After reaching its peak of $816,720 in February, the average price of a home in Canada has dropped by more than $170,000. According to the latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a residential property in October was $644,643, not seasonally adjusted.
Despite the lower price tag, most online searches among Canadian homebuyers are for properties that cost well below the national average. This is according to a new study by Point2 Homes, an online real estate search portal.
Out of five million searches performed on Point2 Homes in 2022, more than 75 per cent targeted properties with a price of $600,000 or less.
“Canadian homebuyers are tightening their budgets in the post-pandemic landscape of increasing prices, inflation and mortgage rates,” the report states. “The lower budget ranges speak volumes to the buyer’s perception of affordability in today’s housing market.”
Additionally, the most popular price range searched for by Canadians in 2022 was between $200,000 and $300,000. This represents less than half the average price of a home in Canada.
Here is a compiled a list of houses and apartments in major cities that are listed for less than $600,000, falling below the national average price of a home.
Type: Leasehold apartment
Year Built: 1970
Property Size: 48.5 sq. m
Lot Size: N/A
This leasehold apartment in Vancouver features a large combined living and dining space connected to the kitchen, which has updated appliances. In addition to one bedroom and one bathroom, the unit also has a private patio offering views of the English Bay. The building has upgraded windows as well as an outdoor swimming pool and shared laundry space.
Year Built: 1991
Property Size: 120.12 sq. m
Lot Size: N/A
Along with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, this corner apartment unit in Kelowna has a refurbished kitchen with quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and vinyl plank flooring. The office space doubles as a sunroom, with large windows throughout. The building is a short drive away from Hot Sands Beach, and numerous restaurants are close by.
Year Built: 1931
Property Size: 101.41 sq. m
Lot Size: 411 sq. m
Originally built in the 1930s, this updated character home is located in Calgary’s Bankview neighbourhood. It features three bedrooms and a four-piece bathroom with white tiles and cabinetry. The bungalow also has a sunken living room with vaulted ceilings, and its original wood-burning fireplace. Throughout the home are planked wood ceilings and hardwood floors.
Year Built: 1921
Property Size: 129.97 sq. m
Lot Size: 395.55 sq. m
Located in Edmonton’s Westmount neighbourhood, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is more than 100 years old. On the main level, the living and dining rooms each have maple hardwood flooring, while ceramic tile floors complete the foyer. In the upgraded kitchen are stainless steel appliances, new cabinets and cork flooring. The corner lot also has a fully fenced backyard with a deck.
Year Built: 2013
Property Size: 146.79 sq. m
Lot Size: 426.24 sq. m
Large windows along the back of this Regina home allow plenty of light to seep in. On the main floor is a custom kitchen with two-tone cabinets, granite countertops, a tile backsplash and a corner pantry. Also on the main floor is a living room with a 19-foot ceiling and gas fireplace. Filling the rest of the home are three bedrooms and four bathrooms. The walk-out basement is fully renovated and at the back of the home is a covered balcony.
Year Built: 1916
Property Size: 135.64 sq. m
Lot Size: 389.54
This two-storey home in Saskatoon features two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a finished basement. On the main floor are hardwood floors and custom cabinetry, along with a built-in coffee bar near the kitchen, and a copper gas fireplace in the living room. Located in the city’s Nutana neighbourhood, near South Saskatchewan River, this home is just a short drive from downtown Saskatoon.
Year Built: 1895
Property Size: 156.17 sq. m
Lot Size: 278.71 sq. m
This Winnipeg home features a modern design, with exposed glulam beams and hardwood flooring. On the upper level is the main bedroom, with a unique three-piece ensuite and a private balcony. Filling out the rest of the property are two more bedrooms and two additional bathrooms, as well as an open-concept kitchen, living and dining area.
Year Built: 1973
Property Size: 79.9 sq. m
Lot Size: N/A
With one bedroom and one bathroom, this fully renovated unit has a back wall made completely of glass. The updated kitchen includes a large island that seats three people, as well as custom cabinets and stainless steel appliances. In the bathroom is a custom shower enclosure with a new vanity and toilet. Situated in the Annex, the apartment is a short walk from transit stations, parks and other amenities.
Year Built: 2005
Property Size: 111.48 sq. m
Lot Size: N/A
Located in Ottawa, this property features an open-concept floor plan on the main level. The large kitchen, complete with stainless steel appliances and an eating bar, connects to both the living and dining areas. The main and upper floors each have a balcony, offering views of the playground nearby. Rounding out the townhome are three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Year Built: 1983
Property Size: 88.44 sq. m
Lot Size: N/A
Brand new wood floors run throughout this two-bedroom apartment unit in Montreal. In the living area is a stone fireplace and large windows. In addition to one bathroom, there is also a private balcony facing the courtyard. The unit is situated just steps away from a subway station and various restaurants and cafes.
Year Built: 1915
Property Size: 186.74 sq. m
Lot Size: under 0.2 hectares
This two-bedroom, three-bathroom townhome is within walking distance of downtown St. John’s. At the entrance of the home is the foyer, featuring its original staircase. Beyond that are large living and dining rooms, as well as a gourmet kitchen with a propane stove and exposed brick detailing. On the top level are both bedrooms and the main bathroom, a four-piece ensuite with a shower and corner tub.
Year Built: 1987
Property Size: 111.67 sq. m
Lot Size: under 0.2 hectares
Located in downtown Halifax, this corner apartment unit spans approximately 112 square metres. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, along separate living and dining areas. The galley-style kitchen has been renovated and includes stainless steel appliances, while the main bedroom has a walk-in closet and two-piece ensuite. In the apartment building is a heated indoor pool, gym and sauna.
Year Built: 1974
Property Size: 227.43 sq. m
Lot Size: under 0.2 hectares
Built in 1974, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has seen a number of upgrades, including an updated eat-in kitchen. Next to the kitchen is the living room, complete with a large bay window. All three bedrooms are located on the main floor, while the lower level features a laundry room and full bathroom.
Year Built: 1964
Property Size: 144.19 sq. m
Lot Size: 906 sq. m
A mudroom welcomes guests into this four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Fredericton. Porcelain tile floors lead to a renovated kitchen with a tiled backsplash and soft-close cabinets. Hardwood floors run throughout the living and dining rooms, and a small bathroom rounds out the main floor. On the upper level are three bedrooms, the main bathroom and a covered balcony.
Trigger rates on variable rate mortgages have been thrust into the spotlight as interest rates jump. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
If interest rates stay higher for longer amidst stubborn inflation, experts warn an increasing number of homeowners will be at risk of a trigger rate that would hike their monthly mortgage payments, for some to devastating levels.
“Mortgage default risk from trigger-rate payment resets should be contained, unless inflation becomes more un-contained,” Rob McLister, a mortgage specialist and editor at Mortgage Logic, said in an email to Yahoo Finance Canada.
“No one can say this topic is overblown because we don't know what will happen next.”
Variable rate mortgages typically have static monthly payments, where less and less of that payment goes toward principal as rates rise. With interest rates surging, some homeowners could see their payments reach their trigger rate, which is the point where the interest portion owed is higher than the payment itself.
Once this happens, the lender could offer the homeowner a number of options including hiking the overall monthly payment so it covers at least the full interest portion, extending the amortization, or demanding a lump sum payment to reduce the principal loan amount.
While Canada’s biggest banks have stated the majority of their mortgage customers could withstand an increase in their monthly payments, McLister said some homeowners could find themselves in financial trouble.
If the Bank of Canada hiked its benchmark rate by an additional one percentage point, it “would devastate a larger but still modest percentage of household budgets,” he said. He added that an additional two-percentage-point hike would be “catastrophic” and result in a more severe recession.
The biggest risk, according to McLister, is if the market is underestimating inflation and the Bank of Canada needs to move its key rate materially above 4.25 per cent. Currently, overnight swap data show markets expect the overnight rate to reach four per cent by the end of the year, up from just 0.25 per cent back in March.
“A sizable minority of variable-rate mortgagors would have negative monthly cash flow given a hike over 400 bps. We'd potentially see the government step in at that point with some kind of relief plan. Perhaps regulators would formalize an industry-wide policy allowing for amortization extensions, for example,” he said.
A gradual problem
“It really depends on where rates go. And if a person is of the view that rates are going to be sticky at these levels for the next several years, the higher rates are in the sort of 2023, 2024, 2025 era, that would be a bigger risk,” Mike Rizvanovic, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods, told Yahoo Finance Canada in a phone interview.
