Category Archives: real estate

Solving the enigma of Canada’s housing bubble

A real estate sold sign hangs in front of a west-end Toronto property Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy (Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

If Yogi Berra were alive today, he’d probably describe the Toronto housing market like this: Things are so good, they’re bad. And if they get any better, that’ll be worse.

In February, the Teranet-National Bank house price index showed prices in Greater Toronto rising 23 per cent over the previous year – or about 21 per cent faster than the rate of inflation. Homes in neighbouring Hamilton were up 19.7 per cent. Even in Metro Vancouver, long the hottest market but which recent policy changes have somewhat cooled, prices are up 14.3 per cent. Most of the rest of the country, however, looks relatively calm.

But not Toronto. It’s become such a sellers’ market that – another Berraism – nobody wants to sell.

In response to surging demand, the number of properties offered for sale has dropped. Potential sellers are holding off putting houses and condos on the market, because they assume the longer they wait, the higher prices will go.

“In the first two months of 2017,” writes Simon Fraser University public-policy professor Josh Gordon in a recent report on Toronto housing, “new listings dropped despite rapidly rising prices, likely because even more sellers now expect prices to climb higher. That has sent the sales-to-new-listing ratio soaring, which is a good proximate indicator for future house price increases.”

In other words, prices in Toronto appear to be feeding on themselves. Why? It’s the psychology of FOMO – the fear of missing out. Purchasers fear that, unless they buy now, they’ll miss out on ever owning a home. Potential sellers fear that, if they sell now, they’ll miss out on windfall profits from inevitable price jumps. Based on the past few years, these have become rationally held beliefs. Speculation is now wisdom.

If you’re already a homeowner, it’s wonderful. If you’re a young person, an immigrant or middle-class, it’s depressing. If you’re an economist or a banking regulator, it’s terrifying.

Toronto has long shown signs of a classic bubble, and so has Vancouver. And when housing bubbles burst, they send tsunamis rushing through the financial system, and the entire economy. Just look at what happened in the United States in 2008.

That’s the danger. And the best way to address it is to try to carefully let some air out, before the balloon pops.

A real estate sold sign hangs in front of a west-end Toronto property Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy (Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

So what’s been driving prices in Toronto and Vancouver? A lot of things – some of which can’t be changed, or shouldn’t be.

There are the Bank of Canada’s record low short-term interest rates, a response to weak domestic and global economic conditions. Should Ottawa be agitating for higher borrowing costs, across the entire economy? Obviously not.

The Bank itself is also reflecting a worldwide savings glut, which has pushed global bond yields and mortgage rates to the floor, while pushing up the value of a lot of investment assets. Can Ottawa or the provinces address that? Not really.

Some of the price increases are a reflection of population growth, with the Greater Toronto Area adding nearly 400,000 people between 2011 and 2016, and Greater Vancouver growing by 150,000. Should government policy aim to stop people from moving to these successful cities? Absolutely not.

However, housing in Toronto and Vancouver has also been driven skyward by other factors. Greater Montreal, Canada’s second-largest market, has the same low interest rates, and over the last five years, it’s added twice as many people as Vancouver. But Montreal prices have not been bubbling.

The price boom in Toronto and Vancouver has been far beyond what population and income growth would suggest. For example, there tends to be a long-run relationship between average incomes and average housing prices. That’s because, as Yogi Berra might have put it, people can’t afford what they can’t afford – except when they can. In Toronto and Vancouver, the unaffordable is now the norm.

Average home prices are normally expected to be about three times median family incomes. As of last summer, that’s roughly where things were in Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary. But in Toronto, prices were more than eight times family income. Vancouver? Nearly 12.

Last year, the situation finally pushed British Columbia to act. The government introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers, which appears to have had an impact. Vancouver prices actually dipped late last year, reversing steep gains earlier in 2016.

The levy, which doesn’t apply to immigrants, had a dual effect. It discouraged non-resident speculators, while also signalling to the entire market that prices might not go up forever.

