Paul Liberatore

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Fear: Condos are over built in Canada

The most pervasive fear is that developers are overbuilding and this will eventually lead to a glut of empty condos, which will increase supply and push down prices, sparking a condo market crash. But  Marc Pinsonneault, senior economist with the National Bank of Canada, spends his days analyzing condos in Canada’s big cities. He supports the belief that there’s overbuilding in the Canadian condo market—just not in the cities you’d expect.

According to Pinsonneault developers are not overbuilding in Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary—Canada’s three hottest real estate markets and the cities that boast some of the largest condo growth in recent years.  Yet, the numbers show that developers in Montreal, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg are overbuilding and if the market hasn’t already cooled it will, says Pinsonneault.

The fact is that despite an increase in building permit applications and an increase in completed, new condo units entering the market, supply really is keeping up with demand in Toronto, Calgary (although a little less so in Vancouver).

“In Canada as a whole, the number of completed and unabsorbed condo units amounts to only two months [worth of supply], versus the more than four months [of unabsorbed condos that existed] in the 1990s,” explains Pinsonneault.

Fear: Foreign investors prop up the condo market in Canada

The fear is that foreign ownership is propping up the condo market, particularly in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. And there’s basis for that fear. But like all things real estate, it really does boil down to location, location, location.

Late last year, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released it’s first ever report that attempted to shed some light on who actually own’s condos in Canada. Wildly publicized when it was released, the report highlighted the apparently low percentage of condos owned by foreign investors (defined by the CMHC as condo-purchasers whose primary residence is not in the city where the condo-investment is located). As such, the CMHC reported that only 2.4% of condos in the Greater Toronto Area and only 2.3% of Greater Vancouver’s condos are owned by foreign investors, respectively. Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg had the fewest number of foreign condo owners, at 0.1%, while Calgary’s foreign ownership of condos was just over 0.2%.

But drill down and the CMHC numbers start to reveal an alarming trend: a concentration of foreign-owned condos in a city’s downtown core. For instance, 5.8% of condos in downtown Vancouver are foreign owned. In Toronto’s downtown core 4.3% of condos are foreign-owned. Surprisingly, the CMHC did not drill down Calgary’s condo ownership, however, it did unearth a big concern when it comes to Montreal’s downtown condos. According to the recent CMHC report 6.9% of the condos in Montreal’s downtown core and Nun Island area are foreign owned—compared to the city’s 2.3% average.

Foreign ownership is a key concern as real estate analysts fear that if the market turns, foreign owners will be more likely to put their units up for sale and this can flood the market, push overall condo prices down, and start a market crash.

Montreal aside, most analysts are now far less concerned about the percentage of condos owned by foreign investors. CIBC World Market’s deputy-chief economist, Benjamin Tal, estimates that the number of “pure foreign investment” condos in actually a small segment of the market—and only slightly higher if you factor in families where one spouse continues to live overseas while the other lives with children who attend school in Canada.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the number of condos owned for investment purposes isn’t surprisingly high in Canada. According to a CMHC report, released in mid-2014, just over 17% of condo owners own a secondary condo-unit as an investment. (For statistical accurateness the CMHC combined the findings for Toronto and Vancouver.) This number doesn’t include the number of investors who rent out their condo and live in another type of accommodation (either a single-family home or a rental apartment) nor does it include investors who use corporations to purchase property.

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – November 4, 2014 – Home sales in the Metro Vancouver* housing
market continue to outpace long-term averages for this time of year.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in
Greater Vancouver reached 3,057 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in October 2014.
This represents a 14.9 per cent increase compared to the 2,661 sales in October 2013, and a 4.6
per cent increase over the 2,922 sales in September 2014.
Last month’s sales were 16.6 per cent above the 10-year sales average for October.
“We’ve seen strong and consistent demand from home buyers in Metro Vancouver throughout
this year. This has led to steady increases in home prices of between four and eight per cent
depending on the property,” said REBGV president Ray Harris.
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 4,487
in October. This represents a four per cent increase compared to the 4,315 new listings in
October 2013 and a 14.7 per cent decline from the 5,259 new listings in September.
The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver
is 13,851, a 9.2 per cent decline compared to October 2013 and a 6.6 per cent decrease compared
to September 2014.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro
Vancouver is currently $637,000. This represents a six per cent increase compared to October
2013.
“Detached homes continue to increase in price more than condominium and townhome
properties. This is largely a function of supply and demand as the supply of condominium and
townhome properties are more abundant than detached homes in our region,” Harris said.
Sales of detached properties in October 2014 reached 1,271, an increase of 19.1 per cent from
the 1,067 detached sales recorded in October 2013, and a 60.9 per cent increase from the 790
units sold in October 2012. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 7.9 per cent
from October 2013 to $995,100.Sales of apartment properties reached 1,268 in October 2014, an increase of 15.5 per cent
compared to the 1,098 sales in October 2013, and a 57.9 per cent increase compared to the 803
sales in October 2012. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased four per cent
from October 2013 to $380,200.
Attached property sales in October 2014 totalled 518, a 4.4 per cent increase compared to the
496 sales in October 2013, and an 53.3 per cent increase over the 338 attached properties sold in
October 2012. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 4.7 per cent between October
2013 and 2014 to $479,500.

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News Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Steady trends continue in the Greater Vancouver housing

market

VANCOUVER, B.C. – February 4, 2014 – The first month of 2014 saw home sale and listing

totals outpace historical averages in the Greater Vancouver housing market.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in

Greater Vancouver reached 1,760 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in January 2014.

This represents a 30.3 per cent increase compared to the 1,351 sales recorded in January 2013,

and a 9.9 per cent decline compared to the 1,953 sales in December 2013.

Last month’s sales were 7.2 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month.

“The Greater Vancouver housing market has been in a balanced market for nearly a year. This

has meant steady home sale and listing activity accompanied by stable home prices,” Sandra

Wyant, REBGV president said.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,345

in January. This represents a 4.2 per cent increase compared to the 5,128 new listings reported in

January 2013.

Last month’s new listing count was 17.7 per cent higher than the region’s 10-year new listing

average for the month.

The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the Greater Vancouver MLS® is

12,602, a 4.9 per cent decline compared to January 2013 and a nine per cent increase compared

to December 2013.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro

Vancouver is currently $606,800. This represents a 3.2 per cent increase compared to January

2013.

With the sales-to-active-listings ratio at 14 per cent, the region remains in balanced market

territory.

“If you’re looking to sell your home in a balanced market, it’s critical that your list price is

reflective of current market conditions,” Wyant said.

Sales of detached properties in January 2014 reached 728, an increase of 34.3 per cent from the

542 detached sales recorded in January 2013, and a 10.5 per cent increase from the 659 units

sold in January 2012. The benchmark price for a detached property in Greater Vancouver

increased 3.2 per cent from January 2013 to $929,700.

Sales of apartment properties reached 753 in January 2014, an increase of 30.7 per cent

compared to the 576 sales in January 2013, and an increase of 14.6 per cent compared to the 657

sales in January 2012. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.7 per cent from

January 2013 to $371,500.

Attached property sales in January 2014 totalled 279, an increase of 19.7 per cent compared to

the 233 sales in January 2013, and a 6.9 per cent increase from the 261 attached properties sold

in January 2012. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 1.7 per cent between January

2013 and 2014 to $457,700.

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