Royal Bank of Canada said in its August third-quarter earnings conference call that about 80,000 of its mortgages were expected to hit their trigger rate “with the next couple of rate hikes.”
“The average increase is about $200. And we only — we have less — materially less than 0.5 per cent of customers that we think will even require a phone call,” Neil McLaughlin, RBC’s group head of personal and commercial banking, said on the call at the time.
In Toronto-Dominion Bank’s August conference call with analysts, the bank said any variable rate borrowers who veer off track with their mortgage loan amortization schedule will have to adjust their payments at the time of renewal so they revert back to the original amortization date.
“One thing that people sometimes get wrong about the Canadian banks is that they're this mean oligopoly where they just come to you and kick you out of your home if you miss a mortgage payment. It's not really like that. They'll work with you and explore different avenues just to not have you forced into insolvency because it's not really in their interest to take possession of a bunch of homes and try to sell them at potentially distressed prices,” Rizvanovic said.
But the ability to make the monthly payments on time is a major factor in whether the banks will work with the borrower.
“They'll look at your ability to carry that debt. And it's really only the individuals that maybe have a very dire situation where the bank will obviously monitor that and recommend, you know, you probably have to sell your home,” he said.
Sticker shock at renewal
Rizvanovic says higher mortgage rates will become a more pressing issue over time because of the flurry of housing activity during the pandemic when rates were ultra low.
Using Statistics Canada data, Bank of Montreal previously said 60 per cent of new mortgages as of Dec. 2021 had a variable rate, a testament to how popular they had become as homebuyers wanted to take advantage of ultra-low rates.
“If you're talking about that sticker shock of renewal, a lot of that will be coming in 2024 and 2025, just given the typical term people take on a mortgage, all the elevated activity we saw in the latter part of 2020 and for the most part, pretty much all of 2021. So they're not going to see that pain until basically three to two to three years from now,” Rizvanovic said.
Banks vs alternative lenders vs private money
Canada’s largest banks control four in five mortgages, or about 1.6 million mortgage loans, according to McLister. He estimates at least 350,000 customers could have their trigger rate activated if the benchmark interest rate reaches four per cent as the market expects.
But the banks’ mortgage books have historically shown their resilience during times of economic stress since the banks dominate the conventional lending market.
“Historically, the mortgage book has never really been an issue on direct credit losses. Now, not to say that in a recession, there aren't problems around credit losses and people going insolvent, but the losses are typically not related directly to the mortgage portfolio. It's typically the other stuff that's unsecured, like credit card debt, auto loans,” Rizvanovic said.
He added the main risk with higher-for-longer interest rates would be the hit to consumer spending and how that impacts the domestic economy.
Alternative lenders, such as Home Group Inc. or the parent company of Equitable Bank, deal with many non-prime borrowers but these lenders are still regulated, curbing the risks in their mortgage books, he said.
For homebuyers who don’t qualify for a loan at regulated lenders, they might turn to the riskier private lending market.
Private lenders consist of small corporations or affluent individuals that lend their own money to fund mortgages and operate outside of regulated financial institutions. The loans are typically short term, carry a much higher interest rate and can have high loan-to-value ratios. There’s also much less transparency into this market since it’s unregulated.
“That's generally where the bulk of the risk would be. If you think about the Canadian banks, the big six banks, they don't do non-prime lending in mortgages. And I mean, they don't do it at all. They're very strict on how they calculate your ability to service the debt,” Rizvanovic said.
This Vancouver residence at 115 West Woodstock Avenue asked $1,999,000, and it sold after eight days on May 3 for $2,370,000.
Home prices in Metro Vancouver have managed to stay up in the face of declining sales.
Moreover, a report by Vancouver-based realty agency expects prices to generally hold steady.
Dexter Realty stated that the “issue of supply will continue to dictate price and how much pressure there will be to come off the highs that have been achieved in the last 18 months”.
The company noted that listings have yet to produce a balanced market, which currently remains in favour of sellers.
“We might even see prices for some areas and types of homes just hover around those highs as opposed to showing much correction at all. Why would home owners sell for less if they don’t have to?”
Moreover, “We must remember, there will continue to be more people moving to British Columbia, and specifically Metro Vancouver. So, any temporary decrease in demand will eventually be replaced by more people looking to buy in the region.”
The report was written by Dexter Realty partner and managing broker Kevin Skipworth, who looked into sales as of mid-May this year.
Skipworth predicts that total sales for the month of May will come to less than 3,000 homes.
This level of activity will be comparable to 2019 and 2018, when 2,638 and 2,833 sales were made, respectively, for the months of May during those years.
However, the anticipated volume of sales for May 2022 of less than 3,000 is significantly below the 4,268 sales in May 2021.
The expected sales this month also falls below the 3,232 sales reported by the real-estate board for Greater Vancouver for the month of April 2022.
Sales in April 2022 marked a 34.1 percent decrease from the 4,908 sales recorded in April 2021, and a 25.6 percent decline from the 4,344 homes sold in March 2022.
However, prices remain firm.
The real-estate board noted that the benchmark price in the region for all types of properties rose in April 2022 to $1,374,500.
This means an 18.9 percent increase over April 2021, and a one percent increase from March 2022.
The board covers Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, South Delta, Squamish, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Whistler.
It does not include Surrey and other neighbouring markets.
In the Dexter Realty report, Skipworth noted that total active home listings totalled 9,770 in mid-May compared to 11,198 during the same period in 2021, and 8,515 mid-month in April 2022.
Skipworth explained that there are “two parts to the real estate market: activity and prices”.
He stated that a “change in activity doesn’t necessarily correlate to a dramatic change in prices”.
“Be prepared for words like ‘plunged, steep declines, slump’ when really, we should be saying ‘average, balancing and expected’,” Skipworth suggested.
The realty executive continued, “Many are dusting off their adjectives to try and put a label on current market trends, when in fact this market is really doing what we expected it to do in the face of rising interest rates and global challenges – and more so incredible activity in the last year and a half.”
Toronto overtakes Vancouver despite benchmark prices hitting record high: RBC
The MLS Home Price Index benchmark hit $1.255 million in Metro Vancouver last month | Photo: Rob Kruyt, BIV
It’s not a crown any Canadian city wishes to lay claim to, but Vancouver is – for now – giving up its title as the country’s most expensive real estate market.
Toronto has overtaken Vancouver as of January, according to a new report from the Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY).
It’s not because Vancouver’s housing market has suddenly come back down to Earth, but because Toronto has become that much more unaffordable.
RBC data shows the Greater Toronto Area’s composite MLS Home Price Index (HPI) benchmark hit $1.260 million last month compared with Metro Vancouver’s benchmark of $1.255 million. That $1.255-million figure is still a record high for the region.
“It’s a stunning development though not entirely surprising considering how hot the Toronto-area market has become, especially since the fall,” RBC senior economist Robert Hogue said in a report published Friday.
“Vancouver prices have accelerated as well, just not to the same extent.”
Vancouver's HPI increased 18.5% on an annual basis last month, while Toronto saw a 33.3% increase. The Fraser Valley saw a 37.4% increase.
“Solid demand and a dearth of supply kept conditions steamy in Canada’s major markets,” Hogue said, adding this is the first time in decades Toronto’s benchmark price has surpassed Vancouver’s.
“Rock-bottom inventories continue to be a major irritant for [Vancouver] buyers as we enter 2022.”
The Bank of Canada is widely expected to hike its overnight rate next month, which could temper the real estate market somewhat. But buyers will still have to contend with low inventory.
“Our view is that activity will stay exceptionally strong in the near term nationwide though we expect the Bank of Canada’s rate liftoff will start cooling things down later this year,” Hogue said, referring to national trends.
“Accompanied by an expected material increase in housing completions, we believe this will gradually ease the extreme imbalance in the market and in time moderate the pace of price appreciation.”
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on supply chains and the labour market, British Columbians have felt the financial squeeze.
Experts don’t foresee much relief on the horizon in 2022 as the bill comes in for back-to-back natural disasters and the housing market continues to sizzle.
From food to fuel, here are four ways life is about to get more expensive in the New Year — and a handful of ways that it probably won’t.
According to Canada’s Food Price Report for 2022, food prices are expected to increase between five and seven per cent in 2022. The costs of dairy products and restaurant bills will see the greatest cost increase — between six and eight per cent.
That could translate into nearly $1,000 extra dollars on the grocery bill for a Canadian family of four.
