Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Friday Free-for-all!

Friday, December 19th, 2014

It’s that time of the week again…

Friday free-for-all time!

This is our regular end of the week news roundup and open topic discussion thread for the weekend.

Here are a few recent links to kick off the chat:

-Sceptical of CMHC data?
-Langley Condos at 2006 prices
-Canadas random success story
-A bubble in renters?
-Market peak
-Oil prices on housing a ‘wild card’

So what are you seeing out there? Post your news links, thoughts and anecdotes here and have an excellent weekend!

As oil, so goes Real Estate?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Over at the CBC Don Pittis notes that what goes up can also go down.

Specifically, he notes that in the oil market there were a number of ‘experts’ with access to detailed data and analysis, yet seemed to be as surprised as anyone at the drop in oil prices.

Canadas housing market is of course a completely different beast, and we don’t really lack for ‘experts’ noting that prices are a bit out of sync with reality.  When the Finance Minister speaks up and the Bank of Canada estimates that real estate is as much as 30% overpriced nationwide that’s not exactly ‘without warning’.

Pittis notes another key difference between oil and housing is of course the liquidity of the market:

This is one example of how housing is different from oil. While oil trades on big, well-informed central trading desks by large corporations, housing is a market made of individual, many of whom have only bought and sold a house once in their life.

Partly because of that, housing is an illiquid market. Unlike stocks or oil, you can’t just sell a house at today’s price and get out. You have to go through the long process of finding another individual who wants to buy your exact house at a price at which you are willing to sell.

In previous housing downturns that has meant a stock of overpriced houses builds up because buyers are unwilling to pay the price sellers expect.

At that point, prices in the market are set by people who have to sell immediately and will take the price offered. Sudden divorces. A new job across the country. A death in family. People who can’t afford to keep up their payments. Overpriced properties waiting for their price actually fall in value while the seller waits.

Read the full article here.

Subprime lending in Canada ‘rockets’ to record high

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

It’s a been a while since CMHC mortgage lending rules have been ramped back to more historical levels.

After dabbling in American style 40 year zero down mortgages we decided that might not be the best idea. Unfortunately we never did get the American style locked in interest rate for the full duration of the loan.

So now we’re back to 25 year terms and it’s more difficult to get a loan if you’re self employed.  A lot of loan applications that would have been approved a year or two ago are now being rejected.

So what affect has this had on the market so far?

Well apparently the sub-prime lending market in Canada has rocketed to a record level for one.

Capital Corp is a non-bank lender that has been operating since 1988. Their chief executive Eli Dadouch says there’s a lot of money out there for non-bank loans to higher risk borrowers.

He said there is no question it’s the top of the real estate cycle, so anybody lending out money has to be more careful today.

“People always want to deal with a bank, it’s the cheapest form of money,” he said. “When they come to us and people like us, it is because there is some type of story [behind why they can’t get credit]. It’s easy  to lend money, the talent in this business is getting it back.”

Read the full article in the Financial Post.

 

CMHC cutting jobs, laying off employees

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Joining in that venerable tradition of holiday season layoffs, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has announced that it is cutting 215 jobs which is close to 10% of it’s workforce.

But of course this is government, so they will also be adding jobs, resulting in only a small net loss of positions:

The federal agency said Friday the employees have been declared surplus and will see their jobs disappear at both CMHC’s head office in Ottawa and its regional operations.

However, CMHC says it is adding to its staff in risk management and information technology, so the organization will only see a “small net reduction” in its overall staffing levels.

Read the full article here.

Does the Bank of Canada Think Real Estate Buyers are Suckers?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Some of you are under the impression that Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz does nothing but sit around all day eating Doritos and watching The West Wing on Netflix, but you are sadly mistaken.

He also issues reports that freak out Realtors.

Consumer debt loads and house prices that could be as much as 30 per cent overvalued are the two biggest risks to Canada’s economy, the Bank of Canada warned in its semi-annual Financial System Review on Wednesday.

Yeah, but “up to 30 percent” includes zero percent over-valued too you know? Surely not everyone is overpaying for Canadian real estate.

The bank says it’s about 95 per cent sure that house prices have been overvalued by an average of about 10 per cent since 2007. That’s based on a new forecasting model the bank says it created, which incorporates existing data from private banks and other government institutions.

Huh. 95% Sure? really? I bet it’s all a’cause of those wealthy foreigners right?

And a lot of those inflated house prices are coming at a cost of rising debt loads. About 12 per cent of Canadian households are considered to be extremely indebted — which means they have a debt-to-income ratio of at least 250 per cent. That ratio has doubled since 2000, the report notes.

Oh.

But that’s ok because younger buyers are building equity right?

Young homeowners, the bank added, have become even more vulnerable to negative shocks to income and to higher interest rates.

Wow. What a buzzkill.