(Unfortunately, B.C. recently undermined the measure, by watering down its application, and creating a price-inflating program of interest-free loans for first-time homebuyers.)

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is now also musing about a foreign-buyers tax for Toronto. As in Vancouver, it might calm the market, and it’s hard to see how it could hurt. Non-resident investors are likely only a small part of the picture – the data is still poor – but they may be having a significant impact on prices and psychology.

Economists keep sounding alarms about a Canadian housing bubble; the latest comes from the Bank of International Settlements. A popped bubble will harm the entire country, but the entire country is not in a bubble. There’s no need for a national plan to throw cold water on buyers from Halifax to Ottawa to Edmonton. Policy has to go after the problem where it makes its home, in Southern Ontario and B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

Source: The Globe and Mail – Published Friday, Mar. 17, 2017

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Big banks are freaking out about Toronto real estate

 

Add Canada’s largest bank to the growing chorus of lenders worrying about unsustainable price growth in Toronto.

“You’re seeing 20% house price growth in a market where you shouldn’t see that much,” Dave McKay, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada, recently told the Financial Post. “That’s concerning. That’s not sustainable. Therefore, I do believe we are now at a point where we need to consider similar types of measures that we saw in Vancouver.”

Vancouver, of course, made headlines last year when it announced a 15% tax on foreign homebuyers – a policy that was met with equal parts derision and support from industry players.

The move is thought to have played a role in dampening Vancouver’s hot housing market; a similar one could have a similar effect in Toronto, depending on how much influence foreign buyers actually have on propping up prices (no rock solid data yet exists).

RBC joins the Bank of Montreal in stoking the fire of fear that Toronto’s market is blazing out of control.

“Let’s drop the pretence. The Toronto housing market—and the many cities surrounding it—are in a housing bubble,” Doug Porter, chief economist for BMO Bank said in a recent report. “Everyone may have a slightly different definition of what a bubble is, but most can agree it’s when prices become dangerously detached from economic fundamentals and start rising strongly simply because people believe they will keep rising strongly, encouraging more buying.”

According to Porter, Toronto’s real estate market could experience a similar downturn to the one that occurred in the 1980s.

“Prices in Greater Toronto are now up a fiery 22.6% from a year ago, the fastest increase since the late 1980s—a period pretty much everyone can agree was a true bubble—and a cool 21 percentage points faster than inflation and/or wage growth,” he said. “And, the ratio of sales to new listings was a towering 93.5 in the region last month adjusted for seasonality (and was above 100 in Hamilton, Kitchener and the Niagara Region).”

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average Toronto house cost $770,745 in January – up from $630,193 in January 2016.

And with the average single-family low rise home now selling for $1,028,395, it’s no surprise economists are getting anxious.

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca – by Justin da Rosa 28 Feb 2017
Tagged , , , ,

Observers air concerns about unrelenting price appreciation in Toronto

Observers air concerns about unrelenting price appreciation in Toronto

By all accounts, the Toronto market’s exceptional performance remains the main contributor of strength to the national housing sector, but a local real estate professional is more cautious of where these continuous increases in demand and home prices will lead to.

A noteworthy example of this outsized growth is a three-bedroom semi-detached home on Palmerston Ave., which got listed on the market for $1.375 million earlier this week. The property was purchased in December 2014 for just $851,750—fully over half a million dollars less than its current price, and representing a sharp 62 per cent appreciation in just 2 short years.

Realosophy president and broker John Pasalis noted that the listed value of the Palmerston home would have purchased a larger and more spacious house as recently as last summer.

“If this is getting $1.4 million what does that mean for anyone who wants to buy in this neighbourhood?” Pasalis mused in a Toronto Star report. “When you see appreciations of 30 per cent a year it generally doesn’t end well. That’s a concerning thing.”

And at the rate it’s going, Toronto’s price growth might not grind to a halt in the foreseeable future.

“My instinct is that Toronto’s going to keep going like this until there’s some outside policy decision,” Pasalis stated.

