Sellers 'expecting yesterday's prices': Canadians cope with a correcting housing market
Less than a year after purchasing their four-bedroom townhouse in Surrey, B.C. for $870,000, Aneesh Bhandari and his wife decided to sell their home in early May.
They were both were looking forward to their first open house, Bhandari said, making bets on how many showings the home would get. They later discovered only one person came to view the property.
“It was an eye-opener,” Bhandari told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on Thursday. “My realtor didn’t expect that, nobody expected that.”
Bhandari and his wife are planning to move from British Columbia to Ontario to be closer to his employer’s office in Mississauga. But the process of selling their current home and purchasing a new one has been a struggle, the 36-year-old said.
After 30 days on the market, the 167-square-metre home listed for $1.15 million still had not sold, despite being listed for $50,000 below similar homes in the area, said Bhandari. In mid-June, he took the home off the market.
“At that point in time, the sellers were expecting yesterday’s price and buyers were wanting tomorrow’s price,” said Bhandari.
After getting an extension from his employer to work from home until December, Bhandari now plans to re-list his home in October in an effort to sell before the end of the year.
Bhandari is one of several Canadians who wrote to CTVNews.ca about the impact Canada’s housing correction is having on their decisions to buy or sell a home. After a series of interest rate hikes implemented by the Bank of Canada, housing markets are now facing a correction that “runs far and wide” across the country, according to a new report by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
WHEN WILL CANADIAN HOME PRICES BOTTOM?
A drop in house prices, combined with less resale activity, shows that housing markets Canada-wide are now cooling down. According to RBC’s forecast, average home prices in Canada are expected to fall throughout the rest of 2022, eventually dropping 12 per cent by the middle of 2023 compared to their peak in February.
“[This] would rank as a very significant correction,” Robert Hogue, assistant chief economist at RBC, told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “We rarely see this type of double-digit price decline on a national basis.”
Rising interest rates have played a key role in correcting some of the extraordinary gains in house prices Canadians saw during the pandemic, said James Laird, co-CEO of Ratehub.ca.
“The last few years were irrational and some rationality in correcting that exuberance is happening at the moment,” Laird told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Given the red-hot pace of the last two and a half years, it feels logical now that we should be taking a breather.”
After hitting a record high of $816,720 in February, national average home prices have been on a steady decline, data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) shows. The average price of a home in Canada for the month of June was $665,849, not seasonally adjusted.
The lack of certainty in terms of what to expect from the Bank of Canada regarding further interest hikes may also be encouraging some Canadians to sit on the market sidelines, Laird said.
“With the central bank still in a transition period from the pandemic rate policy … to the post-pandemic inflation rate policy, we don’t know exactly where the bank wants to get to,” Laird said.
In the face of a changing market driven by shrinking house prices, Hogue said current sellers must be pragmatic and recognize the market is much different than it was just a few months ago.
“Prices are likely to continue to decline in the coming months, so the market is unlikely to become friendlier to sellers in the short term,” Hogue said. “Buyers are coming into the market with less of a budget … They have stricter limitations as far as [how much they can afford].”
TORONTO, VANCOUVER AREAS MORE BALANCED
According to the RBC report, large housing markets across Ontario and British Columbia are expected to see some of the heaviest corrections compared to other regions in Canada. The reason for this lies in the sky-high house prices that have characterized these areas during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hogue said these areas are therefore more sensitive to interest rate hikes.
According to data compiled by the CREA, average home prices in Ontario and British Columbia peaked in February at $1,086,493 and $1,104,098, respectively. Both figures are not seasonally adjusted.
Since then, activity has plunged to its slowest pace in more than 13 years -- excluding pandemic lockdowns. This leaves room for more negotiations between buyers and sellers as the market balances out, said Frank Clayton, an economist and senior research fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University.
“[Buyers] should keep their eye open because … there’s always people that have to sell,” he told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Some people aren't going to want to wait six or eight weeks and hope their house is going to sell, they may want the cash right away.”
While it may not be a buyer’s market in parts of Southern Ontario just yet, Clayton said, markets are appearing more balanced. This is also the case in the Greater Vancouver area, according to RBC’s report. Housing activity in the region has decreased 40 per cent over the last four months, and home prices for all home types have also dropped 4.5 per cent since April.
It’s also important to understand some areas of these regions will feel the effects of a correction differently than others, Laird said.
“[Prices in] the suburbs and more rural properties went up the most during the two years of pandemic exuberance … and those are the places [where] the prices are correcting the most,” said Laird. “[But] the urban cores did not go up nearly as much as the surrounding suburbs [so] they’re also not correcting as much.”
HOUSES STILL ‘LESS AFFORDABLE,’ SAYS REAL ESTATE EXPERT
A real estate outlook from Desjardins also points to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island as facing significant corrections, after home prices ballooned during the pandemic.
Parts of Alberta, however, are expected to be more resilient. Despite seeing price declines, the correction in this part of Canada is expected to be milder in comparison to others, Hogue said.
While average home prices may have been dropping on a national basis, this doesn’t mean houses have become more affordable for Canadians, Laird said.
Lower house prices have been driven by higher interest rates, which force homeowners to pay more interest on their mortgages. With a higher borrowing cost, those looking to buy a home are likely to qualify for less of a mortgage as a result, Hogue said. This makes it especially tough for homebuyers looking to get into the housing market for the first time.
Taylor Wright and her fiancé are currently renting a one-bedroom apartment as they search for a new home. Looking to purchase in either Ajax, Ont. or Whitby, Ont., with a budget of $800,000, Wright said she and her fiancé remain priced out of the market.
“Every house we go look at is still going for close to $100,000 over the asking price, and we are not willing to get into a bidding war and overpaying for a home,” Wright wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Thursday.
Having kept an eye on the province’s housing market since the beginning of the pandemic, Wright said she saw home prices “climb further and further out of reach.” Still, she said rising interest rates and cooling prices are giving her hope that in six months’ time, she may be able to buy a home.
Diordan Svelander and his wife are looking to purchase a home in the Greater Vancouver area. With sky-high house prices, he said they could not afford a down payment on a home despite working two full-time jobs.
Svelander said he and his family tried looking elsewhere in the province, in the municipality of Chetwynd, B.C. The couple had their eyes on one house, but as interest rates climbed throughout the year, they could no longer afford it.
“The money we had saved was not enough to withstand the stress tests, and we had exhausted all of our options trying to buy,” Svelander wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.
As a result, the couple is now renting a two-bedroom unit with their two young children and pets, Svelander said.
A recent report by Ratehub.ca assessed the income required to purchase an average home in different Canadian cities. So far, financial losses from higher interest rates have not been offset by gains from lower home prices, Laird said. In all Canadian cities included in the report, residents required more income, on average, to afford a typical home.
“You had a better chance of buying a home a year ago with those elevated prices but with lower mortgage rates … than you do with the more modest home prices but higher mortgage rates,” Laird said. “It actually means that everything is less affordable than it’s ever been.”