Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Report: Condo prices to rise in 2013 — except in Vancouver

TORONTO – A new condo report suggests first-time buyers, retirees and population growth will continue to fuel demand and price growth for the compact living spaces over the next few years.

The study by Genworth Canada found that average condo resale prices are expected to rise next year in seven of the eight metropolitan centres studied.

Prices in Toronto are projected to jump 2.5 per cent to $312,352.

The highest increase however, is expected to be in Edmonton where prices could rise 3.2 per cent.

Vancouver is the only city where condo prices are expected to drop, by two per cent to $348,152.

The report stands in contrast to warnings from economists and officials that the condo market in some hot markets is reaching bubble territory that could soon burst.

The Bank of Canada and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have cautioned Canadians repeatedly to moderate borrowing on real estate, declaring household debt to be the domestic economy’s number one enemy.

The central bank noted certain segments of the housing market that have a persistent oversupply — such as condos in Toronto — face a higher risk of a price correction.

Genworth — which earns revenue from selling mortgage insurance — notes that rising prices for single-detached homes are driving first-time buyers to condos, but retirees also continue to prop up demand.

It suggests that the population is expected to grow in all eight cities studied over the next few years, while employment growth and low interest rates should also support the market.

“This data corroborates our view that the demand for condos in Canada, particularly at the price-point we insure, is well supported by our economy and our population,” said Brian Hurley, chairman and CEO of Genworth Canada.

“For those seeking to own a home affordably in urban centres, condos remain a good option.”

The Genworth Canada report, produced with the Conference Board of Canada, reviewed trends in Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.

Census figures for 2011 released in February show multi-unit dwellings — a category that includes condominiums — making up roughly half of all new housing stock, a category traditionally led by detached homes.

The numbers also indicate that Canadians are flocking to urban centres. Toronto’s population jumped more than 17 per cent over the previous census period in 2006.

A recent CMHC report said housing starts and home sales have been strong in 2012 — particularly when it comes to multiple-dwelling units such as townhouses, condos and apartments — but will soften moderately in coming months into 2013.

Condo boom doesn't mean Toronto housing bubble: RBC

TORONTO - A new report wants to burst the idea of a Toronto housing bubble.

Yes, condo sales and construction are booming, but the Royal Bank of Canada report says there is no housing bubble because the city's number of new housing units is in line with demographic needs.

The Greater Toronto Area sees an influx of close to 100,000 people each year.

That translated to approximately 38,000 new households per year from 2006 to 2011, according to RBC and Statistics Canada data in the report.

One constraint to urban development is the Ontario government's plan to handle growth and development in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which is known as "Places to Grow" and seeks to curb urban sprawl.

Faced with the task of accommodating the 38,000 new households, new housing in Toronto has nowhere to grow but up.

May 2012 saw a record 44,100 condos and apartments under construction, as well as 6,200 multiple units, which are detached and row houses.

The report's findings also aim to quell fears that scores of empty condominiums are piling up.

"Concerns that large numbers of newly built condo units are sitting empty are simply not supported by the statistics," the report, released Tuesday, says.

The report says approximately 7.5 per cent of the condo units completed in the previous 12 months are unoccupied, and estimates that unoccupied units represent close to 0.2 per cent of the stock of multiple units. Both figures are less than numbers from the 1980s when Toronto saw a housing bubble burst.

While investors represent a large share of condo buyers, concerns about property "flipping" might be overblown, the report adds.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported last fall that only 10 to 15 per cent of new condos are listed for sale within 12 months of registration.

Tuesday's report says the majority of condo investment properties are actually helping to fill a gap in the rental market.

"The biggest risk that we see for the coming years is a possible mismatch between the types of condo units bought by investors and the types ultimately demanded for occupancy," says the report.

A mismatch could occur with a greater emphasis on small, single-unit apartments when currently about three-quarters of rental demand is for high-rise multi-family units.

However, the report is quick to dismiss these concerns, pointing to the demand for rental units.

The report suggests that recent changes that tightened mortgage rules will push more people into the rental market.

As of last month, the maximum amortization period dropped from 30 to 25 years for government-insured mortgages, and the refinancing limit was capped at 80 per cent down from its previous 85 per cent.

The report notes that while the city saw an 18 per cent increase in condo rental units, the rental vacancy rate dropped to 1.1 per cent last year.