One policy intervention that has proven effective in another hot market was the 15 per cent tax slapped by the B.C. government on foreign buyers in mid-2016. Since then, Vancouver price growth has seen a significant cooling down from its prior rate of over 20 per cent a year.

However, such a measure in Ontario would only have a limited impact at present, considering that less than 10 per cent of real estate investors in Toronto are foreign nationals.

“The numbers are still in the mid single-digits from what we can tell. The foreign demand we have is more from immigration, people that are choosing to raise their families in Toronto,” Re/MAX Hallmark Realty managing partner Gurinder Sandhu said.

“There’s political certainty, there’s economic certainty and, when you look at all the uncertainty around the world, all of a sudden Toronto becomes that much more in demand.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews – by Ephraim Vecina | 20 Jan 2017
Tagged , , , , ,

What’s in store for Canadian real estate in 2017?

We have the answers to all your investment questions in our Property Forecast Guide — the industry’s very own crystal ball, which will appear in the January issue of CREW.

Think of the guide, which spans dozens of pages, as your handbook for investing in real estate in 2017. Want to know what’s in store for the economy? How about hot, up-and-coming areas? This guide will help you get rich – or even richer – by giving you the best research, right in your lap. 

We spoke to veteran investors, respected economists and profiled every market and every trend that investors need to know about.

Below is just a sample of what you can expect.

Dan Campbell on GTA and the surrounding area

Tech Triangle (KWC) 
Strong and growing economy, stable and growing post-secondary institutions, airport, expanding highways, increase Go Train service and now a rapid transit system all point to a strong year for the KWC real estate market. Rental demand will continue to grow, especially around the new LRT and Go Train stations as well as the renewed downtown cores. This region is growing into Millennial Central and that bodes well for market demand for decades to come.

Hamilton 
It is still a market where investors and homeowners need to have very localized knowledge in order to ensure they aren`t buying in neighbourhoods that will underperform the market. 2017 should begin a slowing of demand from investors and landlords, but increased Go Train service, a renewal of Hamilton`s reputation and the promise of LRT will keep interest high.

Barrie and Orillia 
Although two very separate cities, they are economically co-joined. In one year Barrie will lead in growth and housing demand, and in the following Orillia will. Orillia looks to grab the lead in 2017 with the Hydro One purchase of the local utility and the development of a high-tech research center bringing in above average salaried employees. The demand in Barrie’s mid-range market should continue to be strong as new mortgage rules push people out of Vaughn and Toronto.

GTA 
Anything ground-oriented (single family homes, semis, townhomes) are poised to outperform the rest of the market, especially given the Provincial Places to Grow act limiting the amount of new-land sprawl, thus driving up the price of developable land within these constrained boundaries. Condo demand will continue with a movement to larger and therefore further from the core units beginning to feel the upward demand pressures as young families begin to grow and require more room. Units located within 800 Meters of TTC subway stations or 500 meters of street car stops will feel the highest demand increases in both rental and purchase in 2017.

Canadian Real Estate Wealth is the country’s premier guide for real estate investors. It includes the most timely and in-depth market analysis, delivered right to your doorstep six times a year.

Source: by REP 11 Nov 2016

Tagged , , , , ,

These figures suggest just how much immigration drives Canadian housing demand

canadian-housing-immigration

Canadian immigration is set to reach its highest annual rate in a century this year as at least 300,000 newcomers are expected, a fact Scotiabank says is a tailwind for Canada’s housing market.

While those new to Canada don’t generally make the leap into homeownership right away, notes Scotiabank Economist Adrienne Warner, sooner or later most do.

“New immigrants typically first choose rental accommodations, but eventually have homeownership rates similar to Canadian-born residents,” Warren explains in the bank’s latest Global Real Estate Trends Report.

The Canadian homeownership rate was 69 per cent in 2011, the most recent year Statistics Canada provides this census data for.

Canada’s hottest major housing market is also the country’s leading migrant destination, according to the Conference Board of Canada, a non-for-profit research organization.

