29 Feb

Still No Recession In Canada Thanks to Huge Influx of Immigrants


Posted by: Jen Lowe

Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose a moderate 1.0% (seasonally adjusted annual rate), a tad better than expected and the Q3 contraction of -1.2% was revised to -0.5%. This leaves growth for 2023 at a moderate 1.1%. Monthly data, also released today by Statistics Canada, showed that December came in flat, well below the robust flash estimate, while the January preliminary estimate was a strong +0.4% (subject, of course, to revision). The January uptick was driven by the return of Quebec public servants and a mild winter.

The fourth quarter growth was fuelled by higher oil exports and was moderated by a significant decline in business investment. Housing investment declined again in Q4–a sixth decline in the last seven quarters. Despite increased activity in Q4 new residential construction and renovations, it was more than offset by a large drop in home ownership transfer costs, reflecting the weakening resale market across Canada. Single-family units and apartments led the rise in new construction, as all provinces and territories, except Prince Edward Island, post a rise in housing starts.

Investment in non-residential structures fell sharply, as did spending on machinery and equipment, especially on aircraft and other transportation equipment. Even government spending declined.

Bottom Line

This is the last major economic release before the Bank of Canada meets again on March 6. The central bank will hold interest rates steady at next week’s meeting, and while some are suggesting the first rate cut this cycle will be as soon as the April confab, the consensus remains at June. With the uptick in growth in Q4, there is no urgency for the Bank to ease.

Policymakers will wait for their favourite core inflation measures to fall within the 1%-to-3% target band. They know that GDP per capita is falling and that mortgage renewals at higher interest rates will dampen household discretionary income. That’s why a June rate cut is widely expected.

Written by Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
26 Feb

BC Budget Updates Feb 2024


Posted by: Jen Lowe

The BC NDP Government has been active to start 2024. Last week, the provincial budget was tabled, and a couple big changes are coming to the real estate market.

Updates to the Property Transfer Tax (PTT) Framework

The 2024 provincial budget the BC Government is making three significant changes to the PTT Framework

1. Increase the Fair Market Value Threshold for the First Time Home Buyer (FTHB) Exemption:

Currently, the FTHB full exemption applies to properties with a fair market value (FMV) of less than $500,000, with a partial exemption for properties with a FMV of $500,000 to $525,000.

As of April 1st, 2024, the FTHB exemption will apply to properties in a different way. For properties with a FMV of less than $835,000, PTT is not payable on the first $500,000, but payable on the difference between the FMV and $500,000. For example, if the FMV of the property is $700,000, PTT paid would be 2% of $200,000 ($700,000 less $500,000). Not paying PTT on the first $500,000 saves the purchaser a total of $8,000.

If the property has a FMV between $835,000 and $860,000, then a partial exemption applies, the details of which are not yet confirmed by the BC government.

If the FMV of the property is over $860,000, then there is no FTHB PTT exemption.

2. Increase the FMV Threshold for the Newly Built Home Exemption

Effective April 1, 2024, the FMV threshold to claim the Newly Built Home Exemption will be increased from $750,000 to $1,100,000. A partial exemption is also available for properties with a FMV just above the threshold. The phase out range is $50,000 above the threshold, so properties with a FMV of greater than $1,150,000 will not be able to claim the Newly Built Home Exemption.

3. Purpose-Built Rental Exemption

The 2023 Budget included a limited exemption for purpose built rental buildings, that may limit the tax payable on values over $3,000,000. Budget 2024 builds on this exemption and provides an exemption from the PTT on purchases of new qualifying purpose-built rental buildings.

New “Flipping Tax”

A new tax targeting home flipping activity and short-term speculation will officially begin on January 1, 2025. This tax will apply on the sale of residential property held by an owner for less than two years, with the seller being taxed up to 20% of the income from the sales. To specify, properties sold within 1 year are taxed at 20%, and will decline to zero between 366 and 730 days. Exemptions may apply in certain circumstances.

Thank you to Spagnuolo and Company for providing the above clarification!

