Saturday, October 30, 2010

Housing Demand Perks Up

*Article courtesy of Heather Degraaf @ Scotiabank
Contact Heather for all your mortgage needs. 519-535-7890

Housing Demand Perks Up

After a seasonally uncharacteristic spring and summer slump, Canadian home sales appear to be stabilizing at a new lower, but more sustainable level. National MLS sales volumes increased 3% m/m in September, building on a similar gain in August. Sales activity is still down almost 20% y/y but the decline is accentuated by las August's record monthly sales pace. Two-thirds of local markets reported higher sales last month.

The moderate pickup in housing demand is being aided by lower borrowing costs. While policy tightening by the Bank of Canada has led to a modest backup in variable mortgage rates, fixed rates have come down across the maturity spectrum in recent months, mirroring the drop in bond yields. We expect interest rates will stay lower for longer, underpinning steady housing demand through the fall, contingent on at least a modest pace of job growth.

With new listings edging up only marginally last month, the new-listings-to-sales ratio edged down to 2.0. Meanwhile, the month's supply of active listings fell for a third consecutive month to 6.6. Both metrics suggest a more balanced national market. Sellers (and builders) in Canada remain highly responsive to underlying market conditions. Unlike in the United States, Canadian foreclosure rates are low and not a significant source of downward price pressure. New construction too is gradually moderating. As would be expected given generally balanced conditions, average prices are essentially flat (+0.2% m/m and -0.2% y/y). Prices were overbid last fall as buyers outnumbered sellers, but have fallen back to more reasonable levels.

While ultra-low interest rates remain highly supportive for the interest-sensitive housing market, moderate economic growth and hiring, debt-leery households and high home prices will keep many buyers on the sidelines for now. Look for a flattish fall national market from a sales and pricing perspective.

Ben Sage, Sales Representative. Re/Max a-b Realty Ltd., Brokerage. 519-536-7535. 521 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON

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