Since the coronavirus pandemic trickled across Canadian borders more than a year ago, immigration to Canada essentially came to a halt, with ripple effects across Canadian real estate markets. Despite Ottawa’s ambitious plans to welcome more than 400,000 newcomers to the Great White North, only 184,000 successfully immigrated to Canada, down 50 per cent from the previous year. This was the lowest level since 1998.
But now that the world is slowly emerging from the depths of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the federal government is attempting to open its borders again to more than 400,000 immigrants annually beginning this year. The current proposal calls for 401,000 immigrants in 2021, another 411,000 in 2022, and 421,000 in 2023, bringing the total to approximately 1.2 million over a three-year period.
How will these numbers affect the post-pandemic economic recovery? And, considering how strong it has been over the last 16 months, even without new immigrants, how would these levels affect the Canadian real estate market? The early estimates suggest that this migration will not only encourage a substantial economic boom, but greater immigration levels would also continue to support the Canadian housing market, albeit at a modest pace.
Speaking in an interview with The Georgia Straight, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) senior economist Robert Hogue does not believe the influx of Canadian immigrants will substantially increase housing prices, although they could provide support during a downturn. However, at the same time, Hogue thinks immigration will serve more as “a safety net” for the next couple of years.
“When we look back over the past 15 months, the drop in immigration hasn’t done anything to weaken home prices or home resale activity,” Hogue said. “And so to go forward, it might not necessarily have the opposite effect of boosting prices per se, at least in very short order.”
While it is unlikely the Canadian real estate market would endure a U.S.-style collapse comparable to the 2008-2009 Great Recession, immigration would act as “a supportive factor on a go-forward basis.”
It is also important to remember that newcomers are not arriving at the border without nickels in their pockets. These permanent residents are carrying money for their settlement, not to be a financial burden for Canadian taxpayers. This is terrific news for the housing sector, particularly for sellers, since they could perhaps sustain the enormous demand from the last year.
But immigrants’ support of the country’s housing sector might not be equal since many newcomers locate to the major urban centres, such as Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal. Now that Atlantic Canada is slowly becoming a critical hub for economic growth, will more home-buying immigrants be drawn to destinations like Halifax or St. John’s? Until that becomes a reality, industry experts will be monitoring the key metrics to determine immigration’s impact on buying and selling detached and semi-detached homes and condominium units.
It’s hard to get a full view of the impact of reignited Canadian immigration without looking at the other crucial segment of Canada’s housing industry: the rental market.
When immigrants newly come to Canada, they usually rent an apartment or a condominium unit in a rental market like Toronto or Vancouver. Even temporary visitors, such as those on a work visa or are attending a well-known university, take up some of the tight rental supplies, further fuelling prices. Is this set to happen again in the coming years?
As the pandemic economy begins to subside, people are, once again, clamouring to live in small units in the big cities. Despite the idea that suburbs and rural communities would be experiencing substantial growth on the other side of the lockdowns, people are being called back to the office, and thus, the demand for urban rental units grows.
Suffice it to say, professionals will need to live where the jobs and schools are again, even if it is expensive.
How much money did the world save during these chaotic times?
During the pandemic, there has been a lot of speculation as to what Canadian consumers would do with their pent-up savings. It is estimated that households accumulated approximately $167 billion last year, and many financial analysts believe this will be put into the lucrative housing sector. In this same vein, it is fair to assume that a good percentage of immigrants, many of whom endured the same stay-at-home orders in their countries of origin, have also put together a handsome windfall before moving their families to the Great White North. Whether these pent-up savings will be applied to the Canadian real estate market, or other parts of the economy, remains to be seen.
Either way, after more than a year of lacklustre growth, the Canadian economy could enjoy a significant cash injection over the next few years – and that is good for every sector!