*For those who followed the foreigner link we would like to offer our sincerest apologies.  If you are a glutton for punishment, here’s a video of our prime minister singing Guns n’ Roses “Sweet Child o’ Mine“. If you watch the whole thing you earn a cookie! If you cut it off at 3:33 you have to go to work at a Tim Hortons in Fort Mac. You have been warned.

 

New Record $1.513 TRILLION in Canadian consumer debt

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Just how fat can this debt pig get before it’s stomach explodes?

You thought this nation had impressive debt levels before? It’s now topped One and half trillion dollars and an astounding 65% of that is mortgage debt.

In one report, Equifax Canada said that “Canadian consumers have yet again tipped the scales setting a new benchmark of over $1.513-trillion in debt.”

That third-quarter figure marked an increase from $1.448-trillion in the second quarter and $1.409-trillion a year earlier, according to Equifax, whose numbers are based on more than 25 million unique consumer files.

Excluding mortgages, average debt held by Canadians has increased 2.7 per cent to $20,891.

The good news is that 27% of Canadians apparently don’t believe that a mortgage is debt, so we shouldn’t really even count that part.

CBC discovers the fun of ‘Compare and Despair’

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

We’ve played this game before.

When you compare what you get in Vancouver for your housing dollar vs. some other locations you get some interesting comparisons.

The CBC has an article looking at the cheapest houses in Vancouver and how they compare to some US locations.

A new CMHC report says Canadian home prices are moderately overvalued in some cities, but Vancouver is labelled as low risk by the Crown corporation in its latest housing market assessment.

One measure used by economists is the amount of income earned by the average family compared to house prices. By those standards, prices in Vancouver are some of the most expensive in the world.

See their gallery here.

House prices up across Canada

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

The 45 basis point reduction in interest rates at the start of the year has done wonders for real estate in Canada.

The average house price is up 7% and Calgary prices have gone up by nearly double the national rate.

With the October numbers by CREA, the average Canadian home has never been worth more than it is now.

In volume terms, the actual number of homes sold rose by the same amount — seven per cent. “This marks the sixth consecutive month of stronger resale housing activity compared to a quiet start to the year, and the strongest activity for the month of October since 2009,” CREA said in a release.

October isn’t typically one of the strongest months for home buying, as activity tends to be strongest in the spring and summer.

TD Bank said in a note to clients after the CREA numbers were released that in sales terms, the housing market is hotter than it normally is this time of year.

Of course most of these gains are driven by the three cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

Will wonders ever cease or this the economic miracle that keeps on giving?

Hold cash or leverage up?

Monday, November 10th, 2014

This article in the Globe and Mail asks ‘where is the smart money going‘?

Is a drop in oil prices good for the Canadian economy? Will interest rates stay low forever? Nobody knows, but that doesn’t keep us from asking.

Today’s situation amounts to a near total inversion of the markets of a generation ago. “If you look back to, say, 1981, stocks, bonds and real estate were all cheap,” says Jim Giles, chief investment officer at Foresters, a Toronto-based financial services provider with more than $20-billion in assets under management. “Now, the exact opposite is true.”

For investors, this poses a daunting challenge: What do you buy when there’s nothing left to buy – or at least nothing that appears to be a bargain?

For somepeople cash is trash, for others it’s king:

Tim McElvaine, one of Canada’s best-known value investors, has a similar viewpoint. The head of McElvaine Investment Management Ltd. in Victoria is holding about 25 per cent of his fund’s assets in cash, considerably higher than the normal level, as he awaits buying opportunities.

“People will tell you they don’t want to hold cash because it doesn’t yield anything,” he said in an interview. “But the real value of cash is its ability to buy things when prices become attractive.”

Among the reasons to worry about today’s market is that near-zero interest rates have failed to spark any widespread global recovery. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development trimmed its global growth forecast this week to 3.3 per cent for this year, reflecting the euro zone’s continuing woes and a slowing Chinese economy.

Read the full article here.

Poloz: higher rates for housing a bad idea

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz says it’s a ‘bad idea‘ to raise interest rates to combat imbalances in housing and consumer debt as that would only hurt manufacturers and the general economy.

“Housing activity is showing renewed momentum and consumer debt levels are high, so household imbalances appear to be edging higher,” he said. “But it is our judgment that our policy of aiming to close the output gap and ensuring inflation remains on target will be consistent with an eventual easing in those household imbalances.”

Changes in Canada’s population justify growth in the housing market, and Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are the only three cities showing signs of overbuilding, Poloz said at a press conference.

Canada’s dollar extended declines after the speech and as crude oil, one of the nation’s main exports, fell below $80 a barrel. The currency fell 0.9 percent to C$1.1357 against the U.S. dollar at 3:15 p.m. in Toronto.

It may be just a crazy idea, but if the government actually wanted to do something about house prices and consumer debt, wouldn’t eliminating mortgage insurance do that without any change in rates?

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