Nearly a third of those 300,000 expected to settle in Canada are Toronto bound, notes Alan Arcand, the associate director of the board’s Centre for Municipal Studies.

“Toronto is the main… destination for immigrants in Canada and immigrants are the biggest driver of population growth today in Canada,” says Arcand.

“It’s important to realize that Toronto adds about 90,000 people a year to its population. So the whole CMA (census metro area) of Toronto grows by a city every year, a mid-size major city,” he continues, adding, “All those people coming need places to live, so that drives the housing market.”

This is why the Conference Board forecasts housing starts (a measure of how many units construction begins on in a given period) will waver between around 38,000 to 41,000 through the 2016-2020 period. Arcand says this is around the 10-year average.

Population age demographics also fosters housing demand, says Scotiabank’s Warren.

“The number of Canadians in their prime homebuying years is projected to continue to grow through the end of the decade, though at a slower pace than in recent years,” she explains.

Source: BuzzBuzzNewscanada – 

Tagged , , , , ,

HIGH NET WORTH – Why the wealthy are heavily focused on real estate

Real estate averages 27 per cent of the investments of the ultra wealthy. (Sheldon Kralstein/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Real estate averages 27 per cent of the investments of the ultra wealthy.
(Sheldon Kralstein/Getty Images)

With markets roiling in 2016 and commodities lingering in low-price limbo, the holdings of high-net-worth investors can serve as indicators of where the rest of us might consider parking our nest eggs. It turns out that a good chunk of wealthy peoples’ investments is in real estate.

“Real estate is generally accepted as an alternative investment [by high-net-worth investors],” says Simon Jochlin, portfolio analytics associate at StennerZohny Investment Partners, part of Richardson GMP in Vancouver.

“It has the characteristics of an inflation hedge: yield, leverage and cap gains. It does well in upwardly trending markets, it pays you to wait during market corrections and typically it lags equities in market declines – it buys you time to assess the market.”

While the definition of high net worth can be flexible, in Canada and the United States it is generally considered to be someone who has at least $1-million in investable assets.

Thane Stenner, StennerZohny’s director of wealth management and portfolio manager, says a good way for determining what the wealthy do with their investments is to look at reports from Tiger 21, an ultra-high-net-worth peer-to-peer network for North American investors who have a minimum of $10-million to invest and want to manage their capital carefully.

Every quarter the network surveys its members, who number about 400 members across Canada and the United States. Some of the participants are billionaires, and most have a keen eye for business, Mr. Stenner says.

Though the Tiger 21’s Asset Allocation Report for the fourth quarter of 2015 found that its members were becoming cautious about Canadian real estate, they still on average put 27 per cent of their investment into real estate, the largest portion of their allocations. The next largest were public equities (23 per cent) and private equity (22 per cent) with smaller percentages going to hedge funds, fixed income, commodities, foreign currencies, cash and miscellaneous investments.

The real estate portion declined by 1 percentage point from the previous quarter. “While this is the lowest we have seen this year, it is at the same level observed in the fourth quarter of last year, which consequently was the high of 2014,” the report said.

“Real estate is very popular and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that investors can actually see and touch their investment,” says Darren Coleman, senior vice-president and portfolio manager at Raymond James Ltd. in Toronto.

In his experience, real-estate investors, wealthy or otherwise, seem to behave with more logic than those who focus on markets. “For example, if you own a rental condo, and the one across the hall goes on sale for 30 per cent less than you think it’s worth, you wouldn’t automatically put yours on the market and sell, too, because you think there is a problem. Indeed, you may actually buy the other condo,” he says.

“And yet when a stock drops on the market, instead of thinking of buying more, most people automatically become fearful and think they should sell.”

Real estate also allows for considerable leverage, Mr. Coleman adds: “Banks love to lend against it. Over time, this lets you own a property with a much smaller investment than if you had to buy all of it at once.”

At the same time, Mr. Jochlin says there are disadvantages to real estate that investors should beware of. Property is not particularly liquid, so if you need to sell you could be stuck for a while.

