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Doom & Gloom? Nooooo!

September 5, 2013 - Updated: September 5, 2013

Why real estate doomsayers continue to be wrong

By Christina Pellegrini

Still believe Canada's housing market is going to implode? You're not alone, but it hasn't happened yet

Mandy Coz needs a lead. She isn't the first sales rep from a nearby real estate brokerage to cold call my parents' home in the suburbs on behalf of a family that badly wants to become our neighbours. But she's the most recent and she's on the hunt for a new seller. Her clients "lost out" on another property on our street.

Canadians' homes are getting less affordable, but we still keep buying2

Home ownership has become less affordable for the average Canadian, but that hasn't stopped many from jumping into what may already be an overpriced market, suggests a new report from the Royal Bank. Keep reading.3

"This summer has been a bit unusual," says the RE/MAX Premier Inc. sales representative, who's located north of Toronto in Vaughan. When warmer weather hits and people start flocking to family barbecues, restaurant patios and cottage docks instead of open houses and showrooms, listings often languish. Not this year, though. More residential homes in Vaughan have been listed and sold in June and July compared to the same two-month period in 2012, according to data compiled by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The homes have sold for more too, with the median sale price up 6.1% year-over-year, translating into better business for local sales reps such as Coz. "Buyers are out in full swing. We've been busy during the last two months," she says. "The market has been quite steady. It's healthy."

Her cheery descriptors and sunny outlook are a far contrast to the ever-growing list of bearish economists, industry analysts and even journalists who have issued grim warnings about Canada's dangerously bloated household debt levels and the potential ramifications of a real estate bust on consumer spending, jobs and growth. But with forecasts ranging from smooth sailing to a soft landing to a U.S.-style crash, the future is foggy at best. For many, even those inside industry players, it's confusing. "The more you cover the housing market," says Robert McLister, editor of Canadian Mortgage Trends and a mortgage planner at intelliMortgage, "the more you realize it's unpredictable."

Instead of toppling after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tightened mortgage-lending standards last year for the fourth time since 2008, Canada's housing market appears to have stabilized and it continues to flex its resilient muscles as shown in the national housing statistics released monthly by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Existing home sales rose for the fourth consecutive month in June, up 3.3% over the previous month and nearly matching May's gain, which was the highest monthly growth figure since January 2011. Likewise, the average sale price was up 4.8% on a year-over-year basis, with 80% of the surveyed major markets reporting gains.

BMO Capital Markets senior economist Robert Kavcic noted the figures prove the market is both "balanced and well-behaved" and another blow to the naysayers. Similarly, his colleague and BMO's chief economist Douglas Porter called the market "incredibly calm, cool, and collected" in a May release. But Kavcic and Porter haven't always thought this way. When the ratio of new listings to sales was driven to a nine-year high on Apr. 17, 2008, Porter declared the housing boom "officially over." Two months later, a CREA monthly report that showed both prices and volume slipped in May helped Kavcic confirm that the boom had "fizzled." Except it wasn't over then and the boom still hasn't fizzled.

Frequently quoted housing bear Ben Rabidoux, president of North Cove Advisors, contests BMO's optimism. "We are seeing a correction in certain metros," he says, citing Toronto's overbuilt condominium market, Ottawa, Quebec, eastern Canada and B.C. as markets that are cooling down. "If you're looking for leading signs of weakness, it's not hard to find them."

Evidence of the turning tide may be visible, but a decline has yet to happen when and to the extent many alarmists said it would. They might be right eventually - after all, even a broken clock is right twice a day - but they've been wrong every time they said we'd finally reached the top and didn't during the past five years.

Nevertheless, many still wonder whether Canadian housing is strong or weak. Even the Bank of Canada's new governor isn't so sure. "As I read the situation right now, the new data we have from the housing sector are just as consistent with the soft landing as they might be with a rebound," Stephen Poloz said during a July 17 press conference, which can be viewed on the central bank's YouTube video channel4. "It's in that sort of grey zone." Between the polarization of a housing boom or bust is Poloz's "grey zone." Perhaps it's the safest place. Admitting the things we don't know, including assertions and hypotheticals, might be the best place to start. If the chief banker can do it, everyone can.When global forecasting company Capital Economics Ltd. deemed the bubble was "now close to bursting" in June 2011 and called for a 25% drop in prices, the firm set off a ticking time bomb with a three-year clock strapped to it. Capital Economics economist David Madani has been loudly sounding the doomsday horn in the media ever since. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, The Economist, and U.S. hedge fund manager Steve Eisman are some of the more famous names to hit the panic button.

