by Mathieu Powell
Last week, the Bank of Canada reviewed the financial system and downplayed fears that the Canadian economy was in serious jeopardy from a potential real estate market correction.
We are NOT going to suffer a U.S.-style melt-down. If a big drop in home prices were to occur in the Vancouver and Toronto regions, (which Is unlikely), it wouldn't drag the rest of the country down with it. As the Bank of Canada sees it, a full-on bust in the Toronto and Vancouver regions would have only “modest direct spillovers to housing markets in the rest of the country.”
Most experts do not see anything like a full bust coming, albeit sensationalist reporting from, for example, CTV news quoting David Mandani, senior Canadian economist of Capital Economics on Monday continues to scare home owners who haven’t done their research.
In the interview, Mandini stated, "I see a correction between 20-40 per cent in the Canadian housing market in five years," He suggests “there will be a slight dip in Toronto housing prices before the end of the year, but that's all it will take to scare many homeowners into cashing out of the market.”
His proof? The latest housing data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Toronto Real Estate Board. He says the ratio of sales to new home listings is falling, which would indicate that a large decline in prices is on the way.
I’m no economist, but a little common-sense thinking demonstrates why his predictions are very unlikely. A normal family is not going to be scared into selling their homes as Mandini suggests. Rather, they are going to take on the “hunker down and weather the storm” attitude, simply because selling their current home would mean they then need to buy a new home. Uprooting your family to move is a big undertaking!
A more likely scenario is many families will decide to access their home’s equity to increase their family’s financial liquidity while the opportunity exists. That will lead to a big bump up in household debt coming by Q2, and a short-term increase in economic consumption through Q3 and Q4.
There may very well be a “soft” landing for real estate prices in Vancouver and Toronto, which will have a cooling effect on provincial economies in British Columbia and Ontario as home owners who remortgaged to sustain their current lifestyle find the “bank of house” drying up, coupled with the decline in consumption related to home purchases like furniture and appliances.
The central bank’s financial review detailed concerns over household debt and the housing markets, but allayed fears that a U.S.-style meltdown and broader Canadian crisis is part of the equation. They believe Ontario’s recent measures - the 15-per-cent tax on foreign purchases to tame the scorching-hot housing market in and around Toronto - should ease the risk. (But remember, Vancouver is now on the rebound after slumping in the immediate aftermath of B.C.’s implementation of a tax on foreign purchases).
In their list of threats and vulnerabilities, a moderate risk for B.C. and Ontario includes “the fall in house prices leading to negative wealth and collateral effects, which further weigh on consumption spending,” but Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Nesbitt Burns feels the overall finances of Canadians are nonetheless in decent shape.
“Admittedly, households are vulnerable to higher rates, but it doesn’t look like big rate increases are coming any time soon,” he says.
the Canadian Real Estate Association releases its May report on sales and prices, BMO expects the report to show home sales down 5.5 per cent from a year earlier, and average prices up 6.5 per cent.
There’s no doubt Canadian families’ fortunes are closely tied to their homes. Watch for Statistics Canada quarterly report on household debt and wealth later today which, among other things, measures household debt to disposable income. It will be released later today.