Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Housing affordability improves, RBC says

Reprinted courtesy of

It's becoming easier to carry the costs of home ownership in Canada, but a survey by RBC Economics on housing affordability suggests this may be as good as it's going to get.

Home ownership became more affordable in the second quarter, the bank said Wednesday. It was the fifth straight quarter that the measure improved, it said.

"The national home affordability level has been restored to pre-housing boom levels," senior RBC economist Robert Hogue said in a statement.

But he warned that consumers shouldn't expect affordability to improve much more.

"The recuperative phase of the affordability cycle seems to be drawing to a close, with housing prices firming up in many parts of the country, and mortgage rates no longer trending downward," Hogue said.

Most banks lowered their mortgage rates in the last week, reversing this summer's earlier rate hike. A five-year fixed closed mortgage can now be obtained at 4.19 per cent at many banks and as little as 3.99 per cent at a few smaller financial institutions.

The RBC affordability study measures the percentage of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of buying a home (mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes).

The study found that it took an average of 39.1 per cent of income to pay for a detached bungalow in the three months ending in June — down from 39.7 per cent in the first quarter.

The priciest market continued to be Vancouver, where it took 63.4 per cent of pre-tax income to service a bungalow purchase.

Nationally, the RBC study found that affordability also improved for two-storey homes, townhouses and condos.

Despite predictions that home affordability is levelling off, RBC economists say the recent bounce-back in the housing market is not likely to wane any time soon.

"Supply of properties for sale is dropping as demand bounces back, which is working to heat up prices again in many parts of the country," RBC's Hogue said.

Figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association showed that 50,270 homes changed hands in July via MLS — a record for any July.

The average residential resale price rose 7.6 per cent from a year ago to $326,832.

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