Their main concern: the country's good times have been fuelled by ultra-cheap and widely accessible credit and lacked underlying financial fundamentals. They've pointed to telling statistics such as the run-up in price-to-rent and price-to-income ratios, ballooning ownership rates and persistent overbuilding. A credit crunch, rate hike or a string of unexpectedly negative housing reports, they say, could reverse the relentless upward march in home prices, lay a devastating smackdown on consumer confidence and send the entire economy into free fall.

The media has chimed in too by publishing daily articles centred on real estate, including a Maclean's cover-page story with an arrowed line graph smashing a hole into a suburban home's roof, lower floors of condo towers ravished by flames and sweeping statements that we will all soon be mere rubble. But based on the recent sizzling sales statistics, people haven't been scared out of the market.

Fear, says an industry watcher, has helped deter people from doing stupid things

"I don't think there's going to be blocks of houses on fire," says Vancouver, B.C.-based McLister. "Nothing's really convinced people that a crash is imminent." He cites growing employment and wage stability, near-rock-bottom lending rates and consistent demand from immigrants and first-time buyers as key reasons why the market hasn't wavered. Affordability, which is heavily dependent on low interest rates and lending flexibility, is almost the same or better than 20 years ago, according to the Bank of Canada's Housing Affordability Index. Fear, he says, has helped deter people from "doing stupid things."

But McLister warns that while we may not be facing "catastrophic risk," the market is far from risk-free: A significant rate hike, widespread job losses and mortgage-lending restrictions are game-changers that could all come to pass. The best-case scenario in the eventuality one of them does is that things go sideways for a "very, very long time." But neither he nor other market watchers have a crystal ball to predict long-term movements.

"Anyone that purports to tell people where prices are going to be in two, three, fours years down the road is a fraud," he says. "Housing is stable at this point and there's nothing on the horizon that we can say with certainty is coming that would derail the market." Not even Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s latest attempt to limit banks and other mortgage lenders to $350-million worth of new mortgage-backed securities per month. McLister told the Financial Post that CMHC's stricter cap would amount to roughly 20 basis points or 0.2% percentage points on a five-year mortgage and "won't have a real dampening effect on credit."

Tyler Anderson/National Post

In any case, trying to time the housing market is difficult. "You can't pinpoint the month when it's going to turn, especially when it's around a sector like housing where policymakers have a lot of ingrained interest in keeping the status quo and where they have a lot of policy levers to pull," Rabidoux says. Based on a balance of probability, he believes it's unlikely the next decade will be as good as the last one. "The risk of a correction is still high," he says. He calculates that a nominal decline in home prices exceeding 10%, or a hard landing, is 75% plausible. "I've never said with 100% certainty that we're going to have a correction," he says, but he has made past predictions that Canada is in store for something between a U.S.-style crash and a soft landing. Of course, "something" can mean many things.

Housing permabear, blogger and former MP Garth Turner thinks "those people that are waiting for a U.S.-style cataclysmic dump are never going to see it." He admits he was unsure in 2008 "because the world was pretty wonky." But Turner sounded awfully sure when he told Ottawa Citizen readers on Mar. 27, 2008, to look closely at the "real estate disaster now in full flower to our south" because "it's coming here." What about all those readers who think he mistimed the market? "Well, too bad," he says, then chuckles. "My job is to look at the data and to point at the obvious so people engage their brains and try to come to their own conclusion."

James McKellar, academic director of the Program in Real Property at York University's Schulich School of Business, predicts smooth waters ahead. His response to an admittedly leading question about a Canadian real estate bubble was met with, "There is no bubble so I don't know how it can burst. Each time I share this view with the media, the story dies. So many journalists embark to prove an assumption that is false." Later during a telephone conversation, he had more to say about journalism's role. "The media has gone out of their way to tell people that the market is going to collapse," McKellar says. "The good news is that the readers aren't listening and people are still buying."

He acknowledges that business has slowed in Toronto, but says we haven't seen a dip in prices because the population is growing and "they have to live somewhere." Other reasons include a growing affection for condo living, no proof of speculation and a "very disciplined market" created by the structure of our banks. McKellar's glass may be half-full but the professor brings up a fair point: "Everyone across the country is assuming that the exuberance of housing markets cannot continue, but there's a difference between house prices beginning to moderate versus the bottom falling out."