British Columbia, whose food prices were forecast to decrease in 2021, is now listed among the provinces where food prices will go up — at a “higher than average” rate, according to Sylvain Charlebois, project lead and director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.
“I think it has a lot to do with what happened recently with the floods,” he explained.
“We just surveyed Canadians on food access and generally speaking, about 20 to 22 per cent of Canadians have actually seen empty shelves due to supply chain issues but in B.C. it’s actually 41 per cent.”
How B.C.’s flooding event is affecting farmers
Heating your home will become more expensive too.
FortisBC warned that gas rates will increase by 3.47 per cent this month to reflect the rising market price of the commodity. The utility provider expects rates to jump from $3.84 per gigajoule to roughly $4.50 per gigajoule.
“In terms of monthly impact, our customers are going to be looking at about a nine-per cent monthly impact on their bills … which works out to about $8 more per month,” said Diana Sorace, spokesperson for FortisBC in an interview.
British Columbia’s carbon tax will also increase from $45 to $50 per tonne of greenhouse gases on April 1, 2022. Its climate action tax credit, however, will follow suit three months later with an increase from $193.50 per adult and $56.50 per child.
British Columbians will see larger deductions on their pay stubs this year year.
The federal government has increased the Canada Pension Plan earnings ceiling at the highest rate in 30 years, meaning workers and businesses who contribute to the plan will take a hit.
The contribution rate for employees and employers is set to increase to 5.7 per cent in 2022, up from 5.45 per cent in 2021. The contribution for self-employed workers is scheduled to increase to 11.4 per cent, up from 10.9 per cent.
2:13CFIB calls for action on critical labour shortage facing small businesses
This month, the city passed its 2022 budget, which included a 6.35 per cent hike in property taxes, largely attributed to increased spending on the Vancouver Police Department.
The tax hike is expected to cost the median condo owner an additional $6 per month in 2022. The owner of a median detached home will pay an extra $14 per month, and a median business property owner will pay another $26.
Vancouver home and business owners facing another big hike to their property tax bill
Renters won’t be off the hook for increases either — the B.C. government’s province-wide pandemic freeze on rent expired on Dec. 31.
Effective Jan. 1, landlords can raise the rent by 1.5 per cent, provided three months’ notice has been provided, meaning many renters could be paying more in the New Year. The maximum allowable increase has been set based on the rate of inflation and can only be imposed on tenants once per year.
Those looking to buy a home can expect to pay a premium too, said Thomas Davidoff, as record-low home listings continue to drive up the sale price.
“I think in the short run, it seems like there are still more buyers and sellers out there, which tends to lead to price increases,” explained the associate professor at the UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
Low listings may lead to pent-up sellers, Davidoff added, but even if more homeowners sell in 2022, they’ll probably end up in the buyer’s market, keeping the pressure steady.
The Canadian Real Estate Association forecasts B.C. and Ontario will see the highest home prices in 2022 at $990,038 and $971,080 respectively.
The Bank of Canada aims to keep the annual inflation rate between one and three per cent in 2022. As employment numbers go up and economies rebound, it may increase its trendsetting interest rate — but not likely before April, it said in December.
In the long-term, rising interest rates could create “a rush to buy,” said Davidoff, followed by a “downward pressure” on the market when the costs of borrowing start to go up.
Should B.C. look towards ending single-family zoning like New Zealand?
Good news for insurance, hydro
While it may seem like everything is getting more expensive, there are a few costs that are not forecast to rise in the New Year.
There will be no basic rate change at ICBC until December 2022, meaning that if a change were required, it wouldn’t take effect until 2023.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada is “not expecting rate increases” for home insurance either, but noted that “severe weather trends are concerning.”
No single weather event leads to an increase in insurance premiums, wrote spokesperson Vanessa Barrasa by email, and if natural disasters were to affect premiums, it would happen “in time.”
BC Hydro has requested a rate decrease of 1.4 per cent in 2022, meaning the average residential customer will see savings of about $23 per year or $2 per month.
After that, the utility company has requested increases of 2 and 2.7 per cent for an annual average rate increase of 1.1 per cent over three years. The rates are still pending approval from the BC Utilities Commission.
Squeeze on services
British Columbians will feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wildfires and the floods for many years to come, but the squeeze will manifest in different ways.
In order to keep economies moving through the crises, both the provincial and federal governments have taken on massive amounts of debt that could weigh down the budgets in 2022, according to Pedro Antunes.
“We’re not going to be able to spend as much as we wanted on health care,” said the chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada.
“As interest rates come up, we’re going to see the amount that we have to put towards financing the debt increasing. That’s going to take away from our ability to do other things we’d like to.”
While Antunes expects B.C.’s economy to rebound from many pandemic-induced effects this year, he said cuts to programs and services that matter to taxpayers may be on the horizon to help pay for it.
Trudeau promised transparent bidding if re-elected for another term. Here’s what it means for housing prices if he follows through
Canadians are experiencing the frustrating side of “blind bidding” that prevents hopeful buyers from knowing what others are offering for the property.
Kelly Medeiros has been bidding on houses for months. So far, the 31-year-old has made five offers on homes in the Durham region since July and has lost every time to a higher offer, falling short anywhere from $20,000 all the way up to $110,000.
The problem, the Toronto-based media professional says, is that she hasn’t known how far off her offers have been from winning until the houses sold and the sale price was made public.
“If there are 10 offers around [the same amount] and somebody learns that there are 10 offers, they often panic and offer way more than they need to,” she says. “Like maybe you could have had that house by offering an extra $10,000, but instead, you’ve offered $100,000 more.”
Canadians like Medeiros are experiencing the frustrating side of “blind bidding” — a common real estate practice, also known as sealed or closed bidding — that prevents hopeful buyers from knowing what others are offering for the property. The tactic is hotly debated and often blamed as a contributing factor in Toronto’s overinflated market. Leading up to the 2021 federal election, the Liberals made the promise that if re-elected they would ban blind bidding nationally, by implementing a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights , to help cool housing prices and make the process of buying a home more “fair, open and transparent.”
But experts have mixed opinions about whether a flat-out ban is the solution to bidding wars. Some say it won’t bring down prices at all.
According to Murtaza Haider , a professor of real estate management at Ryerson University, there’s plenty of anecdotal data and speculation that indicates closed bidding drives up housing prices. But there isn’t raw provincial data to determine how much, exactly, the practice is jacking up sales.
In Ontario, real estate rules prevent the selling agent from telling realtors and their clients the contents — that is, the offer amount — of competing offers. All they can disclose is the number of competing offers to every hopeful buyer.
To make meaningful change to the industry, the government’s first course of action, Haider says, should be to put together a commission or an advisory group that includes all stakeholders, including representatives of buyers, sellers, the real estate industry and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. From there, amendments to real estate rules can be made to enhance the marketplace — something that can be aided with technology.
Haider says a digital platform that allows the selling agent to show bidders what others are offering, without disclosing their names, would provide more transparency and help buyers make informed decisions. There’s already efforts to change up the way people buy homes in Ontario with On the Block , for example, an online auction platform that allows registered bidders to see other offers in real-time.
“Discouraging competition is not the point,” Haider says. “The point is that when more than one prospective buyer is competing, they are not doing so in ignorance.”
Nicki Skinner , a Toronto real estate agent with Bosley Real Estate, says that because real estate regulation is a provincial issue, it would be difficult for the federal government to implement a nation-wide ban on blind bidding. It’s likely going to be up to the provinces to determine new rules.
And even if another selling option does become popularized, like auctions — which are legal in Ontario, albeit not common — Skinner doesn’t think it would stop people from “overpaying” for what they want.
“If you’ve got two people who really want [a property], they will push the price up to the same level anyway,” she says of open auctions versus closed bidding.
That jives with what we know about consumer behaviour, says Tsur Somerville , an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business who specializes in real estate. While transparency can help people feel confident that they’re not being taken advantage of — something that’s important in competitive markets — an open auction won’t solve Canada’s affordability problems. In fact, open auctions can result in similar financial outcomes as blind bidding, especially in sought-after markets.
Somerville says in Australia, where live auctions are common and often happen on the lawn of a property, prices in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne are high. In Sydney, housing prices are up nearly 21 per cent year-over-year as of August, according to property data company CoreLogic , and prices in Melbourne are up 13 per cent.
