Category Archives: Canada

Inching towards instability

Canada’s housing market is overheating.

Don’t worry, there’s no risk of a crash yet and further action by the federal government is expect to cool things down.

This according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Emanuella Enenajor.

And, perhaps more importantly, she noted that “it’s different this time” because the Federal Reserve is in the midst of gradually raising interest rates.

“Economists and investors have become numb to signs of housing excess, as the sector has defied gravity for years,” Ms. Enenajor said.

“However, as the Fed gradually exits its accommodative policy, medium-term rates in Canada could also rise.”

This, she warned, heightens the threat of a correction in Canada’s housing market.

Read the full article over at the Globe and Mail.

 

Before buying real estate, create a bare trust

You know what the difference between you and the wealthy is?

The wealthy have lots of money.

And they tend to keep hold of it by using perfectly legal techniques such as buying and selling real estate within a bare trust to avoid taxes. One recent example prevented more than $2 million from from being vacuumed up into government coffers.

Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver has been concerned about the bare trust for the last two years, highlighting the need to fix the loophole.

He says people who are very wealthy or investing from abroad would be recommended by astute accountants to purchase their house using the loophole.

“Every time most people buy and sell a house, they’re paying property transfer tax. It’s only the wealthy and the wise who would actually buy in bare trust,” said Weaver.

“As a society, if every single person created a bare trust and bought every property in a bare trust there would be no more property transfer tax collected in British Columbia… there’s no reason not to change it.”

Just think of the efficiencies and tax dollars saved if every real estate transaction in BC happened through a bare trust. Less money spent in taxes means more money flowing into a supporting a healthy local economy. Bare trusts for all!

Is Alberta now a buying opportunity?

The oil market has had an effect on house prices in Alberta.  Now with prices lower than they were a year ago does Alberta pose a good buying opportunity for real estate investors?

Don Pittis over at CBC says maybe not yet.

According to long time investment adviser and real estate guru Hilliard MacBeth, the bargain hunting in Alberta has already started.

“I’ve heard of lots of people who say, ‘The prices are down. I’m going to jump in,'” said MacBeth, Edmonton-based author of When the Bubble Bursts.

In fact, some of the people he advises have already identified a buying opportunity and jumped into the market, at least on behalf of their kids, who they are helping out in the role of bank of mom and dad.

“I would have counselled them against it,” said MacBeth by phone as he put on his ski boots in the Lake Louise parking lot. “I would have said, ‘Wait,’ because we’re early days yet.”

It’s more exciting to buy when prices are rising, so maybe try the Fraser Valley instead, where prices are up 27% over a year ago and they don’t have high paying oil jobs to lose.

“One of the things that was supporting Alberta home prices was the fact that our incomes were 40 to 50 per cent higher than the rest of Canada, and that’s changing very rapidly,” said MacBeth.

But property owners and prospective buyers elsewhere would be wise to watch and see if, indeed, the plunge is nipped in the bud by bargain hunters or whether prices continue to fall for a while yet.

Read the full article here.

Condos are hot again, buy two or three

CMHC has surveyed condo owners in Vancouver and Toronto and found that the number of owners with multiple units is growing.

…the total number of investors in the two regions who say they have purchased at least two condo units in addition to their primary residence has risen nearly 13 per cent over the past two years. Nearly a quarter of condo investors told CMHC that they owned least two units, with close to 10 per cent reporting that they owned three or more condos.

Buyers are looking for both rental income and appreciation, with some interesting math:

Among condo investors in Toronto and Vancouver, half told the federal housing agency that they had bought their investment unit for rental income. Of those, 56 per cent expect the value of their condo to go up, while only 8 per cent thought that it would go down. The share of condo investors in Toronto who expected their unit to increase in value fell to 60 from 64 per cent from a year earlier, while the share in Vancouver who expected their condos to increase in value rose to 50 from 41.5 per cent.

A slightly larger share of investors in Vancouver reported paying higher prices for units than in Toronto, although the survey found that the reverse was true of rents, which were higher in Toronto. Nearly 16 per cent of Vancouver landlords reported charging less than $1,000 in rent for their condos compared with fewer than 5 per cent in Toronto. By contrast, nearly 50 per cent of condo landlords in Toronto said they charged more than $1,500 for their units, compared with 33 per cent in Vancouver.

Read the full article over at the Globe and Mail. So how many condos do you own and how many are you thinking of buying this year?

Swimming in debt and bursting with confidence

Low energy prices are a bit of a bummer for a country like Canada, but we’re not worried, we’ll always have real estate!

According to weekly polling by Nanos Research, the share of respondents expecting higher real estate prices reached the most since December 2014 last week, or 38.7 per cent. That pushed the Bloomberg Nanos Consumer Confidence Index to 54.7 last week, the highest this year, from 54.5 previously.

“The main positive driver for the forward look on the economy was the view that the value of real estate would increase,” said Nik Nanos, chairman at Ottawa-based Nanos Research Group.

