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As Toronto rents near Brooklyn-level prices, tenants grow desperate

Posted on 12 August 2017 by admin

Apartment-seekers are driving the streets looking for rentals and creating web profiles, similar to dating bios, to attract landlords.

Trying to find an apartment in Toronto is a lot like online dating, only more demoralizing.

Ask Kin Lau. Normally, landlords would be swiping right on him. He’s got a perfect credit score and a good job. But last week he drove 40 minutes to check out a one-bedroom — only to discover another suitor had snapped it up first.

“Do people just not go to see the place before renting?” said Lau, a 25-year-old accountant.

He just wants an apartment viewing. Is that too much to ask?

Renting in Toronto is the hardest it’s ever been. Home prices have doubled since 2008, so buying is out of reach for many people. That’s pushed Toronto rents to record highs, approaching those in Brooklyn and London. Potential tenants are so desperate they’re driving the streets looking for rentals and creating web profiles, similar to dating bios, to attract landlords. And prices are likely to keep rising given new laws that builders say discourage construction.

“I can’t take clients with mediocre credit anymore, because landlords don’t even look at them,” said Conrad Rygier, a broker at Keller Williams Realty Inc. “I’ve seen a lot of frustration. Downtown is just absolute craziness.”

Investors, lenders and Canadians looking for places to live are wondering how much longer the home-price boom can last. Although values have fallen 17 per cent since March, compared with a 3-per-cent gain in the same period last year, the average price of a detached home in Toronto is still near a record at $1.39 million.

Rental supply is down to two weeks, meaning it would take that long to rent everything in town, and average rents have hit an all-time high.

Toronto mostly has three types of rental properties: privately owned condominium suites, rental buildings with a central landlord, and space in a private home. Supplies of all three are squeezed.

There are 1,125 condominium units available for rent in the city, down 13 per cent from last year, according to second-quarter data from Urbanation Inc. It’s also a record low for the period in Toronto.

Rents jumped 11 per cent in the last year, blowing past the $2,000-a-month threshold for the first time, to $2,073 (about $1,644 U.S.), and nearing Brooklyn-level prices. In the Crown Heights section of the New York City borough, landlords ask an average $2,089 (U.S.) for a one-bedroom, according to June data from Brooklyn brokerage MNS Brands Inc. In greater London, average rent for new units in May fell to £1,502 ($1,960 U.S.), according to HomeLet.

For newer rental-only towers, the vacancy rate reached a low of 0.1 per cent in the second quarter. In April the province of Ontario introduced the most sweeping rental rules in a quarter century. They cap rent increases at 2.5 per cent and extend rent controls to apartments built after 1991, which builders say will constrict new construction. It will likely keep renters climbing over one another to get a date with a landlord. Lau, the accountant, said he had four landlords cancel on him in two days.

As for basement apartments and other unofficial listings, a segment of the market not actively tracked, good luck.

Horror stories abound. Stephanie and Stephane Leonard spent more than a month checking online listings and cruising the city streets in their silver Audi, hunting for “For Lease” signs in house windows. In desperation, they posted an advertisement online that reads like a dating profile: charming, dependable and mature. Seeking: a one-bedroom rental. They joined dozens of others posting similar online ads.

“It got to the point where I would monitor Kijiji for properties as soon as they popped up, and even then we couldn’t always get a showing,” said Stephanie Leonard, a 47-year-old training-manual writer, referring to the popular classifieds website. “I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and this is the hardest time I’ve ever had finding a place.”

The Leonards ended up renting one floor of a house in Mimico, an emerging neighbourhood along the water about a 30-minute drive from Toronto, with two other tenants living on the other floors. It wasn’t a perfect match, but it works for now.

Others aren’t so lucky. Dayna and Theo Block have to move to the city by Sept. 7, when Theo starts classes at the University of Toronto, joining the 100,000 other people migrating to the city each year. Their online ad, with a photo of the pair in a meadow by a wood fence, describes the 21-year-olds as a young, polite couple seeking to spend no more than C$825 a month. They’re getting more emails from scam artists asking for money than from landlords.

“I want to tell people, ‘You don’t understand. We just need a place to live. The bare minimum,’” Dayna Block said by phone from their basement apartment in the western province of Alberta, Canada’s oil-producing region. The couple have even offered to pay rent for August despite not living in the city.

