues to improve. Much of the strong sales activity is expected to be driven by exceptionally low mortgage rates,” she said.

“Confidence is also likely improving as vaccine rollouts are underway. Additionally, some of the worst fears concerning the energy sector are easing with recent gains in energy prices.”

Sales totalled 1,836 last month, a more than 54 per cent increase over February 2020 and a volume not seen since February 2014.

New listings, however, didn’t keep up the pace. They amounted to 2,848, a 13 per cent increase from 2,517 the year before.

The gap between sales and new listings is doing little to help the market’s inventory woes, CREB said.

It estimated the area now has fewer than three months’ worth of homes on the market.

Conditions are particularly tight in the detached sector, especially for homes priced below $600,000, said CREB.

That portion of the market alone has less than two months of housing supply, but is also experiencing the most significant price gains.

Detached home sales in February amounted to 1,123, up from 678 the year prior, while prices edged up to $572,670 from $526,084 previously.

New listings for the category were up about 17 per cent, but inventory was down by almost 30 per cent.

At the other end of the housing spectrum, apartments and condos have a relatively high level of inventory compared to sales.

CREB said 272 apartments sold in February, up from 209 the February before.

Inventory in the category reached 1,433, a slight dip from 1,470 the year prior.

-Globe and Mail

Weekly Showing Report

The week over week showings have continued to climb across the Province. 

While we have not caught up to the showing activity of 2020, there is some speculation that restrictions to showings due to the current climate, and how fast new listings are selling are both contributing factors to fewer showings being available.

The activity on CIR Realty’s listings has climber 12% week over week, and is 49% higher than the same week in 2020.  With record amounts of new listings being brought on (and sold), the brokerages showing activity continues to do well.

With showing restrictions, and the pace of the market, there are some solid strategies to host “Live online open houses” prior to launching the listing to allow more people to see the home, which has the potential to increase more interest.

After all, the key to selling anything is to generate the highest amount of exposure possible, to create the largest amount of demand.

-Steve Phillips, CIR Realty