Monday, September 20, 2010

Existing home sales edge up in August

National resale housing activity improved in August 2010, according to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
Seasonally adjusted national home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate Boards in August rose 4.1 per cent from the previous month. This marks the first monthly increase since March 2010.

Activity was up most in Ontario and British Columbia, with monthly gains in these two provinces accounting for most of the improvement in national sales activity in August. Seasonally adjusted sales activity either increased or remained stable in over half of all local markets across Canada.

Year-to-date transactions are up 2.2 per cent compared to the first eight months of last year. Activity rose sharply over the second half of 2009 and reached levels that are unlikely to be matched in the final four months of 2010, so year-to-date comparisons are forecast to turn down in the coming months.

The number of new residential listings on Canadian MLS® Systems also edged up 1.9 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis in August compared to the previous month. Despite having edged slightly higher in all provinces except Alberta, new listings remain 16 per cent below the peak reached last April on a national basis. The average price of homes sold via Canadian MLS® Systems in August was $324,928, which is on par with the same month last year ($324,843). Average home prices eased slightly in Alberta and New Brunswick in August, but gains in every other province exceeded the national increase. Average price rose or was stable in nearly two-thirds of all local markets on a year-over-year basis, but increases are shrinking in Canada’s most active and priciest markets.

The national weighted average price compensates for changes in provincial sales activity by taking into account provincial proportions of privately owned housing stock. It climbed 3.3 per cent on a year-over-year basis in August 2010. Similarly, the residential average price in Canada’s major markets was up 2.2 per cent year-over-year in August, while the weighted major market average price rose 6.6 per cent.

The number of months of inventory represents the number of months it would take to sell current inventories at the current rate of sales activity, and measures the balance between housing supply and demand. It stood at 6.9 months at the end of August 2010 on a national basis, which is down slightly from the seven months of inventory at the end of July 2010.

The seasonally adjusted number of months of inventory also stood at 6.9 months at the end of August on a national basis. This is down from 7.3 months at the end of July, and marks the first month-over-month decline since last November.

“Rising interest rates and a projected slowdown in job growth mean that the Canadian housing market is expected to continue to cool,” said Georges Pahud, CREA’s President. “This is overlooked in recent commentary that suggests further changes to mortgage regulations may be needed. A further tightening of regulations could negatively impact Canada’s softening housing market and consumer confidence.”

“High sales activity late last year and earlier this year borrowed from sales this summer and will continue do so over the coming months,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “This makes the return to more normal levels of sales activity look like a steep downward trend.”

“The hangover from accelerated home purchases is likely to persist over the rest of the year. Although economic and job growth are expected to be tepid, they will continue to support housing markets,” he added.

“Copyright Canadian Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.”

Low Mortgage Rates Boost August Home Sales

The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) residential sales in the province declined 35 per cent to 5,590 units in August compared to the same month last year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, MLS® residential unit sales in the province increased 7 per cent in August from July 2010. The average MLS® residential price climbed 4 per cent to $487,804 in August compared to the same month last year.

“August home sales posted the first month-to-month increase since March of this year,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Lower mortgage interest rates and an improving labour market are inducing additional consumer demand.”

“The number of new residential listings in the province has fallen 30 per cent since April,” added Muir. “With fewer new listings, total active listings are now on the decline, signalling that an end to the buyer’s market may be on the horizon.”

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume increased 8 per cent to $26.9 billion, compared to the same period last year. Residential unit sales rose 2 per cent to 53,717 year-to-date, while the average MLS® residential price climbed 10 per cent to $501,226 over the same period.

“Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.”

Mortgage Forcast


The global economy is feeling the lasting effects of the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. As meticulously documented by economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt in their examination of 8 centuries of data, recoveries from financial crises are characterized by sluggish growth in output and employment.

Although Canada’s relative stodgy banking system ensured that we did not suffer a domestic financial crisis, our fundamental dependence on the United States, the epicenter of the global crisis, means that we are mired in the second-hand effects of the US’s economic lethargy. However, as we detail below, there may be a silver lining for BC households in these cloudy skies.