Landlords are ecstatic at their good fortune. Jeff Medley listed his downtown Toronto “nothing special” 600-square-foot (56-square-meter) condo on a Wednesday. On Thursday, the winner of a bidding war agreed to pay C$1,850 a month for the place he’d offered for C$1,800.

“Each time I’ve rented it, I’ve got more,” Medley said. “Nothing has changed about the unit.”

Unless there’s an influx of supply or a slowing of demand, the market will only become more unhinged, said Rygier, the Keller Williams broker.

“I was going to say, ‘If it’s a reasonably priced suite,’” he said. “But that’s an oxymoron these days.”

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Government measures are cooling off the housing market, Morneau says

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

The finance minister says the real estate price increases seen in Toronto and Vancouver were “unsustainable.”

OTTAWA—The federal finance minister says steps taken to tame Canada’s hottest housing markets have already helped slow down a sector he believes was moving at an unsustainable clip.

Bill Morneau’s comments Tuesday follow this week’s release of data showing Canada’s home sales for June posted their biggest monthly plunge in seven years. The national figure was led by a drop in the Greater Toronto market.

The new data provided the latest evidence that steps taken at federal, provincial and municipal levels have begun to temper the country’s real estate sector, particularly in the Vancouver and Toronto regions.

 “What we’ve put in place has had some impact — and some impact in having a slight cooling in the market, which of course was our objective,” Morneau told The Canadian Press in an interview at his Ottawa office.

 “We thought that the price increases in Vancouver and Toronto, specifically, were unsustainable.”

Earlier Tuesday, Morneau told a news conference that changes in the housing sector were playing out “largely the way we thought it might.” He also noted, however, that it was “too early” in the emerging situation to draw conclusions.

On a national basis, last month’s housing transactions were down 6.7 per cent compared with May, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday. It was the third-straight monthly decrease and the Greater Toronto Area registered a 15.1-per-cent drop.

Compared to May, sales fell last month in 70 per cent of all local markets measured by the association, including the Lower Mainland in B.C., Montreal and Quebec City.

Earlier this year, the Ontario government put in place more than a dozen measures to curb the Toronto market, including a 15-per-cent-tax on foreign buyers. Since then, sales in Canada’s largest city have slowed.

A number of federal measures have also been introduced in recent years to address housing market concerns during the extended period of low interest rates. They’ve included higher minimum down-payment requirements, reduced amortization periods and stress tests on insured mortgages.

Separately, mortgage interest rates have started to rise following last week’s hike in the Bank of Canada’s benchmark interest rate.

The federal banking regulator recently proposed to expand stress tests to include uninsured mortgages as part of the effort to tighten lending rules.

Asked about the recommendation by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Morneau said the measures under consideration are slightly different because they’re clearly aimed at the higher-end part of the market.

In the months ahead, Morneau said the federal government will remain vigilant.

“We’re going to be careful as we do this every step along the way,” he said.

“We need to continue to focus on this market. We’re not going to assume that the measures that we’ve put in place so far have necessarily given us comfort that the market’s exactly where we want it to be.”

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Ontario proposes banning real estate agents from representing both seller and buyer

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Consumers have raised concerns that the financial incentives in double-ended deals might lead to agents engaging in unethical behaviour, officials say.

Ontario is proposing banning the practice of double ending, in which a real estate agent represents both a buyer and a seller in a transaction.

The province’s Liberal government announced a 16-point housing plan earlier this year, with centrepiece planks of a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax and expanded rent controls.

Another plank was reviewing the rules for real estate agents to ensure consumers are fairly represented. The government has now published several proposals for changes to real estate agent rules and penalties, and is seeking public consultation on them.

One of the proposals is to ban — with some limited exceptions — salespeople from representing both the buyer and seller or more than one potential buyer in a trade.

 “The seller will want the highest possible price and most favourable terms they can get, and the buyer will want to pay the lowest price or negotiate the most favourable terms possible,” a government discussion paper says.

“These competing interests may make it challenging for registrants involved in these types of transactions to meet their obligations to their clients or to be able to advocate effectively on behalf of either party.”

Consumers have raised concerns that the financial incentives in double-ended deals might lead to agents engaging in unethical behaviour, the government says in its paper.