It's a statement echoed by BMO's chief economist Porter, who in a recent note wrote "underperformance does not equal catastrophe." BMO isn't the only firm with optimistic economists. In the July "Monthly Housing Market Update," RBC Economics Research senior economist Robert Hogue said June's CREA numbers "should be seen as confirmation that Canada's housing market is not currently headed for a crash landing." Ed Devlin, executive vice-president and head of Canadian portfolio management at PIMCO, said the investment firm isn't positioning "for a prolonged Canadian downturn."

Back in Vaughan where realtor Mandy Coz is still looking for a seller, there are other industry professionals who can't see signs of a slowdown. "I've seen many forecasts pointing in opposite directions," says David Ursino, a sales representative at Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. "I don't read into them too much. I look at what's happening in my community and respond accordingly."

We really expected a huge slowdown . . . and in some pockets of Toronto, you're still seeing multiple offers and bidding wars

In Toronto, the market has been "unusually hot," says Aleksandra Oleksak, a sales representative at Sage Real Estate Ltd. This past July was the third-best July on record for home sales. "We really expected a huge slowdown," Oleksak adds, "and in some pockets of Toronto, you're still seeing multiple offers and bidding wars." It's much of the same in Carbonear, Nfld., says the owner of Dream Realty Ltd., Victoria Harnum, whose annual income is set to exceed what she earned last year mid-way through this year. In Calgary, First Place Realty Ltd. associate Bob Truman can't get to listings fast enough. "If you are taking a buyer out to look at properties, chances are half of them will be sold before you get there to look at them," he says.

Real estate sales aren't sizzling in every neighbourhood, of course. Since the job market stalled on Vancouver Island in 2008, anything listed for more than $400,000 can sit on the market for at least two years, says broker Debbie Simmonds of Fast Forward Real Estate. "The industry has been hit very hard here."

The thing to remember is that economics can explain why something happened, but it can't tell or time the future. People buy and sell homes and they behave in ways models can't predict. Canada's housing market continues to defy the odds because the odds might just be wrong. The problem with bubbles is that we know one existed with certainty only after it pops. But by then, the damage is done.


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So How Did 2011 Shape Up?? Watch the Video!!

January 6, 2012

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New Year, New Intentions. What's Your Plan?

January 3, 2012 - Updated: January 3, 2012

Welcome to 2012!!  

Hope your holidays were filled with lots of laughter and some good eating.  Did you get a chance to write some new goals?  We all know that the beginning of the year is a great time to re-evaluate and re-focus on what's important to us individually.  But let's look at this another way.

The new year is usually a time for "resolutions".  Some of the more popular ones?  Losing weight and quitting smoking.  Yet only 46% of people keep their resolutions past the 6 month mark.  So why bother making them in the first place?

Because having goals keeps us in line and focused on what we want out of life.  With no plan, we are likely to get distracted.  But maybe it's the "resolution" that throws us off.  Why not concentrate on what we INTEND to do and write out a step-by-step plan on how to get there?  For example, if you INTEND to lose weight, then plan your meals weekly, drink lots of water, and have a workout plan for the week.

For us, we're prepared to even better our skills at working with you.  

Hope you have some great new intentions for the year.  Cheers!

- Mandy

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Fabulous Semi in Vellore Village - Watch the Video!

November 15, 2011

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HOT NEW Condo for Sale in Downtown Woodbridge - Watch the Video!

November 11, 2011

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Mary's October Update Video

October 5, 2011

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Mid August News

August 17, 2011

There were 3,214 sales through the TorontoMLS® system during the first 14 days of August, representing more than a 22.5 per cent increase compared to the same period in August 2010. Year-to-date sales through the 14th of August were all but caught up to last year’s total – down by half a per cent compared to 2010.

“The unsettled situation in financial markets over the past few weeks did not appear to sap the confidence of GTA home buyers during the first half of August,” said Toronto Real Estate Board President Richard Silver. “Revised forecasts for future Bank of Canada interest rate decisions coupled with the recent announcement by the US Federal Reserve, suggest that interest rate hikes in Canada are on hold at least until sometime in 2012. This is a positive for affordability and should help sustain buyer confidence moving forward.”

The average selling price was up by almost seven percent annually during the first 14 days of August to $440,150.

“The rate of price growth reported for the first two weeks of August continued to point to sellers’ market conditions in the GTA,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis. “However, it should be noted that new listings grew at a slightly greater pace than sales. A better supplied market in the second half of 2011 will result in prices growing at a more sustainable pace.”