“It’s also sensitive to interest rates and risks from project development,” he says. There are administrative and maintenance costs, and an investor who buys commercial rental property will be exposed to the ups and downs of the entire economy – look at Calgary’s glut of unleased office space, for example.

“Timing is key. You do not want to chase the performance of a hot real estate market,” Mr. Jochlin says.

“Buying at highs will significantly reduce your overall return on investment. You want to buy in very depressed markets at a discount. In other words, look toward relative multiples, as you would an equity.”

As to how one goes about investing in real estate, Mr. Jochlin says it depends. The factors to consider include determining whether your investment objective is short- or longer-term, your liquidity requirements, your targeted return and whether you have any experience as a real estate manager.

“Sophisticated high-net-worth investors have a family office, and thus a specialist to manage their real estate assets,” he says.

Slide3

How the rich buy real estate

The wealthy don’t necessarily buy and sell real estate the same way ordinary investors do, says Mr. Stenner. Ordinary people buy something and hope that when they sell it they’ll get a better price. Meanwhile, they like to do things like live on the property or rent it out, whether it is residential or commercial. If it is vacant land they might build something. Not always so for high-net-worth (HNW) investors, Mr. Stenner says. While everyone who invests hopes their investment will rise, Mr. Stenner says that in real estate, HNW people tend to fall into four categories:

Developers

“The real estate developer is looking for substantial returns from individual/basket real estate projects, typically 30-50 per cent IRRs [internal rates of return],” Mr. Stenner says. Developers are highly experienced investors who often take big risks, looking at a raw, undeveloped property and envisioning what it could look like with, say, a shopping mall or office tower. This requires lots of access to capital and a strong stomach, as there can be huge delays and setbacks.

Income Investors

“These HNW investors typically look for a stable, secure yield, tax-preferred in nature and structure if possible, with modest capital growth potential,” Mr. Stenner says. They take the same businesslike approach to property as the developer-types, but they’re more conservative, focusing on cash flow and long-term profit as opposed to getting money out after a development is complete. Often they’re building a legacy that they hope to pass down through generations. Mr. Stenner says lower net worth people can emulate income investors, for example, through REITs that are based on apartment buildings.

Opportunists

These HNW investors tend to look for more short-term higher risk, higher return “asymmetric” payoffs. Income from the investment or project is secondary — they’re in it for the quick buck. Often they see real estate in contrarian terms – investments to look at when the market is low and to sell on the way up, rather than hold. After 2008, many HNW investors bought up depressed-price housing in the U.S. Sunbelt. The sizzling Vancouver and Toronto markets might be the opposite of what they’re looking for right now; commercial property in the stagnant Canadian economy that can be purchased for low-trading loonies right now might be more interesting.

Lenders

This refers to HNW investors who lend capital to developers or opportunistic investors, for a fixed return, plus as much asset coverage from the property as possible. They fund mortgages, invest in real estate financing pools or put money into companies involved in this type of investment. “Because wealthier investors tend to have more liquidity, this also creates more optionality to deploy capital in various ways, while using the real estate as collateral or protection,” Mr. Stenner says.

Being a lender is a way to diversify. In addition, money lent in this way puts the lender high up in the creditor line if something goes wrong. If things go right, it generates income as the mortgage is paid back to the HNW investors or the funds they buy into.

Source: DAVID ISRAELSON Special to The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016

Tagged , , , , ,

Snowbirds rush to sell U.S. homes to profit from tanking loonie

Winnipeg snowbirds Greg and Erina Barrett are spending their last winter in their Arizona home. They just sold it for a big profit.

Greg Barrett and his wife, Erina, wouldn’t call themselves savvy investors. But the snowbirds have just made a killing in the U.S. real estate market.

They join a growing number of Canadians who bought U.S. homes for cheap and are now selling them to take advantage of rising U.S. house prices and a tanking loonie. Even with added costs such as a possible capital gains tax, many Canadians are still coming out far ahead.

“It just worked out for us and we’re blessed,” says Barrett, a 75-year-old retired social worker.