 “This divided loyalty and the associated risks may leave some consumers vulnerable even when written consent is obtained and the necessary disclosures … have been made.”

Currently, double ending is allowed if all of the clients the agent is representing give their consent to the arrangement in writing.

Under the government’s proposed changes, different agents from the same brokerage could represent the buyer and the seller in a transaction. The “limited exceptions” to the double-ending ban would be if there is a private arrangement between family members or in a small market where there are very few agents.

Ontario says its proposed new model is similar to how British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba approach multiple representation in real estate deals. It is looking to those jurisdictions to learn best practices.

The government is also considering increasing the maximum fine for salespeople and brokers who violate a code of ethics from $25,000 to $50,000 and $100,000 for brokerages.

A second and broader phase of reviewing Ontario real estate rules will start in the spring of 2018.

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Foreign real estate buyers in Ontario small in number, figures show

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

Non-Canadian citizens made up about 4.7 per cent of real estate transactions in the month after a speculation tax was implemented.

Less than 5 per cent of the 18,282 real estate deals in the Toronto and Golden Horseshoe area involved foreign buyers in the month after a new tax targetting them was introduced, the province reports.

The Liberal government implemented a 15 per cent “non-resident speculation tax” in April, along with a number of other measures to help combat skyrocketing prices amid surging demand.

The figures released Tuesday cover transactions from April 24 to May 26 that could be subject to the new tax. Overall, 4.7 per cent of the 18,282 purchases were made by foreign businesses or buyers who weren’t citizens or permanent Canadian residents.

Tim Hudak, who heads the Ontario Real Estate Association, said the province’s statistics are close to the 4.9 per cent previously reported by the Toronto Real Estate Board, adding the “the ultimate solution to addressing the barriers facing Ontario home buyers is to increase housing supply.

“The best way to increase supply is seeing more of the ‘missing middle’ type homes being built like townhouses, stacked flats or midrise buildings.”

The province released the foreign buyer numbers a day before a housing forum — bringing together experts, economics and community groups — was to meet for the first time in a bid to find ways to make housing more affordable and to address demand.

PC Finance Critic Vic Fedeli said the Liberals finally have some data on the issue, providing “some evidence to finally base their decisions on.”

However, he added, “it’s awkward for the government, they can never know what impact their policies have — all they wanted to do was rush out with an announcement so they could have a photo op” he said of the April announcement.

 “What concerned us the most about this whole thing was the lack of preparedness and lack of data,” he said in a telephone interview. “ … It was very loosely put together and that always worries us.”

Fedeli said rather than raising taxes, the government needs to deal with the regulations and red tape that developers say are slowing down housing projects.

When Ontario’s speculation tax was announced, foreign purchasers were thought to comprise about 5 per cent of buyers. The tax is similar to one in British Columbia, introduced a year ago, and covers Greater Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, north to Barrie and east to Peterborough.

Refugees, or those whose spouse is a citizen or permanent resident, are among a small group who are exempt from the tax.

The province’s 16-point Fair Housing Plan — which includes the speculation tax, $100 million in land for 2,000 new homes and a doubling of the land transfer tax rebate for those entering the market — “sought to stabilize the market and give more individuals and young families an opportunity to buy a home. Early indicators show that the plan is working,” said Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

Indeed, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported a 25.3 per cent drop in sales between April and May in Greater Toronto, calling it the biggest monthly drop in five years.

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Rents in Ontario can be hiked 1.8 per cent in 2018 under new guidelines

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

The Ontario Ministry of Housing set the rate Friday based on the provincial consumer price index, which measures inflation.

Tenants will face residential rent increases of no more than 1.8 per cent next year unless their landlords apply to authorities for more.

The Ontario Ministry of Housing set the rate Friday based on the provincial consumer price index, which measures inflation.

Another 250,000 tenants will be protected from “unreasonable” rent increases now that the Liberal government has, as part of housing reforms, extended rent control to buildings constructed since 1991, said MPP Cristina Martins (Davenport), parliamentary secretary to Housing Minister Chris Ballard.

Landlords who make improvements to their rental units can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for larger increases based on the amount of money they have spent, Martins noted.

“We know that a strong rental market in Ontario is one that balanced affordability with tenants with the right conditions for continued investments in rental properties by landlords,” she told reporters Friday.