“Blind bidding is not the main thing, or even one of the top five things, that’s responsible for Toronto’s lack of affordability,” says William Strange , a professor of economic analysis and policy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School. “I don’t know a single economist who believes that.”
As he sees it, “if blind bidding were so disadvantageous for consumers, you wouldn’t see sophisticated participants perfectly happy to jump in.”
The bigger problem, according to many experts, is a Toronto housing shortage that cannot meet demand. While the Liberals have promised to build, preserve or repair 1.4 million homes — including affordable housing — over the next four years across Canada, it’s unclear what that exactly entails, says Skinner.
“The city, the province and the federal government have to work together to figure out what assets they have that can be turned into housing, and how to do it quickly,” Skinner says. “And then, is that going to be subsidized housing, rental housing at market value? Or financially assisted housing? That part isn’t clear.”
Meanwhile, the existing stock in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver is going to remain competitive, she says, because they are central hubs and are on par with other major cities like New York. Not everyone is going to be able to buy the home they wish they had in the city they want to live in.
This is the reality Medeiros is facing. Even though she works downtown, housing prices in the city are forcing her to look in suburbs like Durham and Whitby. Both she and her fiancé work full-time, and even with dual incomes, they’re struggling to get into the market.
“When we’re putting in offers, we’re pretty much going in at our max almost every time,” Medeiros says. “So if we lose out, we know we offered our best. There’s no more money to give.”
VANCOUVER -- B.C. released its budget for 2021-2022 on Tuesday and there was no sign of the $400 annual renter’s rebate Premier John Horgan promised during the provincial election last year.
That rebate, for households with an income of up to $80,000 a year, is still something the government is working towards, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said.
“I think it’s safe to say that affordability has worsened during the pandemic,” housing advocate Jill Atkey said Tuesday. She’s the CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.
Atkey says that while the subsidy hasn’t materialized this budget, there is help available for those in transition to more stable homes -- and that’s what’s needed right now.
“It’s a stay-the-course budget on housing, but I think we can all recognize that the course has changed because of the pandemic.”
The budget does promise more affordable housing, however, with $80 million set aside to fund the housing affordability plan and to deliver 114,000 affordable homes.
The province has also promised $2 billion in development funding through Housing Hub, which it says will help create 9,000 new homes for “middle-income families over the next three to five years.”
The projected budget deficit for the last fiscal year was originally expected to be $13.6 billion, but is now $8.1 billion, in part due to the continued resilience of the housing market and money gained from the property transfer tax.
“So far, the province has taken steps on more than half of the actions in the plan to build the homes that people need, crack down on tax fraud, close loopholes, help stabilize the real estate market and build partnerships for affordability in every B.C. community,” budget documents say.
It wasn't long ago that real estate experts were bracing for the worst.
The coronavirus pandemic had sent large parts of the world into lockdown, shuttering businesses, costing tens of millions of workers their jobs and putting the housing market into a deep freeze. The number of people asking lenders for more time on their mortgage payments surged as the global recession hit.
"This time last year we thought it was going to be 2008 all over again," said Kate Everett-Allen, the head of international residential research at real estate consultancy Knight Frank.
The fear was that house prices would collapse, as they reliably had done in past economic downturns. An increase in bankruptcies and unemployment would squeeze disposable incomes and make it difficult for highly indebted homeowners to keep up with their mortgages.
Those fortunate enough to own second homes would be forced to sell to build up cash reserves, putting even more downward pressure on prices.
"Actually, none of that happened," added Everett-Allen.
Instead, house prices soared even as the world suffered its worst slump since the Great Depression. From New Zealand to the United States, Germany, China and Peru, the same phenomenon has taken hold: home prices are skyrocketing, and many buyers are panicking.
Among the 37 wealthy countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), real house prices rose by almost 7% between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2020 — the fastest year-on-year growth in the past two decades.
So is this a bubble about to burst? No, according to Everett-Allen. Borrowing remains cheap and, once borders reopen, foreign investors will provide even further impetus to property markets, where purchasing activity has been largely driven by domestic buyers, she said.
"That will play out over the course of the rest of this year and next, and then there might be something of a lull," she added.
The Covid effect
In an unexpected twist, the pandemic has benefited house prices.
That's because governments around the world helped homeowners by temporarily banning repossessions and providing trillions of dollars of support for workers and businesses. Interest rate cuts kept mortgage repayments affordable in many places, while temporary reductions to purchase taxes in some markets spurred home buying.
These measures cushioned the housing market from the coronavirus recession. But the pandemic itself has actually turbocharged prices.
"If you lock up the vast majority of the population for months, they [rapidly reassess] what they want from their homes," said Richard Donnell, research director at UK property platform Zoopla.
As people were forced to transform houses into offices and classrooms, it didn't take long for a "race for space" to take hold.
Wealthier individuals in several countries have fled cities for larger suburban homes with more outdoor space in the anticipation that they won't need to commute into central offices as much even after the pandemic ends.
Many of them are financially in a better position than they were before the pandemic hit, since they've spent less on vacations and eating out, and can therefore spend more on house purchases.
For example, in the United Kingdom, commuter towns within easy reach of London, such as Bishop's Stortford and Winchester, have seen property values surge.
"Anything with a home office within an hour train ride of London is going for 10% above market value," according to Daniel Harrington, international head of growth at upmarket estate agent Fine & Country.
New housing north of Winchester, England. UK house prices surged 8.5% in 2020, the fastest annual growth rate since 2014.
One trend Harrington has observed in capitals such as London and Paris sees wealthy executives trading their centrally located houses for something bigger but cheaper further out of the city, leaving them with enough cash to buy a small apartment downtown and a holiday home elsewhere.
That's heightened domestic demand for property in places such as the French Riviera, which is traditionally dominated by foreign buyers.
In the seaside resort town of Ilfracombe in southwest England, Lee Hussell, the director of estate agency Webbers, has sold two properties in recent months for £100,000 ($139,000) above the asking prices.
"In 38 years of buying and selling homes I haven't witnessed a market like it," commented Henry Pryor, a UK buying agent. "There have been stories of buyers paying £10,000 ($14,100) plus just to be able to view a property."
With inventory levels in the United Kingdom some 30% below the norm, people are "panic-buying properties," Pryor added. Transactions have been tracking above average every month since November, with March notching 180,000 sales, almost double the average for the same month over the past 20 years.
In 38 years of buying and selling homes, I haven't witnessed a market like it."
HENRY PRYOR, BUYING AGENT, UK
"Twelve months ago, people were panic buying toilet paper for fear they might run out. That's very much the sensation we have today [in the housing market]," he said.
House prices in Britain surged 8.5% in 2020 despite the worst recession in more than three centuries. That's the highest annual growth rate since 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics.
And it's not just the United Kingdom. In the United States, the number of sales of existing homes reached the highest level in 2020 since 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors.
House prices rose 9% in 2020 and have continued to climb, with the median price of an existing home hitting a historic high of $329,100 in March.
In one staggering example of how frenzied the market has become, realtor Ellen Coleman received 76 all-cash offers on a $275,000 fixer-upper in suburban Washington D.C. within three days of listing the property. The four-bedroom, 1,800 square-foot home sold for $460,000, a 70% increase on the asking price.
From Auckland to Shanghai, Munich and Miami, house prices appear to be defying gravity.
In Germany, properties are selling within two weeks of being listed and brokers are struggling to secure listings, according to Michael Heming, master licensee for Fine & Country in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. "It's a very strong market and prices are going higher and higher," Heming told CNN Business.
Cascais, Portugal. Prices in the country jumped 6% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the prior year, according to Knight Frank.
In Portugal, foreigners have been snapping up houses despite not being able to view the properties they're buying. Prices there jumped 6% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Knight Frank data.
Despite having no visitors from traditionally strong buyer markets, such as Brazil, Britain, France and Belgium, the first three months of 2021 has already broken sales records, according to Charles Roberts, Fine & Country Portugal's managing partner. "We have sold quite a lot of that blind," Roberts said, adding that foreign buyers want fresh air, open space and a picturesque bolthole to escape to for the next pandemic. "When travel opens up, I think we're in for three months of pandemonium."
He recently sold an apartment in coastal Cascais, just west of Lisbon, for €3.5 million ($4.2 million) to a South African who has never visited the town.
In India, prices have declined following a 6.9% slump in GDP last year, but transactions surged following the end of the first lockdown.
"Covid led to activity coming back into the market," said Hitesh Oberoi, the CEO of Info Edge, which owns India's largest property portal, 99acres.com. "A lot of people want bigger homes," he added. "Many people felt that because the economy was tanking they would get good deals."
