Friday, December 30, 2011

Real estate bubble in 2012? Nah, it's starting to float back to Earth

As global housing markets coughed and sputtered in 2011, Canada's barrelled ahead, even turning a few nervous heads along the way.

In fact, recently the Economist branded Canada one of the nine countries where “home prices are overvalued by about 25 per cent or more,” and among the four where prices are in line with those in the United States "at the peak of its bubble.

Is there really a cause for alarm? Are we doomed to ride this white-knuckled rollercoaster in 2012? Probably not, according to Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist of CIBC.

"The housing market of tomorrow will not be as exciting as the housing market of yesterday,” he said in an interview.

While the current real estate market is overshooting, with home prices far higher than than they should be, we shouldn't expect a crash either, he explains. As long as interest rates remain relatively low and subprime mortgages kept at bay, the most likely scenario is that the market will plateau.

“Prices...

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Experts weigh in on Metro Vancouver housing market forecasts for 2012

Tsur Somerville may be the director of UBC’s Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, but he gave a rather surprising answer when asked about the prospects for Metro Vancouver’s housing market in 2012.

“We start off by saying I have no idea,” Somerville told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. For him, forecasting is a risky business because “you’re wrong more often, even if you’re intelligent”.

An economist who earned his PhD from Harvard University, Somerville said that he prefers to evaluate what others have projected for the new year.

“The general trend seems to be that it’s going to be a slower market than 2011, and I think the combination of lingering economic unease and uncertainty is consistent with that,” the UBC academic explained. “The other thing is 2011—if you take away Richmond, the West Side [of Vancouver], and West Vancouver—was not some amazing prices-going-through-the-ceiling...

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Analysis: Canada Housing Mkt Thrives While Prices Surge

OTTAWA (MNI) - Canada's housing market continues to perform strongly, though its high sales and prices are a mixed blessing because they help underpin the domestic economy but give rise to concerns about growing household indebtedness.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada, terms Canadian household debt the country's biggest domestic economic risk, but says the danger is not imminent and pales behind the foremost risk to Canada's economy, contagion from Europe.

The largest contributor to Canadian household debt also is the largest single contributor to the consumer spending that has been Canada's economic mainstay during the 2008-2009 recession and to the present: the C$1.079 trillion residential housing sector.

Statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show home sales in Canada are still on the rise, though the pace of increase is slowing. Data released by CREA in November show the national average house price is C$360,396, up 4.6% from the same month...

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Olympic village neighbourhood slowly shedding its image as a ghost town

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As coffee shops go, so goes the neighbourhood.

Based on that well-known Vancouver maxim, indications are that the Olympic Village is shedding its image as a ghost town where no one walks the streets.

Dog walkers, joggers and mothers with strollers have found a meeting spot at the new Terra Breads Cafe, one of a handful of shops at the Olympic Village, which has been renamed the Village at False Creek.

And all the bustle at the central plaza, not just from villagers but neighbours as well, has created a buzz in the area for the first time since the 2010 Olympic Games ended.

“I had the impression it would be pretty quiet when we opened the store in September,” says Terra’s head baker Mary Mackay. “But we started off with a bang and have kept going.

“We knew the location was gorgeous,” she says.

The $1 billion village, a collection of 1,100 condos in a dozen buildings, has been plagued by financial problems since Millenium Developments ran short of funds...

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Get ready for housing market correction: TD

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OTTAWA — The Canadian housing market in 2012 will be a “tug-of-war,” with low interest rates hauling hard on one end of the rope, and economic uncertainty joining forces with slow income and employment growth to pull back on the other, according to a report from TD Economics.

The report suggests Calgary and Edmonton will come out on the winning side, while price corrections will sap the strength of the powerhouse markets in Toronto and Vancouver.

Housing sales grew in 2011 by 2.2%, according to the report by economist Sonya Gulati, and prices rose by an estimated 7.5% — though once the overheated condo markets in Vancouver and Toronto were removed from the equation the overall price gains were much more muted.