“That’s why landlords who undertake certain capital repairs will still be able to apply for above guideline rent increases and landlords will still be able to set rent levels for new tenants.”

The rent increase cap does not apply to vacant units, social housing, nursing homes or commercial properties.

Rent controls were expanded by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s administration in April in response to the then-overheated housing market, where house prices and rents on units built after 1991 were skyrocketing.

Some tenants complained of being booted out of their apartments by landlords for personal reasons, such as moving a family member in, and then saw those units rented for hundreds more dollars a month.

Landlords evicting tenants for personal reasons will soon have to pay them a penalty to discourage capricious decisions to force tenants out.

“It will be taking place this summer,” said Martins.

There are about 1.2 million private rental units in Ontario.

Under Ontario law, annual rent increases can be no more than 2.5 per cent.

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Montreal housing market heats up as Toronto shows signs of cooling

Posted on 08 June 2017 by admin

Prices are on track to jump 6 per cent this year, according to the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards.

While the once-soaring housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver are showing signs of cooling, Montreal is just getting started.

Demand in Canada’s second-largest city has heated up enough to put Montreal-area home prices on track to rise 6 per cent this year, the biggest jump since 2010, according to the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards. That’s up from a January forecast of just 1-per-cent growth.

Job creation, robust consumer confidence and new immigrants are fuelling demand.

“We aren’t as crazy as Vancouver and Toronto as far as price increases,” said Eric Goodman, agency executive at Century 21 Vision in Montreal. “But activity is pretty good.”

Montreal’s real estate market so far has been left out of the global spotlight focused on the booming Canadian property markets of Toronto and Vancouver. That could change as foreign buyer taxes in those cities curbs demand and potentially sends purchasers looking for a cheaper place to invest.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Montreal becomes the new target for foreign capital investing in residential real estate,” Cynthia Holmes, a professor of real estate management at Ryerson University in Toronto, said Wednesday.

“Montreal is the Goldilocks of the Canadian housing market,” she added, with Toronto and Vancouver too hot and Calgary too cold.

There are early signs of new interest in Montreal.

The city has attracted “a bit more” Asian investors since a 15-per-cent foreign buyers tax was implemented in Vancouver in August, according to David L’Heureux, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) principal of market analysis for the Montreal region.

“At the moment, I don’t think it has a significant impact on demand,” he added.

Non-Canadian purchasers in Montreal made up about 1.3 per cent of the market last year, up from 0.7 per cent in 2013, according to CMHC, the Ottawa-based housing agency.

“We expect the number to remain close to 1.5 per cent in the short term,” L’Heureux said Monday.

That compares to a Toronto Real Estate Board estimate of fewer than 5 per cent of foreign buyers last year in its region, where demand slowed after policymakers introduced a foreign buyers levy last month.

Foreigners accounted for as much as 16.5 per cent of the value of property sold in the Vancouver region before British Columbia imposed a tax in August, according to the province. That figure fell as low as 1.8 per cent in September, though has crept back up.

While growth has slowed in both Toronto and Vancouver, the median price of a single-family home in Montreal is seen climbing to $312,500, faster than last year’s 2-per-cent gain and the 1-per-cent increase predicted earlier.

Montreal remains a bargain, with average prices about one-third the levels in Toronto and Vancouver.

Montreal also is on track to break a seven-year record for the number of homes sold, with 41,500 properties expected to change hands, up 4 per cent from last year, according to the Quebec board, which in January predicted a 5-per-cent decline.

While the effect of the Toronto and Vancouver taxes remains to be seen in Montreal, a 6-per-cent rise in home prices “is not problematic for now,” Quebec real estate board market analysis manager Paul Cardinal said Tuesday.

“It’s still cheap to buy a house in Montreal compared to other major markets in Canada, but activity has been higher than we thought it would be this year,” Cardinal said.

It’s “too soon” to predict if the mainly French-speaking city may be on the verge of its own housing boom.

The average selling price of a detached home in Toronto rose 24 per cent last month from a year earlier to $1.2 million. That followed a 30-per-cent increase in March. In Vancouver, the average benchmark price increased 8.1 per cent to $1.5 million in April.