20 Feb

Canadian Inflation Falls to 2.9% in January, Boosting Rate Cut Prospects


Posted by: Jen Lowe

Canadian Inflation Falls to 2.9% in January, Boosting Rate Cut Prospects
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.9% year-over-year in January, down sharply from December’s 3.4% reading. The most significant contributor to the deceleration was a 4% decline in y/y gasoline prices, compared to a 1.4% rise the month before (see chart below). Excluding gasoline, headline CPI slowed to 3.2% y/y, down from 3.5% in December.

Headline inflation of 2.9% marks the first time since June that inflation has moved into the Bank of Canada 1%-to-3% target band and only the second time to breach that band since March 2021.

Grocery price inflation also decelerated broadly in January to 3.4% y/y, down from 4.7% in December. Lower prices for airfares and travel tours also contributed to the headline deceleration. Prices for clothing and footwear were 1.3% lower than levels from a year ago, potentially reflecting the discounting of winter clothing after a milder-than-usual winter in much of the country.

The shelter component of inflation remains by far the largest contributor to annual inflation. The effect of past central bank rate hikes feeds into the CPI with a lag. The y/y growth in mortgage interest costs edged lower in January but still posted a 27.4% rise and accounted for about a quarter of the total annual inflation. Inflation, excluding mortgage costs, is now at 2.0%. Home rent prices continue to rise, but another component under shelter – homeowners’ replacement costs inched lower on slower house price growth.

On a monthly basis, the CPI was unchanged in January, following a 0.3% decline in December. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI fell 0.1% in January, the first decline since May 2020.

The Bank of Canada’s preferred core inflation measures, the trim and median core rates, exclude the more volatile price movements to assess the level of underlying inflation. The CPI trim slowed three ticks to 3.4%, and the median declined two ticks to 3.3% from year-ago levels, as shown in the chart below.

Notably, the share of the CPI basket of goods and services growing at more than 5% has declined from the peak of 68% in May 2022 to 28% in January 2024.

Bottom Line

The next meeting of the Bank of Canada Governing Council is on March 6. While January’s inflation report was better than expected and shows that the breadth of inflation is narrowing, it is still well above the level consistent with the 2% inflation target.

Shelter inflation will remain sticky as higher mortgage rates over the course of last year filter into the index and the acute housing shortage boosts rents.

The Bank of Canada will remain cautious in the face of still-high wage gains and core inflation measures above 3%. I hold to my view that the Bank will begin cutting rates in June.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
14 Feb

Canada Home Sales Continued Their Upward Trend in January as Prices Fell Modestly


Posted by: Jen Lowe

Canadian Home Sales Continued Their Upward Trend in January As Prices Fell Modestly
The Canadian Real Estate Association announced today that home sales over the last two months show signs of recovery. National sales were up 3.7% between December 2023 and January 2024, building on the 7.9% gain in December. The chart below shows that despite the two-month rise, sales remain 9% below their ten-year average. According to Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist, “Sales are up, market conditions have tightened quite a bit, and there has been anecdotal evidence of renewed competition among buyers; however, in areas where sales have shot up most over the last two months, prices are still trending lower. Taken together, these trends suggest a market that is starting to turn a corner but is still working through the weakness of the last two years.”

National gains were once again led by the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Hamilton-Burlington, Montreal, Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Calgary, and most markets in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe and cottage country.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of transactions was 22% above January 2023, the most significant year-over-year gain since May 2021. While that sounds like a resounding rise in activity, January 2023 posted the weakest transaction level in nearly twenty years.

There is pent-up demand for housing, and recent buyers are lured back into the market by the recent price decline and the fear that prices could rise significantly once the Bank of Canada starts cutting interest rates. 

New Listings

The number of newly listed homes increased 1.5% month-over-month in January, although it remains close to the lowest level since last June.

“The market has been showing some early signs of life over the last couple of months, probably no surprise given how much pent-up demand is out there,” said Larry Cerqua, Chair of CREA.

With sales up by more than new listings in January, the national sales-to-new listings ratio tightened further to 58.8% compared to under 50% just three months earlier. The long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio is 55%. A sales-to-new listings ratio between 45% and 65% is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings above and below this range indicating sellers’ and buyers’ markets, respectively.