Growth Outlook

Second quarter GDP growth fell well below expectations at just 2% (annualized). This represented a marked deceleration from first quarter growth of 5.8%. Flagging consumer spending and weaker residential investment resulting from the expiration of the home renovation tax credit tempered growth in the second quarter.

Economic growth in the remainder of 2010 and 2011 may continue to underwhelm due a cooling housing sector, sluggish economic growth in the United States and an end to Government fiscal stimulus. Moreover, unemployment that is projected to hover near 8% for several quarters may hinder consumption going forward.

In all, we see the Canadian economy growing at a 3.3% pace in 2010 before slowing to 2.5% in 2011.

Interest Rate Outlook

In the face of slowing growth and low inflation, the Bank of Canada raised rates for what we expect to be the final time in 2010 at its September 8th meeting. Although the Bank’s medium-run objective of returning rates to normal long-run levels is still intact, the Bank will take a very cautious approach to tightening monetary policy over the next 6 to 12 months and further rate tightening will be highly dependent on how solid the ground is underneath both the Canadian and US economies.

Given that inflation is projected to remain subdued and growth is expected to slow, we have trimmed our forecast for the overnight rate to 1% at the end of 2010 and 2.00% by the end of 2011 (from 1.0%-1.25 and 2.50% respectively).

In our July forecast, we noted that mortgage rates would continue to trend lower in the short-run and indeed downward pressure on interest rates has not only continued, but has in fact intensified.

Although fear stemming from the European debt crisis has seemingly subsided, fresh concern has emerged about the United States economy where hopes of a “summer of recovery” have quickly faded into fear of a dreaded “double-dip” recession.

In response, cautious households and companies have increased savings, adding to the flood of demand for safe assets and forcing long-term Government bond yields to levels not seen since the height of the global financial crisis.

Yields on Canadian Government 5-year bonds, the benchmark for mortgage pricing, have fallen a remarkable 100 basis points since the spring to just 2.10%. Although this decline in interest rates is likely overdone, it is difficult to say when bond markets may normalize.

A much discussed second round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve (so-called QE2) could mean that US and Canadian interest rates stay low for an extended period. On the other hand, unexpected good news on the US economy may translate to faster pace of interest rate normalization.

Mortgage Rate Forecast

The silver-lining in the lacklustre economic outlook is that the normalization of both short-term and long-term interest rates will be deferred. BC households with variable rate mortgages will therefore be facing lower payments than we would have originally predicted at the beginning of the year.

Moreover, new homebuyers or homeowners set to renew their mortgages will be offered a second chance at securing rates at levels last seen at the depths of the financial crisis.

The BCREA mortgage rate forecast is for a continuation of the current low-rate environment into early 2011, when prompted by a new round of tightening by the Bank of Canada and (hopefully) brighter economic prospects, interest rates will renew their ascendency to historical norms but at a measured pace.

The 1-year fixed mortgage rate is forecasted to finish 2010 at around 3.20% and to reach 4.05% by the end of 2011. The 5-year fixed mortgage rate is forecasted to end the year at 5.35% and to reach 6.10% by the end of 2011.

“Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.”

Monday, September 13, 2010


BC housing markets are returning to typical post-recession demand pat-terns. The dramatic rebound in consumer demand during 2009 and sub-sequent decline during the first two quarters of 2010 has set the stage for a gradual increase in home sales during the fall and through 2011. Residential unit sales through the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC are forecast to decrease 7 per cent to 79,500 units in 2010, before climbing 5 per cent to 83,400 units in 2011.

A slower than expected normalization of interest rates will temper erosion of affordability as economic output posts more moderate growth for the balance of this year and through 2011. Stronger corporate profits are triggering employment growth and a reduction in the unemployment rate is now underway.

A larger inventory of homes for sale has created the most favourable supply conditions for home buyers in more than a year. While tighter mortgage qualifications for low equity home buyers has negatively impacted demand, more borrowers are now channelling into 5-year fixed mortgages where discounted rates increase purchasing power.

The average MLS® residential price is forecast to increase 6 per cent to $492,800 this year and edge down 1 per cent to $489,500 in 2011. Some softness in home prices is expected through the summer months in most regional markets. However, inventory levels peaked in May and will likely edge lower in the coming months, leading to more balanced conditions in the fall with a commensurate firming of home prices.