Oberoi said that falling interest rates and lower duties on transactions in some parts of the country have also helped, but that the market is slowing down once again as India battles a devastating second wave of the virus.
Governments move to cool markets
In several countries, governments are already looking at ways to prevent their housing markets from overheating.
In New Zealand — where median prices for residential property increased by more than 24% over the year to March to a record high — the government is under pressure to stabilize the market, according to Wendy Alexander, the acting CEO of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.
In March, the government announced a string of measures that they hope will "cool demand from investors" and slow the pace of price growth, Alexander said. For example, tax loopholes have been tightened and ministers are considering clamping down on interest-only loans to speculators.
Houses in Auckland, New Zealand.
In China, where house prices in "tier-1 cities" including Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou rose by 12% on average year-on-year in March, "Beijing is more determined than ever to rein in property leverage," analysts at Societe Generale said in a note last week.
"Over 30 cities, accounting for one-fifth of national sales in 2019, have rolled out major tightening measures," said Michelle Lam, Societe Generale's greater China economist.
"These include buying and selling restrictions, credit restrictions, increasing the holding period for tax exemptions and fixing loopholes via fake divorces," she added. In the past, some couples have filed for divorce to get around caps that limit property ownership for families.
Residential buildings under construction in Shenzhen, China.
But even with greater curbs in place, Societe Generale analysts expect the correction in house prices in China to be modest given that lending conditions will remain favorable and because of sound demand for urban property, limited supply in top-tier cities and persistent interest in property investment.
Banking regulators elsewhere could also tighten mortgage lending rules in order to cool markets, according to Matthias Holzhey, head of Swiss real estate investments at UBS, who points to regulation more broadly as a possible threat to house price growth.
For example, policymakers could increase taxes on land and transactions, particularly as governments seek to repair public finances following the pandemic.
Why the boom is unlikely to bust
But even as governments train their sights on the housing market, analysts are not predicting a house price correction.
Global economic growth is projected to be much stronger this year, as vaccines are rolled out and lockdown restrictions ease, which will be supportive of housing markets.
Crucially, interest rates are expected to remain low. "Historically, periods of weak house prices have been triggered by rising interest rates," said Holzhey.
Rock bottom rates have been a key driver of prices, particularly in the United States and Europe, because they make borrowing more affordable. Mortgage rates across the 19 countries that use the euro averaged just 1.3% in March, according to official statistics.
Even with inflation edging higher, policymakers are expected to keep interest rates low to secure the recovery. They may have to change tack if prices keep rising and hold steady at higher levels, but major central bankers have been at pains to stress they're comfortable to let their economies run hotter than normal if it will help juice growth and create jobs.
"Mortgage rates will remain structurally low and supportive of market growth for the next couple of years," said Adam Challis, Jones Lang LaSalle's executive director for research and strategy across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In other words, don't expect this boom to bust any time soon.
1. Crown Life Building 1500 West Georgia Street By Rhone and Iredale (Peter Cardew) Completed 1977
The Crown Life building is a 20-story glass office tower that still looks as clean and contemporary now as it did when it was built back in the 70s. Its wedge-shaped floor plates and tall slender columns make it a graceful character on the Georgia stretch. The annex retail space across the reflecting pool from the tower was originally intended to act as the base of a pedestrian bridge that would stretch across Georgia Street – unfortunately, that feature of the building never made it to construction. The sloping brick bank along the street side water feature has become an unexpected landmark for skateboard films in the city.
2. Evergreen Building 1285 West Pender Street By Arthur Erickson Completed 1978
Sitting amongst the blue glass towers of Coal Harbour is Arthur Erikson’s Evergreen building. From its most photogenic angle, it is a pyramid of overflowing concrete gardens, the windows of offices just barely peaking through the greenery. The terraced face of the building is cut on a diagonal across the site, ensuring a choice view for tenants towards Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains. Thanks to its fans, the project has managed to resist pressures to convert or demolish the structure to make way for condominiums.
3. Marine Building 355 Burrard Street By McCarter Nairne and Partners Completed 1930
You may recognize the Marine Building as the Daily Planet Headquarters from the popular TV show, Smallville, or you may just know it as that big old Art Deco building on West Hastings. Back when this tower was built, it enjoyed almost a decade of being the tallest building in the British Empire. It may no longer be the tallest but it is definitely the most impressive example of Art Deco architecture in the city and maybe even the country. From the interior fixtures to the carved stone, all of the buildings details showcase marine symbols. I strongly recommend lingering in front of the impressive brass doors of the main entry and admiring the illustrative carvings in the surrounding stonework.
Vancouver Convention Centre West
4. Vancouver Convention Centre West 1055 Canada Place By LMN Architects (Lead Design Architects) MCM Architects and DA Architects + Planners (Local Architects) Completed 2009
I can’t help but mention the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building, when talking about architectural landmarks in the city. The extensive project has been one of the largest projects to take place in the city in the last decade and the city has gained some valuable public space in the process. The green roof unfolds and climbs upwards from Coal Harbour towards Canada Place, peeling back in places to allow for an outdoor program and views towards the North Shore. The sloping glass façade is definitely an impressive addition to Vancouver’s waterfront, especially when experienced from The Seawall along the building’s lower level. I can easily spend a whole afternoon exploring the different kinds of public space created by the Vancouver Convention Centre. Not all of these spaces are necessarily successful but the project is an ambitious one and an important cultural landmark in the city.
5. Jameson House 838 West Hastings Street By Foster + Partners Completed 2004
Vancouver really wouldn’t be the same without Coal Harbour. The glass towers here have become a symbol of our local urban vernacular. It is the kind of place in Vancouver that you would only expect to find a tower designed by the renowned UK firm, Foster + Partners. The Jameson House, with its flamboyant curved glass façade and condominium units worthy of a James Bond scene, is the epitome of high-end living.
Odlum Drive Live/Work Studio
6. Odlum Drive Live/Work Studio 1332 & 1334 Odlum Drive By Peter Cardew Completed 1998
As lots are subdivided in lower density neighborhoods of the city, a narrow and streamlined residential building type is gaining popularity. The most notable examples of this typology are Peter Cardew’s live/work units on East Vancouver’s Odlum drive. Four live/work dwellings – two facing Odlum drive and two facing an interior courtyard – sit shoulder-to-shoulder on a small lot. The project is characterized by vertical concrete block walls and robust seismic bracing on the front face. It is a real gem on a street of old houses and run down industrial buildings. If you are on Commercial Drive, I strongly encourage walking a few blocks west to check this project out.
7. Waterfall Building 1540 West 2nd Avenue By Arthur Erickson with Nick Milkovich Architects Completed 1998
A later and lesser-known Erickson project, the Waterfall Building near Granville Island is a beautiful mixed-use residential project. The building consists of concrete and glass live/work units arranged around a bright courtyard and sky-lit gallery. An opening along West 2nd street provides views of the gallery behind a veil of water and invites those wondering by to enter the central courtyard.
2386 Cornwall Avenue
8. 2386 Cornwall Avenue By Battersby Howat (Designer), Hancock Brückner Eng & Wright Architects (Architect) Completed 2006
Another beautiful residential project I always enjoy passing by is the Battersby + Howat designed four-storey apartment at 2268 Cornwall Ave. Much like Cardew’s Odlum Drive Live/Work Units, this four-unit building maximizes space on a narrow lot with its simple block typology. It’s a refreshingly minimal project with beautiful concrete work wrapping the sides of the building leaving the front and back face fully glazed.
UBC Click on Map to Expand
Making your way out of the downtown core to the University of British Columbia is a bit of a trek, especially if you are already familiar with some of the campus’s landmark buildings like Erickson’s Museum of Anthropolgy or Cardew designed Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. However, if you haven’t been on campus in the last 4 years, I strongly recommend you head out there to check out these projects:
Beaty Biodiversity Centre
9. Beaty Biodiversity Centre 2212 Main Mall, University of British Columbia By Patkau Architects Completed 2009
The Beaty Biodiversity Centre shows a great deal of restraint while still keeping consistent with the Patkau’s famous attention to detail and design rigor. The museum component of the building proudly displays its enormous Blue Whale Skeleton from behind fully glazed walls while the buildings behind host laboratory and research program behind screened facades. Over the years since its completion, the naturalistic landscape has grown in, providing a fantastic contrast to the rawness of the building.
