Post Category: Research
February 04, 2021
Rising home prices posing a challenge for affordability

Housing affordability in Canada improved in the fourth quarter of 2020, marking a third amelioration in a row. That said, the improvement this quarter was much less impressive. Higher incomes and record low interest rates were almost completely offset by a substantial rise in home prices. Indeed, prices for the national composite rose 4.5% in the quarter, the highest quarterly gain in 11 years. While a 29 basis points decline in our 5-year benchmark mortgage rate has helped keep housing affordable this quarter, the nearly 100 basis points decline for rates since the start of the pandemic is surely propulsion for the current appreciation in home prices. Although the confluence of all these factors has resulted in home affordability having never been better since 2015, there is another hurdle for potential homebuyers. The rise in home prices has translated into a higher down payment. At a national level, there has never been a worse time to accumulate the minimum down payment. Assuming a savings rate of 10% of total median household income, it would now take 60 months (5 years) to save for the minimum down payment (approximately 6%) on the representative home. Still, with interest rates unlikely to rise soon, vaccine rollout ushering a return to normal and market conditions in favour of sellers, home prices are on track to keep growing in 2021. As a result, affordability is likely to
deteriorate on both a mortgage payment as a percentage of income and down payment basis going forward.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
December 22, 2020
Home affordability improved significantly in the third quarter of 2020

Housing affordability in Canada`s large urban centers improved in the third quarter of 2020, a second improvement in a row. Higher incomes helped in Q3, but the largest portion of the improvement came in the form of lower interest rates. Indeed, our 5-year mortgage benchmark rate declined 43 basis points in the quarter, driven by central bank easing and improving financial conditions. Combined, income and mortgage rates were more than enough to offset the slight increase in home prices. Our benchmark rate experienced a 62 basis point decline since the start of the pandemic, but that was the second leg of a decline that started in early 2019. As a result, affordability improved substantially in Canada with Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver being now the cheapest since 2016 and the Calgary market being the least expensive on record. It should come as no surprise that such a context helped keep the housing market afloat during the pandemic. Looking ahead, despite rising home prices, affordability is set to improve in the fourth quarter as homebuyers have enjoyed a further decline in mortgage interest rates (25 basis point so far). Will the improvement in affordability be enough to avoid a marked slowdown in the housing market in 2021? With extraordinary government support to household income phasing out and payment deferrals not at play in 2021, the housing market is facing some headwinds given the still recovering labour market. Immigration could also continue to run below targets which would translate into lower household formation than previously thought.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
September 14, 2020
Home affordability improved in Q2 2020

Housing affordability in Canada`s large urban centres improved in the second quarter of 2020 after having deteriorated in the two prior quarters. Higher incomes helped in Q2 but the largest portion of the improvement came in the form of lower interest rates. Indeed, the latter declined 19 basis points in the quarter, reflecting the easing from the central bank. Combined, income and mortgage rates were more than enough to offset the increase in home prices. Still, the decline in interest rates on a quarterly average basis does not completely reflect the change in 5-year mortgage rates since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The February to June decline in mortgage interest rates was a much more significant 41 basis points. Looking ahead, the preliminary data for rates shows additional improvements in the third quarter of the year (cumulatively they are down over 70 bps). While we expect this to help affordability, home prices should remain resilient based on the latest resale market data showing record sales volumes. Homebuyers have rushed back to the market after having delayed purchases and are now being offered record-low interest rates. Once pent-up demand is exhausted, the Canadian housing market will still have to face high levels of unemployment and reduced household formation due to lower immigration.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
June 16, 2020
Home affordability improved slightly in Q1 2020

Housing affordability in Canada’s large urban centres improved in the first quarter of 2020. Although mortgage interest rates remained essentially unchanged from Q4 to 2019, an increase in income was able to offset the rise of home prices for the urban composite. The latter registered a second consecutive 1.5% gain in prices in the quarter. But this is now old news as the economy has entered a recession which could significantly shake the Canadian housing market and therefore affordability. Interest rates are unlikely to provide much relief for homebuyers as they have in previous economic crisis’. Indeed, interest rates were already very low before the crisis, and give zero lower bound for central banks, they have very little room to move lower. The 5-year mortgage rate has declined only 17 basis points from the beginning of the present crisis, which is very little compared to the declines of other recessions. Moreover, incomes should face some headwinds as we expect the unemployment rate to hover near 9% over the coming year with production capacity being destroyed due to the current lockdown. In such a context, we foresee a marked drop in home prices, about 10% nationally, sharper than in any of the country’s last three recessions. Of course, this scenario assumes that the CMHC refrains from raising the minimum down payment as suggested on May 15th. In our vie, such a policy in the context of a recession would amplify the risk of home-price deflation by excluding potential homebuyers.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
June 03, 2020
Home affordability deteriorated slightly in Q4 2019