After a sharp pull back in new home construction last year, home builders are gradually increasing production to meet demand. BC led the country in population growth over the last three quarters and with the inventory of complete and unoccupied units expected to decline, builders are adjusting production to match supply with household formation.

Bank of Canada raises key rate to 1%

The Bank of Canada raised its target for the overnight rate by one quarter of one percentage point to one per cent on September 8th, 2010. It was the third consecutive quarter point hike. The Bank rate was raised to 1.25 per cent and the deposit rate is now 0.75 per cent.

The Bank noted that, while the global economic recovery is proceeding, it remains uneven. The main downside risk cited in the Bank’s announcement was the recent weakness in the U.S. recovery, saying, “In the United States, the recovery in private demand is being held back by high unemployment and recent indicators suggest a more muted recovery in the near term.”

Owing largely to the weaker profile for U.S. activity, the Bank now expects Canadian growth to be “slightly slower” than it had previously forecast in July. The Bank downplayed the small revision to the outlook, however, saying, “consumption growth is expected to remain solid and business investment to rise strongly. Both are being supported by accommodative credit conditions, which have eased in recent weeks mainly owing to sharp declines in global bond yields.”

While the outlook for the Canadian economic recovery has changed slightly, inflation in Canada has remained in line with the Bank’s expectations. The Bank noted that, while the monetary policy measures undertaken since April have had the effect of modestly tightening financial conditions in Canada, they nevertheless remain “exceptionally stimulative.”

As of September 8th, the advertised five-year conventional mortgage rate stood at 5.39 per cent. This is down 0.1 per cent from a year earlier, and stands 0.4 per cent below where it was when the Bank made its previous interest rate announcement on July 20, 2010. It is also 0.1 percentage points below where it stood at the beginning of the year.

The statement ended with the message, “Any further reduction in monetary policy stimulus would need to be carefully considered in light of the unusual uncertainty surrounding the outlook.” The Bank had previously characterized the uncertainty in the outlook as “considerable.”

Most analysts now expect the Bank to hold off on any further rate hikes this year while it gauges the effects of recent tightening on the domestic economy, and watches the very uncertain situation south of the border. However, the overall tone of the Bank’s statement was more hawkish than expected, and this has led some economists to suggest this may not be the last hike of the year. Much will depend on economic data out over the next month and a half in advance of the Bank’s next decision on October 19th.

The Bank’s next Monetary Policy Report will be published on October 20th. The Bank will make its next scheduled rate announcement on October 19th.

“Copyright Canadian Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bank of Canada increases overnight rate target to 1 per cent

The Bank of Canada today announced that it is raising its target for the overnight rate by one-quarter of one percentage point to 1 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 1/4 per cent and the deposit rate is 3/4 per cent.

The global economic recovery is proceeding but remains uneven, balancing strong activity in emerging market economies with weak growth in some advanced economies. In the United States, the recovery in private demand is being held back by high unemployment and recent indicators suggest a more muted recovery in the near term.

Economic activity in Canada was slightly softer in the second quarter than the Bank had expected, although consumption and investment have evolved largely as anticipated. Going forward, consumption growth is expected to remain solid and business investment to rise strongly. Both are being supported by accommodative credit conditions, which have eased in recent weeks mainly owing to sharp declines in global bond yields.

The Bank now expects the economic recovery in Canada to be slightly more gradual than it had projected in its July Monetary Policy Report (MPR), largely reflecting a weaker profile for U.S. activity. Inflation in Canada has been broadly in line with the Bank's expectations and its dynamics are essentially unchanged.

Against this backdrop, the Bank decided to increase its target for the overnight rate to 1 per cent. As a result of monetary policy measures taken since April, financial conditions in Canada have tightened modestly but remain exceptionally stimulative. This is consistent with achieving the 2 per cent inflation target in an environment of significant excess supply in Canada.

Any further reduction in monetary policy stimulus would need to be carefully considered in light of the unusual uncertainty surrounding the outlook.

Information note:

The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is 19 October 2010. A full update of the Bank’s outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, will be published in the MPR on 20 October 2010.