New principles becoming effective December 31, 2021 will acquire useful changes for land owners the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). As per the common government:
"Alternatives for an extra little optional home have been added to guidelines, permitting ranchers and ALR landowners to have both a main home and little auxiliary home on their property with a smoothed out endorsement measure. Just authorizations from neighborhood government or First Nations government will be required, and there will be no application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
The extra home can be utilized for lodging more distant family, agritourism convenience, lodging for ranch work or an investment property for supplemental pay. There could be presently not a necessity that extra homes should be utilized by the landowner or close relatives.
Examples of flexible housing options permitted under the regulation include, but are not limited to:
Cultivating families can keep on applying to the ALC for various, bigger homes in case they are vital for cultivating purposes."
For more data, kindly visit
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021AFF0043-001352 as well as https://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/assets/alc/assets/legislation-and-regulation/the-act-and-regulation/oic_438_2021_additional_residences.pdf.
Metro Vancouver’s housing market is experiencing record home buyer demand.
What do hopeful home buyers need to know to successfully navigate this hectic market?
We sat down with Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) Chair Taylor Biggar to find out.
Taylor: The number one thing is surrounding yourself with professionals who can advise and guide you through this journey. People with context and insight to help you through what can be an emotional process. Have your team together before you make decisions about where you're going.
That means finding the right REALTOR®, they’ll be your key advisor throughout the process. You’ll also want to find a mortgage broker, lawyer, and home inspector. Having this team in place will put you ahead of the game when you're in a competitive market. You've basically got everybody in place already and can make better, more informed and timely decisions.
Taylor: Get pre-approved by a financial institution or mortgage broker.
When you're looking for a home, you need to know how much money you’re working with and that you're qualified. This is critical – especially in a busy market.
Before you go to your mortgage broker or financial institution, you also need to have the paperwork outlining your income lined up. This paperwork depends on who you are. For example, there are different documents you’ll need if you're self-employed than if you’re an employee.
Taylor: Talk to your Realtor and research recent, comparable sales in your neighborhood to make sure your offer is both competitive and within your budget. If you make an offer at the limit of your budget, you’ll have no room to counter, and you might not be successful.
Taylor: This can be risky. Make sure you completely understand your offer and what subjects are involved. Talk to your Realtor.
Stay in your comfort zone and take as little risk as possible.
There are ways to mitigate your risk. For example, you can get a pre-inspection. This is where you don't have the offer together, but you hire an inspector to go in and do a report for you.
You can also remove other conditions before your offer as well. For example, you can remove conditions to documents like strata minutes and plans by getting them early. These actions can make your offer as clean and tight as possible.
Also remember to speak with the rest of your team about any subjects you may want to include. For example, talking with your mortgage broker, you’ll learn that there are two sides to the financing equation. You may be pre-approved, but the property you’re putting an offer on is the collateral for your loan and no one’s appraised it.
Taylor: This may be one of the biggest financial decisions of your life and working with knowledgeable professionals is so important to making good decisions.
Be patient. Don't stress, don't worry about it. These are market cycles. It's easy to get caught up in the hype. Don't get caught up in it because things change, and they change quickly. When they do, then suddenly there'll be different opportunities. Whatever decision you make, ensure it’s based on good information and advice based on experience.
Think about what the perfect lawn looks like. Is it green, weedless, and tidy?
This is starting to change.
Once a must-have, the green lawn is giving way to natural garden coverings. Low-maintenance, low-water use, and increased plant diversity attracts bees, birds, and insects. As an added bonus, these lawn alternatives don’t attract chafer beetles.
Bee lawns contribute to the health and well-being of bees, one of our most beneficial insects whose numbers are rapidly declining. Made up of grasses and low growing perennials like clover, this mix can be treated like a regular lawn.
Herbs, vegetables, berries and fruits – they’re terrific options when it comes to replacing part or all of your lawn. Look at kitchen garden designs for inspiration and you can freeze what you don’t enjoy for a taste of summer in winter.
For shade or part-shade areas, these plants will thrive:
In sunnier spots, you can’t go wrong with these:
Drought tolerant and easy to grow, ornamental grasses can add a variety of colours and movement to your garden. Large statement varieties provide additional interest in your garden. Laying paths and adding seating areas can enhance this space.