** Provided By:  Toronto Real Estate Board, August 16th, 2011

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Saying Hello to Summer!

July 9, 2011

RE/MAX Premier’s 2nd Annual Yard Sale for the Cure was a smashing success, raising over $12,000 for breast cancer research.  Our office was the 3rd highest fundraising office in Ontario.  The rain held off and we had a great turnout, thanks for all of your support!

On another fundraising note—St. John Bosco Catholic School raised over $1800 in support of the Angels From Heaven Foundation with the bake sale.  A big thank you to all the students and teachers that helped to put this event together.

It’s bathing suit season and I am kicking it into high gear—Mom has started up a weekly walking/jogging club in Woodbridge and I am so in!!  Just 15 pounds left to my weight goal and it is being very stubborn, but it’s ok—the idea is to get healthy and I feel much better than I used to! 

I hope you had a great start to the summer, cheers!


- Mandy


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Keeping It Real

July 9, 2011 - Updated: July 9, 2011

Now that the postal strike is over, we can once again enjoy our snail mail...there’s something more personal and enjoyable about receiving a letter, note, or postcard vs. email or texting, yes?

Right now the real estate market can be confusing and perplexing, some properties selling quickly while others stagnate for months or never sell.  Personally I believe it’s the difference between being in the market or simply just “on the market”.   

The better question to ask would be – what’s the ‘reality market’?  A close look at local market conditions, days on the market within the area, and true property comparables will bring you closer to the market value of your home.   If you are thinking of selling, or know of a friend or family starting the process, we would love the introduction and take excellent care of them.

In August, I will be attending a real estate conference in San Diego and look forward to Mandy joining me this year.   Keeping up with industry knowledge, honing our skills and education is key for me and gives us the opportunity to learn and grow, while providing you with better service.


Have a great summer!


- Mary


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June Mid-Month Housing Report

June 17, 2011

The number of sales and the average selling price reported by Greater Toronto REALTORS® were both up during the first 14 days of June 2011. Sales through the first two weeks of June amounted to 4,787 – up 16 per cent over the same period in 2010. The average selling price for these transactions, at $477,853, was up nine per cent.

“The spring has always been the busiest time in the resale market, but the results for May and the first two weeks of June represented a marked improvement over last year. Low mortgage rates have kept affordability in check and buyers have felt confident in paying for a home over the long term,” said Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President Bill Johnston.

The number of new listings on the TorontoMLS® between June 1st and June 14th was down by eight per cent compared to 2010.

“Listings have been in short supply this year, while a lot of people have been looking to buy. The result has been enhanced competition between buyers and more upward pressure on price,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis. “Strong price growth will prompt more home owners to list as we move toward 2012.”

** Provided by:  Toronto Real Estate Board

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Introducing.... Us. In Video.

June 9, 2011

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2nd Best March Result on Record!!

April 11, 2011

Greater Toronto REALTORS® reported 9,262 transactions through the TorontoMLS® system in  March 2011, representing the second best March result on record. The number of transactions was 11 per cent lower than the record result reported in March 2010.

“The strong home sales reported in March and throughout the first quarter of 2011 have been  based on a solid affordability picture and improving economic conditions in the GTA and country-wide,” said Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President Bill Johnston.

The average selling price for March 2011 was up five per cent year-over-year to $456,147. The strongest average annual price growth was reported for condominium apartments and semi-detached houses, at approximately seven per cent for both home types.

“Market conditions were tighter in March compared to last year. With more competition between buyers, we have seen a strong but sustainable rate of price growth,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.

** Provided By:  Toronto Real Estate Board, April 5th, 2011

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Curious About the Rental Market in the GTA?

January 25, 2011

From September until the end of 2010, TREB Members reported 4,920 rental transactions for condominium apartments and townhouses, representing a 27 per cent increase from the 3,859 transactions recorded during the same time period in 2009.


There were a total of 9,227 apartments and townhouses listed for rent during the reporting period, representing a 22 per cent increase compared to the last four months of 2009.


There was substantial growth in condominium apartment completions in 2010, which explains the strong growth in the number listings that were available during the reporting period.


Many of the condominium apartments that were completed over the past year were owned by investors. Some of these investors chose to list their units for rent.


While the number of units listed for rent increased strongly on the TorontoMLS® system, it is important to note that the number of rental transactions actually increased at a greater rate.


The number of households signing lease agreements in the last four months of 2010 more than accounted for the increase in supply.

** Provided By:  Toronto Real Estate Board, January 25th 2011

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What's Happening Mid-Month in the Housing Market?