In 2010, the loonie was virtually at par and the U.S. housing market had crashed when the Winnipeg couple bought an Arizona home to escape Canadian winters.

“It was a fabulous deal,” says Barrett from their three-bedroom bungalow in San Tan Valley near Phoenix.

Recently, he and his 73-year-old wife contemplated selling to lighten the burden as they age. When they crunched the numbers, they couldn’t resist taking the plunge.

Thanks to the rebounding U.S. real estate market, they have just sold their Arizona home for 65 per cent more than what they originally paid.

Add the exchange rate with the loonie hovering around 71 cents US, and you could say the couple hit the jackpot.

“In Canadian terms, it’s double the boost,” says Barrett. “I’m walking on sunshine, and don’t it feel good,” he adds, quoting a favourite pop song.

snowbirds Greg Barrett Erina

The Barretts pose in front of the Arizona home they just sold. The Canadian couple must move out at the end of the month, but plan to rent to get their taste of sunshine in coming winters. (CBC)

Swamped with sellers

The Barretts’ Arizona real estate agent, Diane Olson, says she’s swamped with calls from Canadians itching to sell their U.S. properties to cash in.

“They are just saying, ‘It’s such an awesome and great opportunity.’ They were not counting on the foreign exchange going to where it is,” says the agent, who specializes in Canadian clients.

Olson says she has 29 Canadian-owned Arizona homes either on the market or about to be listed.

“I am zooming, zooming, it’s crazy!” she says while driving on a Phoenix freeway, heading to her fourth meeting that day with a Canadian client.

Diane Olson

Diane Olson stands in front of one of her many real estate signs in Arizona advertising a Canadian-owned home for sale. (CBC)

From buying frenzy to selling spree

It’s a reversal from 2010, when the loonie was around par. In 2011, it would hit $1.05 US. At the same time, U.S. real estate prices had taken a dive, triggered by the 2008 subprime mortgage scandal and financial crisis.

So Canadians — from snowbirds to investors — swooped into hotspots like Arizona and Florida to grab a piece of sunny real estate for a steal.

According to the American National Association of Realtors survey, for the year ending in March 2007, Canadians accounted for 11 per cent of U.S. home sales to international clients. But as the loonie climbed, so did Canadian deals.

From March 2011 to 2012, Canadian sales more than doubled to 24 per cent, totalling an estimated $15.9 billion US.

“It was a buying frenzy,” says Olson. “You could buy a brand-new house on the outskirts [of Phoenix] that was nice for $80,000 [Cdn].”

Fast forward to 2016. Thanks to a strengthening economy, U.S. house prices have shot up 30 to 50 per cent, says BMO economist Robert Kavcic.

Add the loonie’s recent decline, and some Canadian sellers of U.S. homes are making big profits, even after any tax hits. “They have made out like bandits,” says Kavcic.

Canadians fleeing Florida

In Florida, Brent Leathwood is also seeing a surge of Canadians cashing out. The real estate agent says that when the loonie was stronger — from 2009 to 2013 — virtually all his Canadian clients wanted to buy.

Now, he says, about 80 per cent of them want to sell their homes in the Sunshine State.

“They’re making a pile of money, some of these people,” he says.

But Leathwood adds it’s not just big profits that are encouraging people to sell.

He says there’s a high price to pay these days when hanging on to U.S. property. Suddenly everything from American property taxes to electricity bills have become more expensive.

“A lot of these people are feeling squeezed by the ongoing monthly costs of maintaining a residence as the exchange rate continues to go against them,” says Leathwood.

Both he and Olson expect the selling frenzy to continue as long as the loonie stays low.

“There’s going to be a wave of money going back to Canada,” says Leathwood.

The Barretts plan to keep some of their money parked down south.

They still want to spend their winters in Arizona, but from now on, they’ll rent — with a lot less responsibility and a lot more cash.

“I’m sitting here in paradise and I’m making money. It’s just an amazing thing,” says Greg Barrett.

Source: Sophia Harris, CBC News Posted: Feb 01, 2016

Tagged , , ,