These attractive grasses will surely impress:
This type of lawn is a patchwork of colourful low-growing plants. These can include:
For higher traffic areas, use more robust plants.
Colourful and low-growing, sedums flourish in sunny, dry areas. These low-maintenance plants will provide visual interest for a large part of the year, flowering from spring to late fall.
Are the U.S. and Canadian housing market in a bubble right now? Most importantly, after 15 months of skyrocketing gains, are both nations’ real estate sectors about to cool down? These questions are top of mind for real estate industry observers across North America who have been closely monitoring activity as both nations ease out of the unprecedented public health crisis of the past year.
From bidding wars to blind bidding, the two countries are going through comparable experiences in their respective real estate industries. Most important of all, sales activity and price growth have been through the roof since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fuelled by historically low borrowing costs and changing consumer trends, the housing gains in the Great White North and the Land of the Free have been monumental. And, in certain segments of the market, the growth has been record-breaking.
But just how similar is the Canadian housing market to the U.S. real estate market right now? We’re taking a deeper look at the numbers to find out:
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales across the US rose 1.4 per cent year-over-year in June to 5.86 million units, following four consecutive months of declines. Home resales advanced at an annualized rate of 22.9 per cent.
Prices also enjoyed substantial growth to close out the second quarter, buoyed by tighter inventories and impeccable demand. NAR data highlighted that median existing house prices climbed 23.4 per cent year-over-year in June to $363,300.
When it comes to housing stocks, the months of inventory clocked in at 2.6 months, down from 3.9 months at the same time a year ago. This is an important measurement for industry observers because it gauges the number of months it would take to exhaust supplies at the current rate of sales activity. But fresh supply could be coming to the U.S. market.
The Department of Commerce reported that housing starts jumped 6.3 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.643 million units in June. However, because of skyrocketing lumber prices, and labour and land shortages, permits for future home building tumbled 5.1 per cent to 1.598 million units.
American economists are cautioning that housing affordability is an intensifying problem in markets across the United States.
“We look for a modest rebound in home sales and new home construction in the second half of the year,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo, in an interview with CNBC. “Demand is not the problem, though affordability is problematic as home prices have soared given exceptionally lean inventory and will continue to be a headwind for the sector for the foreseeable future.”
Now, how does this compare with the Canadian real estate market?
National home sales tumbled 8.4 per cent month-over-month in June, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). But sales activity remained up 13.6 per cent year-over-year. The MLS® Home Price Index, which experts say is a more accurate reflection of housing prices than average or median, rose 0.9 per cent from May and 24.4 per cent year-over-year.
Inventory remains tight as the number of newly listed residential properties slipped 0.7 per cent. The number of months of inventory stood at 2.3 at the end of June, up from the record low of 1.8 months in March. Still, it remains below the long-term average of roughly five months.
The latest data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found that the annual pace of housing starts slowed down in June, sliding 1.5 per cent to 282,070 units.
“While there is still a lot of activity in many housing markets across Canada, things have noticeably calmed down in the last few months,” said Cliff Stevenson, Chair of CREA, in a news release. “There remains a shortage of supply in many parts of the country, but at least there isn’t the same level of competition among buyers we were seeing a few months ago. As these conditions continue to evolve over the summer and fall, your best bet is to consult with your local REALTOR® for information and guidance about buying or selling a home at this stage in the cycle.”
Suffice it to say, both the Canadian and U.S. housing markets are coming back down to earth; welcome news for sidelined buyers who have been eagerly awaiting a cooling of the market. But there are still some concerning trends on each side of the North American border.
The U.S. and Canadian real estate markets each have individual and comparable trends that deserve a spotlight as we embark upon the second half of 2021.
Subprime Mortgage Crisis … in Canada?