Pharmaceutical Sciences Building
10. Pharmaceutical Sciences Building 2405 Wesbrook Mall By Saucier + Perrotte Architectes and Hughes Condon Marler Architects Completed 2012
This building is unlike anything Vancouver has seen before. Dark, reflective glass and a staggered block façade give this building its high impact aesthetic while still keeping a clean and restrained form. At the base of the building, stunning board formed concrete folds into the building, giving way to an impressive wood-clad lobby.
In the first month of 2021, Metro Vancouver’s* housing market continued the pattern set at the end of last year with home sale activity outpacing the supply of homes listed for sale.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,389 in January 2021, a 52.1 per cent increase from the 1,571 sales recorded in January 2020, and a 22.8 per cent decrease from the 3,093 homes sold in December 2020.
Last month’s sales were 36.4 per cent above the 10-year January sales average.
"With home sale activity well above our January average, the supply of homes for sale isn’t able to keep pace. This is causing increased competition amongst home buyers and upward pressure on prices. "
Colette Gerber, REBGV Chair
There were 4,480 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in January 2021. This represents a 15.7 per cent increase compared to the 3,872 homes listed in January 2020 and an 86 per cent increase compared to December 2020 when 2,409 homes were listed.
The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 8,306, a 3.6 per cent decrease compared to January 2020 (8,617) and a 2.7 per cent decrease compared to December 2020 (8,538).
For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for January 2021 is 28.8 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 26.3 per cent for detached homes, 37.6 per cent for townhomes, and 27.8 per cent for apartments.
Sales-to-active listings ratio - January 2021
Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.
“Shifting housing needs during the pandemic and historically low interest rates have been key drivers of demand in our market over the last six months,” Gerber said. “People who managed to enter the market a few years ago, and have seen their home values increase, are now looking to move up in the market to accommodate their changing needs.”
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,056,600. This represents a 5.5 per cent increase compared to January 2020 and a 0.9 per cent increase compared to December 2020.
Sales of detached homes in January 2021 reached 740, a 68.6 per cent increase from the 439 detached sales recorded in January 2020. The benchmark price of a detached homes is $1,576,800. This represents a 10.8 per cent increase from January 2020 and a 1.4 per cent increase compared to December 2020.
Sales of apartment homes reached 1,195 in January 2021, a 46.8 per cent increase compared to the 814 sales in January 2020. The benchmark price of an apartment home is $680,800. This represents a 2.2 per cent increase from January 2020 and a 0.6 per cent increase compared to December 2020.
Attached home sales in January 2021 totalled 454, a 42.8 per cent increase compared to the 318 sales in January 2020. The benchmark price of an attached home is $815,800. This represents a 4.3 per cent increase from January 2020 and a 0.2 per cent increase compared to December 2020.
*Areas covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver include: Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, South Delta, Squamish, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Whistler.
The gap between the cost of owning and renting intensified in the nation’s major urban markets last year, according to data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
In its 2020 Rental Market Report, the Crown corporation said that in the most severe cases, urban carrying costs are now nearly double that of paying rent.
Toronto, which saw supply growth and lower rental demand for much of 2020, currently lays claim to the nation’s largest cost gap between owning and renting. In its analysis of the CMHC data, Better Dwelling estimated that condo apartment owners in the GTA are paying 86% more to own than rent in a purpose-built building, a rate roughly 60% higher than it was just five years prior.
Among the major drivers of the trend is the dwindling number of a specific cohort that represents a significant fraction of the GTA’s renter households.
“The COVID-19 pandemic all but halted immigration flows to the GTA,” CMHC said in its report. “The closure of international borders lessened the population growth of these two key groups that drive rental demand.”
Another market exhibiting similar symptoms is Vancouver, although at a less frenzied degree. Better Dwelling estimated that the Greater Vancouver Area’s condo apartment owners are paying 54.38% more to own than rent – down from the record high of 84.12% in 2018, and in line with the decade-low level of 53% seen in 2016.
“While the pace of rent increase slowed, lower mortgage interest rates helped offset an increase in carrying costs due to higher condominium prices,” CMHC reported. “However, entry-level home prices continue to remain high relative to local incomes, resulting in many potential home buyers facing financial barriers to entry into home ownership. Some potential homebuyers may therefore choose to rent longer term, contributing to high baseline rental demand.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Edmonton, at a mere 7.03%, currently has the smallest cost gap of all Canada’s major urban markets. The current figure is a significant improvement when compared to the oil-driven peak of 32.49% seen in 2013.
The B.C. Real Estate Association predicts a 15.6 percent increase in home sales in 2021 over the previous year.
A new housing forecast by the B.C. Real Estate Association lays out rosy prospects for average home prices in the Lower Mainland.
The region serviced by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, and Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board may see average prices in 2021 surpass levels set in the previous year.
In its first quarter housing forecast, the BCREA predicts that average home price in REBGV areas is forecast to rise to $1,120,000 this year.
The figure represents a five percent improvement over the average price of $1,066,199 in 2020.
The BCREA also anticipates that the market served by the FVREB will mark a higher rate of increase of nine percent in 2021.
This means that average home prices in the Fraser Valley may reach $900,000 compared to $826,005 in 2020.
Over in the Chilliwack area, the BCREA anticipates that average home price will increase to $620,000 in 2021.
This marks a 7.4 percent improvement over $577,430 in the previous year.
Overall, across the province, the average price of a B.C. home is forecast to rise 7.7 percent in 2021 over 2020.
In a media release Monday (January 25), BCREA chief economist Brendon Ogmundson said that the province’s “strong economic recovery and record-low mortgage rates will continue to drive strong demand”.
“After an unprecedented and often surprising performance in 2020, the provincial housing market is set up for a very strong year in 2021,” Ogmundson said.
Also, home sales are expected to increase to 108,680 units in 2021, representing a 15.6 percent jump over 94,021 sales in 2020.
Canada’s two largest metro areas have recorded their largest-ever outflow of residents according to new data from Statistics Canada, as a growing number of residents headed for the suburbs or nearby smaller cities.
The Toronto metropolitan area saw a net loss of 50,375 residents to other parts of Ontario between July 2019 and July 2020, while the Montreal area lost a net 24,880 people to other parts of Quebec. In Vancouver, 12,189 more residents moved out to other parts of B.C. than moved in, among the highest numbers ever recorded.
The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded about mid-way through this period.
Thanks to immigration, the largest metro areas still recorded overall population growth during this period, but they grew far less quickly than many smaller nearby places.
Vancouver’s 1.1-per-cent population growth was outdone by suburban New Westminster (2.8 per cent), while Montreal’s 0.7 per cent growth paled in comparison to nearby Mirabel, growing 3.6 per cent.
It’s not surprising that the pandemic accelerated the exodus from big cities, but the trend began well before that, said Frank Clayton, an urban and real estate economist at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development in Toronto.
“There’s been an outflow of Toronto for years as people move out for something bigger,” he told HuffPost Canada.
With the pandemic, “people accelerated the decision a bit,” he added.
Millennials are settling down and having children, and they are following the Baby Boomers in an exodus for more affordable and larger houses in suburbia, Clayton said.
“Millennials’ behaviour is not exactly but pretty much like Boomers, except they’re doing it 10 years later (in life),” Clayton said.
But these days, with so many people working from home, millennials have the option to move farther out than the suburbs, to more affordable nearby cities.
Hence the booming populations and housing markets in places like Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo and Guelph, near Toronto, and Abbotsford and Kelowna, not far from Vancouver.
While rental rates are tumbling in the large cities, many of these smaller centres are seeing soaring housing costs. Asking rates for one-bedroom apartments in Toronto dropped 20.9 per cent over the past year, according to rental site Padmapper, but rose by 8.5 per cent in both Hamilton, west of Toronto, and Oshawa, east of Toronto.
One-bedroom rents are down 9.3 per cent in Vancouver, but up a staggering 26.9 per cent in Abbotsford, and 8.9 per cent in Kelowna.
“Demand for housing from the prime home buying group is for lower density housing like single-detached or at least townhouses,” Clayton said. “We’re not increasing the supply of that in Toronto.”
The work-from-home phenomenon also has many businesses reconsidering the high price of downtown real estate. The office vacancy in Canada’s downtown cores has shot up by some 40 per cent over the past year, to 13 per cent, the highest level in 16 years, according to data from commercial real estate agency CBRE.