The only potential downside is that young Canadian families are ‘swimming in debt.  Read the full article over at the Financial Post.

New mortgage rules drive up housing market.

Tighter mortgage rules were intended to cool the Canadian housing market, but according to National Bank economist Marc Pinsonneault they are having the opposite effect in the short term.

The new rules require insured mortgage holders to put down a minimum of 10 per cent for any portion of a house’s price above $500,000. The 5-per-cent minimum down payment still applies for the portion of a house price below that.

Economists predicted last year the rules would temporarily drive the market up, as homebuyers raced to land a mortgage before the deadline.

But Pinsonneault says the effect will continue this year, because the new rules don’t apply to anyone who locked in a mortgage before Feb. 15 of this year, and those people have until July 1 to buy a home.

It seems like everything done in the name of ‘cooling’ the housing market has the opposite effect.  Read the full article here.

CMHC looks to define foreign money

How would you go about trying to determine how much foreign money is going into Canadian real estate? The CMHC is now trying to figure that out.

A core team of analysts at CMHC held several meetings to discuss how best to tackle the data gap. Researchers had initial meetings with agencies including the Canada Revenue Agency and Fintrac, CMHC confirmed. The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada monitors money laundering and out-of-country transactions of at least $10,000. The documents show CMHC also planned or had meetings with the Bank of Canada, British Columbia’s housing and property assessment agencies, and the department of finance to start a data working group.

So why are we missing that information and how much real estate is owned by people outside the country?

After meetings with realtors, lawyers and condo developers in Vancouver, CMHC market analysts pointed to the lack of transparency in the market. Realtors often don’t see residency status or identification such as a passport, and that information isn’t stored electronically at the brokerage. Lawyers and bankers who run the transaction aren’t obligated to pass on residency information and buyers don’t regularly check a citizenship box when paying land-transfer tax.

“Conveyance is done through the lawyers and bankers,” minutes from a meeting show. “Money transfers should get passed onto Fintrac. Whether this is taking place or not is an issue.”

Previously, CMHC has tried to glean the scope of foreign investment with a survey of property managers that found less than 6 per cent of condos were bought by people who reside outside the country.

Read the full article over at the Financial Post.

House prices up across Canada

It’s not just Vancouver – House prices are up 17% in one year across Canada.

Of course the big increases are happening in Toronto and Vancouver where sales and prices seem to just keep going up and up, while inventory stays low:

That”s even the case in hot markets, where homes are snapped up in record time. “Vancouver’s market is drum tight, with an almost unheard of 91 per cent sales-to-new listings ratio,” BMO economist Robert KAvcic said. “In other words, almost every new listing is getting absorbed within the month as record sales meet average growth in new listings.”

We have found the secret to unlimited wealth and it is housing debt!

A city full of racists

Concerned about the housing market in Vancouver and think something should be done about affordability? You probably believe foreign buyers are partly to blame for running up prices.

You’re probably a racist.

Unfortunately it seems we live in a city full of racists as more and more people express concerns about things like assignment flipping, livable teardowns and empty homes.  Or at least you can call them racists in an effort to shut down the discussion.

David Fine writes in the Huffington Post:

We are both assured that foreign investment is actually not a significant issue and at the same time, by the same people, told that any restrictions on foreign property investment would cause serious damage to our home equity, the construction industry and the residential sales industry.

Guess what, it can’t be both! There really is no doubt that foreign property investment is a significant part of home sales in Vancouver and real estate companies know it. They have offices in China and appeal directly to offshore buyers through advertising in Chinese media. It’s big business and it’s fuelling rampant speculation.

This is about foreign money, not foreign people. We have duties and tariffs on all kinds of foreign goods and industries to protect our economy. Why nothing on our homes?

Read the full article here.

10 reasons the top is in for Vancouver real estate

Whistler or bust? posted this list of reasons they think the top is in for the Vancouver real estate market. What do you think? 

10 Reasons why am I calling a top now

1. Vancouver Real Estate has finally gone parabolic. It has gone from years of above average price increase to massive never before appreciation. No asset class that I am aware of has ever gone parabolic or hockey stick on a chart and not had a major crash. Not tulips, oil or tech stocks. This is textbook classic top – Greed has replaced Fear and it’s different this time for ______ and _______ has replaced rational thinking.

2. Panic buying and large price increase have spread to the distant suburbs such as Maple Ridge, Places where there is plenty of buildable land and lots of new inventory. Places are going multiple bids in average neighborhoods. People genuinely think if they do not buy now they will be priced out forever.

3. Real Estate prices in the vast majority of BC are flat to down. Its as if the Lower Mainland is an island onto itself. These are areas not affected by HAM or DAM so it better reflects the current economic fundamentals of the real estate.

4. The Canadian and BC economy is weak. There is risk that the spill over of falling oil prices will spread to Vancouver. This can be in the form of layoffs at West Jet or the CIBC because they have to cut costs due to losses on loans to oil companies. This is a bigger thing than many people think.  Continue reading 10 reasons the top is in for Vancouver real estate