Unlike Canada’s financial hub of Toronto, or Vancouver — popular with Chinese immigrants and others drawn to the Pacific Northwest — Montreal has a solid supply of housing to meet demand, including in the rental market, according to Cardinal.

“There has been a substantial increase in supply in Montreal,” Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said in an interview in New York last month.

The province is closely watching for any spillover effect from Vancouver and Toronto and doesn’t rule out a measure that would better enable government to identify foreign buyers, he said.

Desjardins Group chief executive officer Guy Cormier, who oversees North America’s largest financial co-operative, told reporters in Montreal on Monday that he doesn’t currently see any need for a foreign buyers tax in Montreal or Quebec.

There’s “no real-estate bubble forming,” he said.

The Quebec real estate board’s previous low forecast for Montreal housing this year stemmed from concern that stricter federal mortgage rules introduced last year would crimp demand. That hasn’t happened, Cardinal said.

He added that Quebec also isn’t seeing any fallout from the near collapse of Toronto-based Home Capital Group Inc., as it isn’t “a main lender” in the province.

The last time Montreal had a decline in home prices was in 1996, according to Cardinal. The city hasn’t seen double-digit price gains for single-family homes since a 10-per-cent jump in 2007, with the median price at $215,000. The last such increase for condos was in 2004, with a 20-per-cent rise and the median price at $155,000, according the board’s data.

“The market today seems to have changed,” said Goodman at Century 21. “Houses aren’t staying on the market that long, the inventory of quality property is really low and anything priced right is getting multiple offers immediately.”

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Brampton business event provides inspiration for economic growth

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

BRAMPTON, ON – Yesterday (May 9) the City of Brampton unveiled a new sector-focused approach and forward thinking vision for economic planning at its Economic Update event.

More than 220 business representatives from Brampton and around the GTA were on hand to network, receive a copy of Brampton’s Economic Review 2016, and hear about new directions and plans for the City and for economic development in Brampton.

“We’re building something exciting in Brampton,” said Mayor Linda Jeffrey. “Our young, fast growing population, our position in the middle of the Waterloo-Brampton-Toronto Innovation Super Corridor and our vision for the future is changing the game in Brampton.”

Robert Hogue, RBC Senior Economist and member of the Macroeconomic and Regional Analysis Group with RBC Economics Research, delivered the event’s keynote presentation at the event. Mr. Hogue assessed the state of Canada’s ‎economy and prospects for the year ahead within the global context, foucsingspecifically on the outlook for Ontario and the opportunities and risks from international trade.

Councillor Jeff Bowman, Chair of Economic Development, explained how the City is positioning itself as a significant competitor to other Canadian and global cities. “We’re focusing economic development on key sectors that reflect traditional strengths and look ahead to the skills and industries of tomorrow. And we’ve taken on a commitment to grow cultural vibrancy in our city, adding to our competitive edge through quality of life.”

The focus sectors are health and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage and innovation and technology sectors. The goal of this targeted approach is to drive growth and be an expert resource to help businesses grow.

The health and life sciences sector has been in the spotlight recently with the official grand opening of the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness. Atlas Healthcare also recently committed to developing a 6-storey medical facility in the same area. In conjunction with this, the City also released a study on the development of a health cluster around Peel Memorial.

Bob Darling, Director of Economic Development and Culture at the City, spoke about these opportunities at the Economic Update event. “We’re building connections with healthcare providers and businesses to drive innovation and growth in this sector. Building on the strengths of Peel Memorial, the recent study has identified a core strategy and niche to build on, developing something exciting and impactful in our Downtown centre.”

For more information about the event or the City’s economic development plans, please call 905.874.2650 or e-mail

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Home Capital buys time during ‘crisis of confidence’

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

The struggling alternate lender warned on a conference call with analysts, however, that charges will reduce operating strength going forward.

 Home Capital Group Inc. says an emergency credit line has bought time to secure new financing at better terms, even after the alternate lender a day earlier warned that a run on deposits cast its future as a going concern in doubt.

“The last few weeks have not been easy for any of us,” said interim chief executive Bonita J. Then, who assumed the role after the March 27 dismissal of former CEO Martin Reid.

The sudden termination came days before the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) accused Home Capital of making misleading statements to investors about its subprime mortgage underwriting operations. Home Capital says the allegations are without merit.