Clayton believes some of these businesses leaving the core may choose to open small “satellite offices” outside the major urban areas, that would allow employees to avoid long commutes into downtown.
For instance, someone in southwest Ontario, in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo or London, might drive to a satellite office in Milton or Mississauga a few times a week, avoiding the drive into Toronto.
But all this doesn’t necessarily mean the fight against urban sprawl is lost. There are ways to develop growing cities in a more sustainable way, Clayton argues, including a focus on the “missing middle” of housing ― everything in between sprawling suburban homes and tiny condos in high-rise towers.
In that, Clayton has allies in the real estate industry, where many have called for a focus on development of larger apartment units, townhouses and stacked townhomes, as a way of reducing the demand for detached homes.
But with Canada likely to return to high immigration levels once the pandemic is over, cities will have to keep finding space for development, Clayton said.
“You’ve got to have a combination of growing up and growing out. The planners think they can just limit it to growing up. That’s not going to happen.”
Home sale and listing resurgence extends into the fall
Home sale and new listing activity remained at near record levels across Metro Vancouver in October.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 3,687 in October 2020, a 29 per cent increase from the 2,858 sales recorded in October 2019, and a 1.2 per cent increase from the 3,643 homes sold in September 2020.
Last month’s sales were 34.7 per cent above the 10-year October sales average and stands as the second-highest total on record for the month.
“Home has been a focus for residents during the pandemic. With more days and evenings spent at home this year, people are re-thinking their housing situation," Colette Gerber, REBGV Chair said. “Throughout this period, REALTORS® have been working to understand and adapt to the latest safety protocols so that they can continue to help the public meet their housing needs in a safe and responsible way.”
There were 5,571 detached, attached and apartment homes newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in October 2020. This represents a 36.7 per cent increase compared to the 4,074 homes listed in October 2019 and a 13 per cent decrease compared to September 2020 when 6,402 homes were listed.
The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 12,416, a 1.5 per cent increase compared to October 2019 (12,236) and a 5.2 per cent decrease compared to September 2020 (13,096).
“With demand on the rise, homes priced right for today’s market are receiving attention and, at times, garnering multiple offers," Gerber said. "To understand the market conditions in your neighbourhood and property type of choice, work with your local REALTOR® to assess the latest MLS® housing market information."
For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for October 2020 is 29.7 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 30.9 per cent for detached homes, 43.5 per cent for townhomes, and 24.9 per cent for apartments.
Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,045,100. This represents a six per cent increase over October 2019 and a 0.4 per cent increase compared to September 2020.
Sales of detached homes in October 2020 reached 1,335, a 42.3 per cent increase from the 938 detached sales recorded in October 2019. The benchmark price for a detached home is $1,523,800. This represents an 8.5 per cent increase from October 2019 and a 1.1 per cent increase compared to September 2020.
Sales of apartment homes reached 1,570 in October 2020, a 13.4 per cent increase compared to the 1,384 sales in October 2019. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $683,500. This represents a 4.4 per cent increase from October 2019 and is unchanged compared to September 2020.
Attached home sales in October 2020 totalled 782, a 45.9 per cent increase compared to the 536 sales in October 2019. The benchmark price of an attached home is $813,000. This represents a 5.4 per cent increase from October 2019 and a 0.4 per cent increase compared to September 2020.
RBC Economics reported on October 15 that condo prices have “stagnated over the past six months”.
Previous to this, the bank’s economics section on September 30 predicted that condo prices could “weaken in larger markets next year”.
Another thing is happening as well with the condo market in Canada.
In its latest housing report, RBC Economics noted that the real-estate market is awashed with condo supply.
According to economist Robert Hogue, "condo investors are looking to sell”.
“As rents soften and vacancies rise, condo listings are spiking in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver—albeit from low levels,” Hogue reported on Thursday (October 29).
In the City of Toronto, condo listings in September 2020 increased 133.9 percent compared to supply in the same month last year.
For the rest of the Greater Toronto area, condo listings last month posted year-over-year growth of 81.5 percent.
In the island of Montreal, listings rose 41.4 percent in September compared to the same month in 2019.
However, for the rest of the Greater Montreal area, listings declined 32.8 percent year-over-year.
In Greater Vancouver, listings of condo properties rose 20.9 percent in September 2020 compared to the same month last year.
In contrast, listings for detached homes in all Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver metropolitan regions decreased year-over-year in September.
“New, stricter regulations in Toronto are adding to the impulse to sell – at a time when new condo completions are bringing more units to the Toronto and Vancouver markets,” Hogue noted in his October 29 report.
Hogue’s report covered in broad strokes how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the Canadian housing market.
“Rural and suburban areas that once lagged desirable city addresses are now roaring hot as homebuyers wearied by lockdowns seek bigger yards and larger living spaces,” Hogue wrote.
Meanwhile, “Tight downtown condo markets that previously commanded expensive rents are now thick with supply.”
Hogue also stated that “rent is now declining in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, especially in higher density, downtown locations”.
“Underlying the shift,” according to the bank economist is a “surge in rental supply as the short-term rental business dries up and new purpose-built rental and condo units are completed”.
As well, “Big-city living has lost some of its luster with social distancing measures severely restricting cultural life and socializing opportunities.”
“Meantime, affordability issues are driving many Canadians further afield into smaller towns and cottage country, where larger living spaces are available,” Hogue wrote.
But the price of buying a home? Well, some things stay the same.
"There is a little bit of disconnect right now," said Central 1 deputy chief economist Bryan Yu.
Even with unemployment in B.C. at 13 per cent and a forecast GDP reduction of 7.8 per cent this year, the benchmark price of a property in Greater Vancouver has essentially remained constant — going from $1.02 million in February to $1.03 million in May.
While there's evidence on sites like Craigslist that the price of rentals has dropped in the last three months, Yu said that the ownership market has stayed static and could even see a slight uptick when official numbers are released next week for June.
He believes one key reason is that people most impacted by the economic downturn weren't players in Vancouver's housing market to begin with.
"Whether it's the accommodation sector or restaurant services ... the economic impact has predominantly hit the lower end of the income spectrum," said Yu.
"For higher income individuals still in the market, it's likely they were still in the market. They were able to work or stay at home, in some cases able to save money."
Troubles on horizon?
At the same time, Yu said Vancouver's real estate sector couldn't stay impervious to COVID-19 forever.
"As we move forward into the fall, there's going to be a little more pressure," he said, adding that lower immigration would also have an affect.
"The economy itself is not strong. It's going to be quite weak as we go forward."
On Monday, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released a housing outlook, forecasting the lower range for the average home price in Metro Vancouver would fall from $892,790 in 2020 to $809,215 by 2022.
"Average house prices will decline with weaker household budgets and the uncertain nature of the economic reopening," wrote CHMC senior analyst Braden Batch and senior specialist Eric Bond.
However, they also said Vancouver's "ownership markets are less exposed" to COVID-19, compared to the rental market.
"Real estate buyers tend to be older than renters. Therefore, they are less likely to have lost their employment as a result of the economic shutdown," they wrote.
The provincial government announced a host of housing policies in 2018 and 2019 — and have put in emergency COVID-19 measures to help protect renters — they have no immediate intention to make further changes.
Finance Minister Carole James says the government will be closely monitoring the situation.
"We're going to watch the housing market," said James.
"With COVID, there have been mixed results … but still a great challenge, so we're continuing on with our measures, and not letting up from making sure we look at affordable housing for people."
As COVID-19 dramatically slowed down public hearings and new staff reports, municipalities saw their housing plans effectively frozen, but that is beginning to change. The City of Vancouver is considering a new policy that would create rental tenure zoning in arterial streets across the city, in exchange for six-storey buildings for stratas, instead of the current four.
A public hearing is expected in July, and Housing Minister Selina Robinson is excited by the development.
"Local governments have been cautious, but we're starting to see more pick up," she said.
"During COVID, things changed in terms of acting on new things, but I'm really pleased to see the activity pick up. It means that local governments recognize we still need to be recognizing housing affordability."
The coronavirus pandemic has swept through the country, from the east coast to west coast. As a result, the real estate market has seen significant lows but has also showed encouraging signs of recovery following improving market conditions.
Overall, the Canadian housing market outlook is experiencing promising activity due to pent-up demand and low inventory in the market. These trends are evident in the Vancouver real estate market as well. The city, which was experiencing a tremendous amount of activity at the years start, is now ramping up once again.
