There were no double-digit price gains in the country’s hottest real estate markets this year. Instead, Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver saw prices increase between 5% and 7%, according to each city’s real estate board.
And as Sal Guatieri predicted, interest rates held steady.
But that will change in 2015, says the senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. Rates will go up, but slowly.
“We don’t expect the Bank of Canada to begin raising rates until October 2015,” says Guatieri. “The overnight lending rate, currently at 1%, likely won’t reach a more neutral level of 3.3% for another three years. Longer-term mortgage rates will also rise gradually.”
As a result, home prices and sales will stabilize next year. “The ‘Hot 3 cities’ should see much slower price appreciation next year, while most other regions will see modest price gains,” he says, adding Toronto and Vancouver could even see prices decline in the next three years.
Nationally, the average home will cost $404,800 by year-end. That figure will rise to $410,600 in 2015, and $417,300 in 2016, notes MLS.
Meanwhile, about 189,500 housing starts are expected, according to CMHC. This is in line with 2014, which should see 189,000 units by year-end.
“[There will be] a slight moderation in multi-unit starts during 2015, which will be offset by an increase in single-detached starts,” says Bob Dugan, chief economist for CMHC. “Looking ahead to 2016, expectations are for total starts to moderate, as builders focus on reducing their inventories.”
So where’s the opportunity for real estate investors?
Guatieri warns about investing in detached property in Vancouver or Toronto, “as lofty valuations suggest the returns will be low and prices are at risk of falling when interest rates rise.” Condos and townhouses will offer better value.
Also, keep an eye on demographics and economic activity. “Housing markets are much weaker in eastern Canada due to [slower growth], older populations and weaker economies than in Ontario and western Canada. Cities such as Calgary [and] Montreal, which attract a relatively larger share of the one-quarter million international migrants to Canada will see stronger housing markets.”
Sales are expected to increase, before moderating in 2016, notes Dana Senagama, CMHC’s senior market analyst for the Greater Toronto Area.
“An increasing desire among millennial and baby boomer populations to live an urban life will also fuel higher demand for condominium apartments over the next two years,” she says.
Guatieri adds steady buying from immigrants and echo boomers will support the market, cushioning any price declines.
Montreal will see support from international migrants, says Guatieri, so there’ll be “steady sales activity and modestly rising prices in coming years.”
Kevin Hughes, CMHC regional economist for Quebec, adds, “A gradual pick up in Quebec’s economic growth over the next two years will provide some stimulus to housing demand. During this period, resale markets will tighten somewhat, which will help sustain housing starts. However, despite an edging up of demand, the expected supply levels will keep price growth below the 2% mark.”
The market should remain healthy, predicts Guatieri, but will see slower sales and price appreciation. That’s due to the recent decline in oil prices, which will likely dampen investment in the energy sector and slow job growth. “We expect oil prices to firm next year, but an unexpected further decline would undercut Calgary’s housing market more severely.”
Meanwhile, the province saw regional price gains of 4.7% this year to $399,000, notes CMHC. The average price will continue to rise, but at a slower pace to $407,800 in 2015, and $417,500 in 2016.
“Housing demand will be supported by employment and population growth, but tempered by gradually rising mortgage interest rates,” says Carol Frketich, CMHC’s B.C. regional economist.
In B.C., existing MLS home sales are forecast to total 79,200 units in 2015, and 79,300 units in 2016. The average home price is forecast at $566,300 in 2015, and $573,000 in 2016.