“I believe in the fundamental business premise of Home Capital,” Then told analysts on a conference call Friday. “This company matters to a great number of people.”

Home Capital late Thursday said it earned $58 million or 90 cents a share in its first quarter ended March 31, just below the $64.2 million or 92 cents in the 2016 period.

The company warned on a conference call with analysts, however, that charges will reduce operating strength going forward, while costs generated by $2 billion credit line will also hurt future results.

Depositors have withdrawn nearly 94 per cent of funds from Home Capital’s high-interest savings accounts since the company terminated Reid, though data it released Friday showed the rate of withdrawals has slowed. Events since the dismissal have also halved the value of the company’s stock.

Home Capital said its high-interest savings deposits were expected to have fallen to about $125 million following the completion of Thursday’s settlements, down slightly from a balance of $128 million the day before. That’s still a huge drop from $1.4 billion just over two weeks ago.

It also announced deposits with its guaranteed investment certificates stood at $12.52 billion, down $20 million from Wednesday.

The company says liquid assets stood at approximately $962 million as of the end of day Thursday. Combined with the undrawn amount of $600 million under the credit facility, aggregate available liquidity and credit capacity totaled approximately $1.56 billion.

Home Capital relies on deposits from savers to fund its lending to borrowers, such as self-employed workers or newcomers to Canada, who may not meet the stricter criteria of the country’s biggest banks.

The company agreed last month to receive $2 billion in emergency funding from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, a deal which requires it to pay a non-refundable commitment fee of $100 million and a 10 per cent interest rate on outstanding balances.

Home Capital has also taken steps to repair its image with the appointment of high-profile business leaders to its board including Claude Lamoureux, former chief executive of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and a founder of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance.

Alan Hibben, a former RBC director and one of the new directors, told analysts that Home Capital is exploring strategic options and said a number of people are interested in either providing financial support or pursuing a strategic acquisition.

He said while the business is deeply undervalued and could ultimately be attractive to another lender, “when a crisis in confidence happens all bets are off.”

Hibben said trust can only be restored gradually, with the company adding that it is in talks aimed at expanding available funding as it faces charges and debt obligations in the short term.

Home Capital said while it continues to take in deposits, outflows on obligations including maturing mortgages are far more significant.

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Real estate’s huge role in Canadian economy causing worry

Posted on 14 May 2017 by admin

The big worry is that Canada has moved from a reliance on oil to a reliance on real estate.

 Two things happened last week that were a reminder of just how vital real estate has become to Canada’s economy.

On Friday, Statistics Canada released gross domestic product data that showed February was a banner month for sectors linked to housing. The real estate industry, residential construction, financial and legal services generated a combined 0.5 per cent increase in output, the biggest one-month gain since 2014. Without those, the overall economy would have contracted slightly in February.

A day earlier, the Ontario government released a budget that projects land transfer taxes will surpass $3 billion in the current fiscal year, from $1.8 billion three years ago. For the province, it’s the difference between a balanced budget and a deficit.

Measures of housing’s contribution to the economy are imprecise, but estimates largely put the direct contribution in excess of 20 per cent.

It’s much more than that once you add all the indirect effects, with benefits spread widely from lawyer fees to government revenue and increased retail purchases through so-called wealth effects as rising home equity values prompt households to ramp up consumption. The big worry is that Canada has moved from a reliance on oil to a reliance on real estate.

The influence of housing on the economy is so pervasive that it won’t take much of a slowdown to act as a major drag on the economy, said Mark Chandler, head of fixed-income research at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

“You don’t need a collapse in house prices, you don’t need housing starts to be cut in half for weaker real estate sector to have a significant effect on GDP and incomes,” Chandler said. RBC’s ballpark estimate is that a 10 per cent decline in national home prices would knock a full percentage point off growth.

A Toronto Dominion Bank report from 2015 found the housing wealth effect has been responsible for about one-fifth of all growth in consumption since 2001.

“A lot of the strength we have seen in consumption is housing related,” said Brian DePratto, the economist who wrote the 2015 report. If you strip out the direct and indirect impact from housing on the economy, “you are talking about a much lower trend pace of growth.”