Here’s a look at the road to recovery for the Vancouver real estate market:
The Vancouver Real Estate Market: Early in the Pandemic
The state of the Vancouver real estate market early in the pandemic, like other markets in the county, was troubling. During the months of March and April, Vancouver was experiencing plummeting home sales. This trend continued into May, where home sales were 54.4 per cent lower than the 10-year sales average for that month.
It was evident that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, individuals had put their homebuying plans on hold. The typically busy spring homebuying season was nowhere in sight. For those willing to (or obligated to) participate in the market, realtors were able to guide them safely through the process, embracing tools such as virtual tours and e-signatures.
Yet, by late Spring and early Summer, activity had bounced back in this city. Buyers were eager to get back into the market after being cooped up in their homes.
In June, Vancouver experienced year over year highs for home sales. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) noted that listing activity outpaced historical averages.
This positive market activity continued and by August 2020 there were 5,813 new listed detached, attached and apartment properties for sale in Metro Vancouver. This represents a 55.1 per cent increase compared to the 3,747 homes listed in August 2019. Meanwhile, in August home sales across Vancouver showed a 36.6 per cent increase from 2019.
Vancouver Condo Market
During the early months of the pandemic Vancouver condo prices expectedly dipped. Yet, by June condo listings began to climb which pointed to renewed confidence from sellers. There was also matched demand from homebuyers who were eager to re-renter the market to purchase a condo in the Vancouver market.
Condo sales were experiencing year over year highs during these summer months. Throughout July and August, condo prices were also on an upward trend with year over year highs. In August, the benchmark price of an apartment property was a whopping $685,800.
Vancouver Condo Market
Single-family homes in Vancouver were experiencing greater jumps than condos or townhomes. Due to the coronavirus, real estate trends are notably shifting; after being confined to their homes for months, the preference for more spacious homes or lots is growing.
In August, the median price of a detached home was $1,491,300. Meanwhile, the benchmark price of an attached home is $806,400. Both are year-over-year highs, demonstrating that there continues to be demand in this segment of the real estate market despite uncertainties.
There are a variety of factors that have helped boost recovery of the Vancouver real estate market.
Firstly, the Bank of Canada dropped the benchmark interest rate to 0.25% in order to stimulate the economy. This is the lowest the rate has ever been and may have ignited the desire for Canadians to purchase homes despite challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
This lowered interest rate can allow people to secure larger mortgages at a lower cost, ultimately allowing them to widen their home search and access more of the amenities they may prefer in a Vancouver home.
Another factor contributing to the market upswing is the increased confidence in public health measures, causing more people to venture outside of their homes. As the province entered stage three this summer, Vancouver businesses that had previously laid off employees or reduced salaries due to a slowdown in business, started hiring again and increasing salaries to meet demand. This economic resurgence has renewed people’s financial power, giving them the confidence to enter the real estate market and make a home purchase.
Lastly, limited supply in the Vancouver market is also contributing to increased competition in the market. With pent-up demand, many are eager to secure a home, igniting bidding wars across the city.
Yet, uncertainties related to the coronavirus means the real estate market could change once again in the fall. With flu season returning, fears of a second wave of the virus could be heightened, leading to a decrease in activity. This makes it challenging to predict what will happen to the market in the fall season.
The Vancouver real estate market is a popular market to purchase a home in. Even though the coronavirus affected this urban market early on, with increased confidence and improving market conditions, Vancouver is well on the road to recovery.
The B.C. government says it’s taking the first steps to address concerns about sky-high costs and the availability of insurance for condos that have seen premiums rise by as much as 50 per cent.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson introduced legislation Tuesday that proposes to amend the Strata Property and the Financial Institutions acts to bring more transparency to the insurance market and give property owners more tools to deal with the challenges they face.
“This is an issue that has been growing for a number of months and it’s one that is being felt in communities across the province, and in fact around the world,” Robinson said at a news conference. “We do absolutely understand the difficulty that people living in stratas are facing when dealing with significant increases in insurance costs or in some cases not being able to find insurance at all.”
A government-commissioned report released last week by the B.C. Financial Services Authority said the insurance market isn’t healthy for about 1.5 million people living in condos, townhouses and other similar properties in the province.
The interim report said B.C.’s earthquake risk and insurance losses over the past three years from numerous minor claims due to poor building maintenance are among the reasons for the higher costs. It also found strata insurance has been used to fill gaps left by new home warranties and maintenance programs for older buildings.
Authority vice-president Frank Chong said last week the independent regulatory agency didn’t see immediate relief for the problems facing condo councils.
Robinson said the legislation would bring balance back to the insurance market by, among other things, ending the practice of insurance brokers paying referral fees to property managers, setting clear guidelines on insurance requirements for condo councils and strengthening depreciation reporting requirements.
Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Homeowners Association, said he supported the proposed changes, saying they will result in more competition and lower fees.
“The disclosure of fees and commissions and the end of undisclosed commissions to third-party brokerages will certainly affect the outcomes,” said Gioventu, who participated in the government’s news conference. “The transparency of fees and commissions that are collected or earned by the insurance brokerages will also provide a high level of transparency on the industry, which will enable competition, which will be beneficial to the public.”
Finance Minister Carole James said the insurance industry is a private marketplace, but ending referral charges and disclosing commissions would increase competition and could lead to lower rates.
“We have heard that commissions could have been up to, it’s been reported, up to 20 per cent of the cost,” said James. “That’s a very large amount that is going into commission fees, so by disclosing that we believe that will help create some competition and help address some of the challenges.”
In a statement, the executive director of the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C. said the changes “will be critical foundation pieces” in finding a solution.
“These are the first steps necessary to stabilize the strata insurance market in the province,” said Chuck Byrne.
Opposition housing critic Todd Stone called the government’s legislation overdue, but criticized it for failing to provide relief for thousands of people hit hard by rising strata insurance costs.
“Now, the government has put forward a bill that provides zero financial relief to condo and townhome owners who desperately need it,” he said in a statement. “We’ve heard horror stories of British Columbians facing significant financial stress and anxiety as a result of being hit with huge increases in their monthly strata fees and one-time special assessments in the thousands of dollars, and yet the government’s bill does nothing to keep money in their pockets.”
The Financial Services Authority is meeting with those affected by the higher premiums, including condo owners and insurance industry officials, throughout the summer to prepare a final report to submit to the government this fall.
“Over the past 10 years, Vancouver has placed a strong emphasis on development that supports walkability. Many of the new developments are focused on areas that are close to transit—specifically our monorail system."
Downtown Vancouver Waterfront, and Lifestyle on June 25 , 2011 in Vancouver has prominent buildings in a variety of styles by many famous architects. / Shutterstock
While Vancouver was recently ranked the most congested city in Canada, a new ranking finds that the coastal city is quite comfortable on foot.
According to a new ranking from Redfin, a technology-powered real estate brokerage, Vancouver is the most walkable city in Canada.
The ranking is based off of data from Walk Score®, a Redfin company that rates the walkability of cities, neighborhoods and addresses. Cities where daily errands do not require a car score 90 points and above, a score of 70 to 89 points means most errands can be accomplished on foot and a score of 50 to 69 indicates that some errands can be completed on foot.
Vancouver was given a walk score of 80, or very walkable, with report authors noting that the city has, "a lively downtown, terrific neighbourhoods, easily accessible natural playgrounds all year round, and a thriving economy."
In Vancouver, however, well-built properties in walkable areas often cost a pretty penny.
“Over the past 10 years, Vancouver has placed a strong emphasis on development that supports walkability. Many of the new developments are focused on areas that are close to transit—specifically our monorail system,” said Brooks Findlay, Redfin Vancouver market manager.
“The city itself has also been very focused on building new walking and bike paths, allowing for a green commute and discouraging single-driver vehicles. Many young professionals in Vancouver don’t even consider owning a car. Developers have created mini villages in high-traffic areas, meaning you don’t have to travel more than five or six blocks to get anything you need.”
Toronto, with a Walk Score of 61, also made it into the top three.
“A lot of Toronto is connected underground, so when it gets cold in the winter, there are still ways to get around. Then there’s the boardwalk, which allows people to walk across much of the city right on the waterfront,” Redfin Toronto market manager Blair Anderson said.
“One thing people don’t always realize about Toronto is that there are lots of nature walks and trails right in the city. If it was just a concrete jungle, people wouldn’t be so inclined to walk places, but since it’s so beautiful, walking is appealing. Plus, city traffic is less than desirable these days, so being able to get around on foot is very advantageous.”
The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.