“Looking ahead, we anticipate a tug-of-war action to take hold in the Canadian real estate market,” Ms. Gulati said in the report. “At one end of the rope is the magnetism of low interest rates; at the other are subdued prospects for economic,...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Housing boom levelling off: report

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Canada's real estate market is strong compared with its global counterparts that are struggling, but the boom has lasted longer than in most other countries and shows signs of waning, a Scotiabank report said.

Photograph by: Jason Lee, Reuters Files, Vancouver Sun

 

Canada's real estate market is strong compared with its global counterparts that are struggling, but the boom has lasted longer than in most other countries and shows signs of waning, a Scotiabank report said.

"The Canadian housing market remains an outperformer among advanced nations, with real home prices up 4.8 per cent year over year in [the third quarter]," Scotiabank's Global Real Estate Trends report said.

"While the sector's continued buoyancy is impressive, monthly data through November suggest prices have levelled off since the spring, with conditions in the majority of local markets in 'balanced' territory."

The report credits "ultralow" interest rates with continuing to attract buyers, while economic uncertainty...

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Report sees clouds ahead for housing market

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Canada's housing market is overvalued and flooded with supply, say economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in a report that warns prices could fall five per cent in the first half of 2012.

"We estimate the housing market nationwide is about 10 per cent overvalued," says the report, published Monday by economists Ryan Bohren and Sheryl King.

Their report says Canada remains somewhat shielded from the economic fallout of the European debt crisis but is certainly not "impregnable," particularly if unemployment approaches eight per cent.

"In our view, the housing market is one of the most vulnerable sectors to this weakening economic environment, showing classic signs of overvaluation, speculation and over supply," says the re-port.

"We are not calling for an all out rout in the market - but caution is now decidedly warranted."

The Canadian Real Estate Association put the average MLS sale price in Calgary for November at $398,722, about on par with one year ago, while the Canadian aver-age...

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Market demand drives growth in Vancouver

Real estate rule applies to prices: location, location, location

The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board described November sales and listing activity as typical. If you've lived in Vancouver for a while, that might have you scratching your head, especially when it's followed by news that November sales were 5.8 per cent below the 10-year average. Now that's the Vancouver real estate market I know.

Nothing here is typical. Except that the sky is always falling and examples of real estate tanking in other locations are constantly being bandied about as evidence that our market is about to crash.

This week, a couple of readers sent me a link to the following comment on tippett.org, a blog by Michael Tippet, Emmy-nominated entrepreneur, visionary and columnist.

"Housing prices in Vancouver are the second most expensive in the world (second only to Hong Kong, relative to income). The market is driven almost entirely by speculative buying by mainland Chinese buyers who see the city as a safe...

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

B.C. market heads toward equilibrium

The B.C. real estate market may finally have reached the equilibrium investors and others have long hoped for, with Multiple Listing sales in November falling only marginally from  the previous year and price growth restricting itself to a 1 per cent gain.

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“After waning during the first half of the year, consumer demand has steadily increased since the summer months, bringing home sales within seven units of the November 2010 level," said Cameron Muir, chief economist for the The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA). "BC home sales continued to gain ground in November.”

 

A total of 5,640 units were sold last month compared to 5,647 units in November 2010. The average MLS residential price was up 1.1 per cent to $529,140 in November compared to the same month last year.

"Low mortgage interest rates remain a key driver in the housing market, helping to maintain affordability and purchasing power,” said Muir.

But affordability on B.C.'s Lower...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

City-owned land may boost housing supply

Mayor's task force will look at affordable units

 

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Vancouver might offer city-owned land to help boost the supply of affordable housing units, a move that critics say could backfire.

"If you're in the market, there are risks. The potential exists to lose money," said University of B.C. real-estate Prof. Tsur Somerville on Monday. "It's one thing to build social housing for poor families and it's another to be building rental apartments at market prices in competition with private developers. That's a horrible idea."

A mayor's task force on housing affordability is expected to be approved today by the Vision Vancouver majority on council.

Former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Olga Ilich, a well-known private real-estate developer, will co-chair the task force with Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson.

"It's positive that someone from the private sector is heading the task force," said Somerville. "It won't be driven by just a wish list."

Vision Coun. Raymond Louie said members of the task force...

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