The subprime mortgage crisis in 2008 was one of the chief contributors to the Great Recession. More than a decade later, Canada is facing some subprime mortgage fears that some are calling an “accident waiting to happen.” A new analysis from Bloomberg Economics found an alarming trend of more Canadian borrowers taking on zero-down mortgages. Although there are plenty of regulations that prevent subprime borrowing on a massive scale, the Bank of Canada (BoC) is warning that the quality of home loans is deteriorating, citing a survey of loan officers that revealed they have loosened mortgage lending conditions in the last three quarters. Since many are anticipating negative homeowner equity for the most recent homebuyers, concerns are mounting among industry observers.
A Housing Affordability Issue
The U.S. and Canada are each suffering from an affordability crisis that is pricing out young families from achieving the dream of home ownership. In Canada, the average price of a home is approximately $740,000, with valuations in the key markets of Toronto and Vancouver venturing north of $1 million. Even accumulating a down payment is taking longer for many households: roughly eight years. Moreover, people cannot simply relocate to a small town or a rural community since prices in these areas have soared to all-time highs.
South of the border, under-building has led to an “acute shortage” of housing, according to the National Association of Realtors, which published a study titled “Housing Is Critical Infrastructure: Social and Economic Benefits of Building More Housing.” It is estimated as much as 6.8 million housing units are missing from nationwide inventories.
NAR is calling for a “once-in-a-generation” response, while other housing professionals argue that the sector needs policy tools and new supply.
“The common means of solving Canada’s real estate challenges, such as the introduction of the stress test, solely addresses demand rather than finding a way to ensure there are enough homes for all Canadians. Unfortunately, we have yet to tackle the real issue behind housing affordability in Canada, which is supply. We share the RE/MAX opinion that addressing supply must be our top consideration moving forward,” noted Christopher Alexander, Senior Vice President of RE/MAX Canada, in a news release.
Is real estate accounting for too much of the economy’s growth? The BoC explained earlier this year that the housing boom had helped the recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 public health crisis. However, new Statistics Canada data in the first quarter revealed that housing investment is swallowing up about half of the economy.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve warned that the U.S. economy, particularly following the devastating pandemic-induced meltdown, cannot afford a boom-and-bust cycle in real estate.
“It’s very important for us to get back to our two-per-cent inflation target but the goal is for that to be sustainable,” Eric Rosengren, the president of the Boston Fed, told the Financial Times. “And for that to be sustainable, we can’t have a boom-and-bust cycle in something like real estate. I’m not predicting that we’ll necessarily have a bust. But I do think it’s worth paying close attention to what’s happening in the housing market.”
There are many things to consider when choosing the home for you. It may seem obvious, but the importance of liveability and your wants and needs need to be addressed. Check out this list of the main liveability factors that you should consider when finding your next home.
Location is key when searching for a home, as it is the one thing you can’t change. Try not to get too caught up in the emotional side of the house hunt and overlook important factors related to location, such as how busy the street is, what the noise levels are like in the area and the future of the neighbourhood.
When house hunting, take into consideration the potential home’s proximity to different amenities, such as hospitals and grocery stores, as well as restaurants and other shops. If these are spots you visit frequently, you don’t want to be driving a great distance to get gas or pick up dinner. Schools are also an important factor to consider for parents, not just location wise, but also the reputation of the school. Being close to good schools is also great for resale. Commute times are another important factor to consider when house hunting. Studies show that, the shorter the commute time, the happier the person.
Your lifestyle is a huge factor to consider when house hunting. If you’re an outdoorsy person who enjoys activities like hiking and biking, being close to lots of
green spaces and bike trails might be something to look for. If you are active in your community, consider looking for a home that is close to cultural, community and athletic centers. Taking your lifestyle into consideration when purchasing a home can help ensure that you continue living a life that you love.
Taking your current status and future plans into consideration when house hunting is essential. Do you currently have kids, or are you planning on having kids in the near future? Do the homes you’re looking at work with that plan, or will you need to move up to a bigger home in the future? Regardless of what your plans are, evaluate your current situation and look at where you may be in 5 or 10 years and if the homes you’re looking at make sense.