December 16, 2010

Greater Toronto REALTORS® reported 2,509 sales through the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) during the first two weeks of December 2010.

This represented a 19 per cent decrease compared to the 3,079 sales recorded during the same period in December 2009. Year-to-date sales amounted to 84,316 – down one per cent from the 2009 total of 84,888.

“While off the 2009 record, the level of December transactions remains strong from a historic perspective. The number of transactions in 2010 will be the third highest on record,” said Toronto Real Estate Board President Bill Johnston.

The average price for December mid-month transactions was $435,225 – up three per cent compared to the average of $423,103 recorded during the first 14 days of December 2009.

“Market conditions remain tight enough to support moderate growth in the average selling price. Expect the three per cent annual rate of growth reported for the first two weeks of December to be the norm in 2011,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.

** Provided By TREB - December 16, 2010

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Residential Values Expected to Climb in 2011

December 8, 2010

Although improved economic fundamentals will have a positive impact on Canadian housing markets moving forward, the forecast for residential real estate sales remains static in most major centres in 2011, according to a report released today by RE/MAX.  

The RE/MAX Housing Market Outlook 2011, examining trends and developments in 26 major centres across the country, found that home-buying activity in 2010 fell short of 2009 levels. Housing values, however, continued to climb, with virtually all areas reporting an upswing in average price, ranging from just under one per cent to 15 per cent this year. Lower inventory levels in many markets offset the effects of diminished demand, propping-up price in almost every instance. Kitchener-Waterloo, Quebec City, and St. John’s saw the greatest increases in average price this year, while Eastern Canadian markets including Hamilton-Burlington, Sudbury, Windsor, Moncton and Prince Edward Island were the only markets that bucked the downward trending in home sales in 2010.

By year-end, approximately 441,000 homes are expected to change hands nationally, a five per cent decline from the 465,251 sales reported in 2009. Housing values are forecast to continue to climb, up an estimated seven per cent to $340,000, compared with $320,333 one year earlier.

“In terms of resale housing activity, what many are talking about as the new normal is actually a return
to the traditional real estate cycle,” says Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President, Regional Director,
RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “The past decade was truly unprecedented—never before have we experienced a run up that was as strong or lasted as long. As we have digressed from the typical
pattern, people have forgotten what the usual healthy cycle looks like, but all the hallmarks are there.
Ample inventory levels, steady demand, and moderate growth, both in terms of sales and prices, will characterize the market in 2011.
While the pace may appear lackluster in comparison to what we’ve grown accustomed to, it underscores the principles of real estate 101: The market is cyclical. All boats rise and fall with the tide.”

Greater stability is expected to characterize the markets in 2011, with Canadian housing sales predicted to mirror 2010 levels at 441,000 next year, while average price is forecast to escalate three per cent to $350,000 by year-end 2011.

“Looking forward, we see steady improvement in provincial and local economies—which will bode well for housing markets across the board,” says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. “The relentless drive in the market reminiscent of years past will be gone and instead, we can expect to see more normal, balanced market conditions, with buyers maintaining a slight edge.”

** Provided By:  RE/MAX Ontario, December 7, 2010

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November Resale Housing Market Report

December 3, 2010 - Updated: December 3, 2010

Greater Toronto REALTORS reported 6,510 existing home sales in November – down 13 per cent from 7,446 sales in November 2009. New listings were also down 13 per cent annually to 8,642.

On a month-over-month basis, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales increased for the fourth straight month to 88,100. This rate was substantially higher than the July low of 67,900.

"The GTA resale market has tightened since the summer. Healthy market conditions continued to support growth in the average selling price," said Toronto Real Estate Board President Bill Johnston.

“Sales through the first 11 months of the year were down only marginally compared to the same period in 2009. We remain on track for one of the best years on record under the current TREB market area,” continued Johnston.  

The average selling price for November transactions was $438,030 - up five per cent compared to November 2009.  

"The average selling price in the GTA is affordable. A household earning the average income can comfortably cover the mortgage payments on an average priced home. Expect the average selling price to grow at a moderate pace over the next year," said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.

** Provided By: Toronto Real Estate Board, December 3, 2010

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Contact Me

Mary Nacarato & Mandy Coz Sales Representatives
RE/MAX Premier Inc., Brokerage Independently owned and operated
9100 Jane Street
Vaughan, ON   L4K 0A4

Phone: 416-987-8000Mobile: 416-451-0177Fax: 416-987-8001
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