Copyright © 1995 - 2010, Bank of Canada.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Housing Activity Stabilizing

After rebounding in the second half of 2009 and early 2010, housing starts are expected to moderate in the second half of 2010. Starts are expected to stabilize at levels consistent with demographic fundamentals in 2011, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) third quarter Housing Market Outlook, Canada Edition.

Housing starts are expected to be in the range of 170,200 to 198,400 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 184,900 units. In 2011, housing starts will be in the range of 146,900 to 210,500 units, with a point forecast of 176,900 units.

"Housing starts will moderate in the coming months as activity becomes more in-line with long term demographic fundamentals,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist for CMHC.

Mr. Dugan also noted that the existing home market conditions will remain balanced over the next two years as MLS®2 sales ease and inventory levels remain elevated. Existing home sales will be in the range of 450,000 to 485,700 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 463,800 units. In 2011, MLS® sales will move lower and are expected to be in the range of 425,000 to 490,700 units, with a point forecast of 456,000 units.

With an improved balance between demand and supply, the average MLS® price is expected to edge lower through the end of 2010 and then rise modestly in 2011.

CMHC August31, 2010

Why Use a Realtor, 5 Reasons

Thanks to resources such as the Internet, many people believe they can tackle virtually any project on their own – everything from renovating a kitchen to buying or selling a home. And while it’s true that the Internet has helped consumers become more informed on a number of topics, seeking the expertise of a professional is often a wise investment. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer, upgrading to a new home, purchasing vacation or rental property or looking to sell, you really need a real estate expert to ensure the transaction is seamless – someone to walk you through the multiple steps involved with buying or selling real estate.

Following are five top reasons why you should use an expert the next time you’re buying or selling a home:

1. Local Expertise

Purchasing a home is the largest investment most people make throughout their lives and having a professional to guide you through the experience can make a huge difference in the choices you make throughout the buying or selling process. A real estate expert will assist you with creating a financial plan so you know what homes to seriously consider in your neighbourhood of choice. And because real estate professionals focus on local marketplaces, they can evaluate whether a home is a smart investment and how the price compares to other properties in the neighbourhood. Experts also have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which offers the latest information on every home listed by an agent in your market, including how long a home has been on the market and what special features the property may have. And when you’re looking to sell, the MLS is the number one reference agents use to help buyers look for homes. Having your home in the MLS puts every agent in the area on alert that your home is for sale. Real estate agents know how to market a home, attract prospective buyers and hold successful open houses.

2. Time is Money

Working with home sellers or buyers and their agents can be extremely time-consuming. If you have a full-time job, meeting with buyers or sellers – or even talking on the phone – may wreak havoc on your already full schedule. A real estate agent will save you time by providing answers to all of your questions and take care of the leg work involved in eliminating prospects that don’t meet your needs, which means you’re not wasting time touring homes that you will never buy.

3. A Professional Negotiator

Negotiating is definitely an aspect of the buying and selling process that many people simply aren’t comfortable with. A real estate agent handles the negotiation process on your behalf and ensures you receive the best possible price. A professional will have a firm grasp of your local market and neighbourhoods know when you have room to negotiate with the seller, and understand which aspects of the house are desirable and which ones may lower the possibility of sale.

4. Professional Connections

There is more to buying a house than just negotiating the sale. You will often be best served by working with a mortgage broker, home inspector, lawyer, the escrow company and many more professionals. A real estate agent can suggest a reputable choice for any professional you must hire in order to ensure your home and financing needs are well taken care of. After all, agents deal with a wide assortment of professionals on a daily basis – and will only suggest you work with the best.

5. Expertise & Knowledge

Real estate agents understand more than merely the market and financial aspects involved with buying and selling homes. They also know what people want and need, and how to hone in on fine details. There may be a myriad of small things that you don’t think to consider when buying or selling a home that an expert will quickly point out to you.

Even if you have purchased and sold a few homes in the past, chances are you aren’t an expert. Real estate agents are familiar with the trends in the neighbourhoods in which you wish to buy or sell a home, and in all of the various changes in regulations and technology. Because we help people buy and sell homes every day, we understand all of the nuances involved in these processes. From the purchase agreement to closing, our job is to make sure you get the best possible deal.

As always, if you have any questions about buying or selling a home, your answers are just a phone call or e-mail away!