There were 3.7 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of January 2024, down from 3.8 months at the end of December and 4.1 months at the end of November. The long-term average is about five months of inventory.

Home Prices

The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) fell by 1.2% month-over-month in January 2024, adding to the 1.1% price decline in December.

Price descents of late have been predominantly in Ontario markets, particularly the Greater Golden Horseshoe and, to a lesser extent, British Columbia. Elsewhere in Canada, prices are mostly holding firm or, in some cases (Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador), continuing to rise.

The Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI was up 0.4% year-over-year in January 2024, similar to readings over the past six months.

Bottom Line

Sales in December and January generally run at about half the peak spring season pace. That could be especially true this year, with interest rates likely to begin falling by mid-year. A strong housing rebound is coming. Housing markets have bottomed, buyer sentiment is improving and fixed mortgage rates have started declining.

Housing markets in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are relatively balanced again, and with the spring season, we will see a rise in new listings.

In other news, the inflation data released yesterday in the US were higher than expected, pushing rate-cut forecasts further out. With the strength in the US economy, the 5-year government of Canada bond yield has quietly risen more than 50 basis points this year.

Canada’s Housing Minister, Sean Fraser, said he expects the fall in interest rates this year to encourage builders to ramp up their activity, helping to alleviate some of the country’s crunched housing supply. At a news conference yesterday, the minister said, “My expectation is if we see a dip in interest rates over the course of this year, a lot of the developers that I’ve spoken to will start those projects that are marginal today.”

Sean Fraser, asked whether he’s concerned that Bank of Canada rate cuts will unleash pent-up demand and higher home prices, said lower borrowing costs should also lead to an increase in supply. Fraser said whatever happens with rates, the government’s course of action will remain the same. “We need to do everything we can as quickly as we can to build as many homes as we can. And that’s going to be true today and six months from now, regardless of what may happen in the interest rate environment that we’re dealing with.”

At a news conference last week, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said that while he’s heard from developers who’ve indicated higher rates are delaying projects, lowering rates would have a more significant impact on demand.

“It’s very clear in the data that the effects of interest rates on demand are much bigger than those on supply,” he told reporters.

Written by Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
1 Feb

First-Time Homebuyer Timeline: A Roadmap to your New Home


Posted by: Jen Lowe

Navigating Your Path to Homeownership: A First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide

Embarking on the journey to homeownership is an exciting endeavor, but it can also be complex and overwhelming, especially for first-time buyers. As your trusted mortgage broker, I have crafted a comprehensive timeline to guide you through each step of the process. Let’s turn your dream of owning a home into a reality.

Months 1-3: Preparation

1. Credit Check and Improvement: Kick off your journey by understanding your credit score. Take steps to enhance it for better mortgage terms.

2. Financial Assessment: Evaluate your finances to determine a realistic budget, factoring in income, expenses, and savings.

3. Pre-Approval:Consult with us to get pre-approved for a mortgage, gaining insights into your purchasing power.


Months 4-6: Research and Education

4. Define Priorities: Clearly outline your home-buying priorities, including location, size, and desired features.

5. Explore Neighborhoods: Research potential neighborhoods, considering amenities, schools, and proximity to work.


Months 7-9: Home Search and Offer

6. Real Estate Agent: Choose a reputable real estate agent to assist you in finding your dream home.

7. Home Tours: Begin touring homes within your budget and preferred neighborhoods.

8. Make an Offer:Craft a competitive offer with your real estate agent once you find the perfect home.


Months 10-12: Closing Preparation

9. Home Inspection: Schedule a thorough home inspection to identify potential issues.

10. Secure Mortgage:Finalize your mortgage application and secure a mortgage commitment.

11. Closing Procedures:Collaborate with us and legal professionals to complete necessary paperwork for a smooth closing.


Closing Day and Beyond

12. Closing Day: Attend the closing, review documents, and officially become a homeowner.

13. Move-In: Coordinate your move and start settling into your new home.

14. Post-Move Adjustments: Update your address, set up utilities, and ensure a seamless transition into homeownership.

Congratulations on taking the first steps towards homeownership! This timeline, coupled with our expert guidance, will help you navigate the intricate process with confidence. If you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out at any stage. Happy house hunting!