It’s hard to believe, but there was a time not long ago when Canada’s banks lent more to businesses than home owners. It was the norm in fact until the early-1990s, when mortgage loans surpassed business lending for the first time. Residential mortgages today make up about 52 per cent of all chartered bank loans, versus 21 per cent for business lending.

Still, that portion of business lending is up from a record low of 19 per cent in 2012, suggesting that as home valuations become stretched and as mortgage and capital regulations tighten, banks are increasingly looking to companies for lending growth.

A closer look, however, reveals that much of the new business lending is in fact real estate related. Bank of Canada figures show 14 per cent of all private business loans from chartered banks are now bound for so-called real estate operator industries, the biggest share in the history of data back to 1981.

The $27.4 billion in private loans to the sector, which represents companies that own and manage real estate assets, exceeds the combined lending to the manufacturing and oil and gas sectors combined. That’s on top of the $15 billion loaned to developers, more than double levels in 2010.

The chartered banks are also lending to real estate operators at the fastest rate on record—$10 billion since the start of 2014.

The pattern makes sense. Profit margins in real estate rental, leasing, and property management industries were around 34 per cent in 2015, Statistics Canada data show, and banks want to lend to profitable businesses. Yet, it also means lenders are increasingly exposed to the industry on multiple fronts.

Home arbitrage opportunities are dwindling in the Greater Toronto Area, where benchmark prices are accelerating in suburbs within commuting distance of the downtown core. The spread between the price of benchmark homes in the bedroom communities of Oakville-Milton versus Toronto has disappeared in the last six months.

That may help explain the recent run-up in prices in Toronto. The inability for residents to cash-out at the higher prices may be influencing the dearth of new listings in the area, further stoking price gains.

Another consequence of the housing boom is that inflation has been stronger in Toronto than in the rest of the country. Over the past three years, annual monthly inflation has averaged 1.9 per cent in the country’s largest city, about half a percentage point higher than the national rate.

The last time the inflation gap between Toronto and the rest of the country was this wide was in the late 1980s, during the last housing bubble.

After the market crashed in 1989, inflation in Toronto lagged behind the rest of the country for four straight years.

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Energy, consumer goods sectors push Canadian exports to record high

Posted on 14 May 2017 by admin

Gains in eight of 11 sectors in March helped exports rise 3.8 per cent to $47 billion.

 OTTAWA—The energy and consumer goods sectors helped Canadian exports rise to a record high in March as the country’s trade deficit narrowed to $135 million, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Economists had expected a deficit of $800 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

“This is a solid report,” said Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Capital Markets.

The shortfall followed a revised deficit of $1.1 billion for February compared with an initial reading of a deficit of $972 million for the month.

Gains in eight of 11 sectors in March helped exports rise 3.8 per cent to $47 billion, while volumes gained 2.5 per cent and prices increased 1.3 per cent.

Driving the gain was a 7 per cent increase in energy exports to $8.7 billion. A boost in natural gas exports attributable to cold temperatures in the northeastern United States and increased coal exports to Asia were both factors.

“Combined with a continued creep higher in crude prices, look for energy to continue being a catalyst in supporting Canadian exports,” CIBC economist Nick Exarhos wrote in a report.

Consumer goods exports also gained ground, climbing 6.8 per cent to $6.1 billion. Exports of other food products led the increase with a gain of 11.9 per cent to a record $1.4 billion, boosted by exports of yellow peas and red lentils to India.

On the other side of the equation, imports increased 1.7 per cent to $47.1 billion with gains in seven of 11 sectors. Prices rose 1.9 per cent and volumes fell 0.2 per cent.

Statistics Canada said higher imports of metal and non-metallic mineral products, industrial machinery, equipment and parts, and motor vehicles and parts were the main contributors.

Metal and non-metallic mineral product imports grew 10.4 per cent to $4 billion as unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys rose 61.1 per cent.

Imports of industrial machinery, equipment and parts increased 4.1 per cent to $4.4 billion, while motor vehicles and parts gained 1.5 per cent to reach a record high $9.3 billion.

On a regional basis, Canada’s trade surplus with the United States slipped to $4 billion in March compared with $4.5 billion in February.

Exports to the United States edged up 0.1 per cent to $34.4 billion, while imports from the United States increased 2 per cent to $30.4 billion.

Meanwhile, Canada’s trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed to $4.1 billion in March from $5.6 billion in February.

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