Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

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?

Should banks take on more risk?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

There’s an article over at the CBC on the CMHC and CEO Evan Siddall.

Mr. Siddall is of the opinion that the CMHC should not be privatized as it acted as a ‘shock absorber’ during the last correction, but does think the banks should take on a share of the risk for insured mortgages.

“That ultimately will be a decision for government to make and we’re in the process of looking at different options that will take a few years to evaluate, but the idea is that people should have skin in the game,”

“In the insured mortgage businesses, the banks offload all that risk to the government through CMHC, The government’s interested in taking a reduced role in the housing market … so we’ll look at different ways to share risks with lenders.

What do you think, should the CMHC force banks to take on more responsibility for the insured loans they hand out or would the banks just use that as an excuse to charge more?

Read the full article here.

Moving up in Vancouver Real Estate? Not so much…

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

CIBC World Markets has released research that looks behind the average price moves in Canadian real estate. How are prices moving in Vancouver?

Astonishingly enough it looks like properties under the $1.1 million mark have moved less than a GIC in the last four years.  Here’s a graph from the original PDF:

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.50.16 PM

 

That boggles the mind. Even Toronto which has prices going up at the high end looks like its been a much better investment at the lower and middle end:

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 2.38.45 PM

 

So essentially that idea you have in your mind that Vancouver real estate has been a good investment over the last four years with prices just rising and rising? Not so much.

Well, that must be the top then.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Over the weekend we found out that a bearish poster on this site just bought a house.  Not in Vancouver mind you, but still..

What went wrong? Landlord wanted to move back in. Now if it was just me I would have rented another place, but as it isn’t just me I decided to see if I could make buying work.

Had to look outside my old neighbourhood, but I found a house on a big lot, price $330,000. Taxes about $3000/year, rental value about $1750/month. Great deal? No. But one I can live with. There might be some downside on the price going forward, but what matters to me is value, i.e. ownership costs versus rent, not expectation of price changes going forward.

And in that same thread we found out that a bullish poster sold his house and is now renting.

In all sincerity, when a voracious bear purchases, it may signal a top. Market trends often reverse at points like this.

To let you guys in on a secret, yours truly is no longer a home owner. I rent. I do have other real estate interests though.

So are these signals of a market top or what?

 

Harper: No Bubble in Canada

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Getting tired of the word ‘bubble’ yet?

With all the news stories and predictions of an Canadian real estate market crash, it’s time for the leader of this great nation to chime in with his opinion:

…Harper told a New York business audience that he did not anticipate a housing crisis in Canada, and that that there was no comparison between the Canadian housing market now and the U.S. market before the crash of 2008.

He said only  small percentage of Canadian households would be vulnerable to interest rate hikes or a downturn in prices.

On the flipside of the argument is a securities analyst with a book to sell and a negative message:

In an interview published in the Globe and Mail today, MacBeth predicts a serious crash in house prices as soon as this coming spring, and advises people with large mortgages to sell, and rent.. His book, When the Bubble Bursts, forecasts a drop of up to 50 per cent in housing prices.

Read the full article here.

CMHC considers sharing risk with banks

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

The CEO of the CMHC is saying that although some Canadian house prices are certainly too high, they aren’t worried about a market collapse at this point.

One option they are considering as a way to help cool an overheated market is sharing mortgage loan risk with the banks that are handing out loans.

The mortgage insurance that CMHC and its two competitors sell repays banks when consumers default on their mortgages. At the moment it makes the banks whole. The OECD has called for changes to the system to ensure that lenders take on more of the risk. In other countries with mortgage insurance, the product tends to only cover 10 to 30 per cent of the losses. In his speech, Mr. Siddall said that CMHC is evaluating “risk-sharing with lenders to further confront moral hazard” and is advising the government about its thoughts.

Read the full article here.

Hat-tip to southseacompany.

TD outgoing CEO wants tighter lending rules

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Ed Clark is the CEO of Canada’s 2nd largest lender: TD Bank, but he’s heading out in November.

He has some interesting things to say about mortgage lending in Canada:

“It’s just not realistic in a competitive marketplace to say, ‘Why doesn’t one bank lead the way and change the rules?’ It won’t happen. This is a responsibility of the government,” he told Reuters.

“I get why they keep worrying about doing it. But I think you have to just keep touching this brake. As long as you run low interest rates, you then should be continuously leaning against asset bubbles.”

Why is it not realistic for an individual bank to change lending rules? Because they would be the chump to leave money on the table.  If your business had an oppourtunity for income which the government would insure against loss, how much sense would it make to not take advantage of that business?

And you’ve got to love this seemingly prerequisite paragraph that comes next in all of these articles:

Canada’s Conservative government has stepped in four times since 2008 to tighten mortgage lending rules to cool a real estate market that flourished as the financial crisis ebbed.

It is accurate to say that the government has stepped in four times since 2008 to tighten mortgage lending rules, but it omits the change before 2008. For those of you just tuning in they look something like this:

•March ’06: CMHC change to allow 0% down, 30 year Amort.

•June ’06: Allow 35 year amort & interest only payments for 10 yrs

•Nov. ’06: Aw heck, lets go all out and allow 40 year amorts!

•April ’07: Insured min. down payment moved from 25% to 20%

•Oct. ’08: 5% down allowed, amort moved back to 35 years

•April ’10: Require approval at 5 year fixed rate

•March ’11: Drop back down to 30 year amorts.

•July ’12: Drop back down to 25 year amorts.

Shouldn’t we take into account how much gas was applied before we started tapping the brakes?

Politicians shouldn’t meddle with housing market

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

This is probably the first housing editorial in The Province that most readers here can agree on.  Well, the headline any ways:

Politicians shouldn’t meddle with the housing market.

Imagine a world where the government didn’t meddle with the housing market.  There would be no CMHC insuring close to $600 Billion in mortgages, instead lenders would loan based only on their own assessment of risk.  There would be no HBP, no HOG. In 2006 there would not have been the rule change that allowed zero down 40 year mortgages with interest only payments for 10 years. After 2008 the CMHC wouldn’t have purchased $69 billion of mortgages off bank books.

But of course you’ve probably figured out that this Province editorial isn’t about that. No, this editorial is about someone suggesting we should levy a tax on vacant properties, likely the tiniest possible example you could find for ‘meddling’ in the housing market.

Wong is not alone in unfairly blaming foreign investors for Vancouver’s high housing prices. The reality is that real estate is a commodity whose price is set in a free market, appropriately, through the forces of supply and demand. No one has a “right” to own a house in a particular city or neighbourhood, and it’s about time that people like Wong and her COPE and NDP pals stopped promoting such notions, especially when it involves taking money from one group and giving it to another. You want a house? Work hard and buy one — or move somewhere cheaper.

Read the full editorial here.

 

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