The streak of improvements in home affordability in major Canadian urban centers came to
an end after three quarters with a slight deterioration in Q4 2019. While mortgage interest
rates were essentially unchanged from Q3, income growth was unable to keep pace with the
rise in home prices for the urban composite. The later registered its strongest increase in more than 2 years. Among the 10 urban centers covered, only Vancouver and Winnipeg saw income
increasing faster than housing prices during the quarter. Vancouver was the only market
showing an improvement in affordability, the monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of
income registering a fourth consecutive decline, a first since 2008-2009 when the global
economy was mired in a recession. While our national housing affordability composite index
stands on the cusp of its two-decade average, we note significant divergence in affordability
among urban centers. Indeed, despite some ameliorations over the past year, the Vancouver,
Toronto and Hamilton markets are still exhibiting affordability concerns while all other markets are either in-line with their historical norms or even better. The widespread improvement in affordability occurred in 2019 thanks to an 85 basis points decline in mortgage interest rates and one of the smallest increases in home prices among OECD countries (+1.2%, see chart page 13). That said, we doubt that a further improvement in home affordability is possible at this point as we see interest rates levelling off and home prices should accelerate given tight supply in the resale market. Indeed, the national active listings to sales ratio is at its lowest since 2007Q2, a level generally associated with worsening affordability.

Read the full report

Post Category: Research
November 14, 2019
Home affordability improves for a third consecutive quarter in Q3 2019

The housing affordability composite index reversed back to its historical average in Q3 2019 as all observed markets improved in each of the last three quarters. The most significant factor to this development was the decline in mortgage rates. Indeed, the free-fall in financing costs over the last nine months was the most substantial since 2012 (-87 bps). The booming labour market also played a significant role in this development as income grew at a whopping 5.1% annualized over that period while home prices did not materially change at the national level. While our national housing affordability composite index is now in line with its historical average (43% of median income), it does not mean that the situation is back to normal in all metropolitan areas. Despite some welcome progress in the last three quarters (see chart on the left), the situation remains difficult in the two largest markets by housing market value. In Toronto, both condo and non-condo affordability improved substantially since Q4 2018 but remain above their respective historical averages. In Vancouver, the monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of income has reverted to its Q1 2016 level helped by a cumulative decline of home prices (down 8.1% since their peak). We note that affordability in the condo market in Greater Vancouver is back to its historical average while the non-condo segment remains costlier. Elsewhere in the country, the Montreal market for its part saw a smaller improvement as home prices registered the largest increase following Ottawa-Gatineau. Surging population growth in Canada’s largest metro areas, coupled with leveling mortgage rates should limit the scope for further improvement in home affordability.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
August 12, 2019
Biggest improvement in a decade for housing affordability

Affordability improved in Q2 by the most since 2009 as measured by the urban composite index. All the observed markets registered an amelioration in the quarter (left chart). The most significant factor to this development was the decline in  mortgage rates. Indeed, the free-fall in financings costs was the most substantial since 2010Q3. This combined with a healthy labour market producing income growth on the scale of 1.7% in the quarter and home prices declining 1.0% meant that all inputs contributed to the improvement in housing affordability. Vancouver experienced the largest progression in affordability among urban markets in Q2. Toronto essentially mirrored the situation in Vancouver with a large improvement in the non-condo market and some progress also in the condo market. The decline in mortgage rates combined with a robust labour market reduced the risk of a correction in home prices in the coming months. That being said, there are still some headwinds limiting upside on home prices. Despite the recent progress in Vancouver and Toronto, these markets remain unaffordable on a historical basis (right chart). Moreover, while the contractual mortgage rate declined 68 basis points since last December, the qualifying rate declined only 15 basis points meaning that most potential new buyers excluded by B-20 measures still are.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
June 26, 2019
Housing affordability improves in 2019 Q1 amid healthy labour market

Affordability improved in Q1 by the most since 2014 as measured by the urban composite index as eight of the ten urban markets progressed in the quarter (left chart). The healthy labour market was the largest contributor to this development via a significant increase in income (+1.0%) that outpaced the increase in home prices (+0.3%) – left chart. Coincidentally, mortgage rates were not a drag on affordability for the first time in 7 quarters. Vancouver experienced the largest improvement in affordability among urban markets in Q1 but that was mostly due to declining home prices. We continue to expect price weakness in this market as resale conditions remain favourable to buyers in both the condo and non-condo segments so far in Q2. In Toronto, the composite is showing a slight improvement but this is solely due to the non-condo segment. Indeed, condo market affordability deteriorated further with prices jumping 2.0% in Q1 as the imbalance between supply and demand favoured sellers. Looking ahead, there is hope for further improvement in affordability in Canada in Q2 given the recent drop in mortgage rates.

Read research report

Post Category: Research
February 04, 2019
Interest rates raise the bar for home ownership in Q4 2018

In Q4, affordability worsened for a 14th consecutive quarter as measured by the urban
composite index. All but two markets experienced a deterioration stemming from a 20-
basis points increase for residential mortgage rates, hitting harder the priciest markets in
the country (see table on page 12 for more details). Financing costs were up for a sixth
consecutive quarter which marked the longest streak of rises since the period of ’99-‘00.
In Vancouver, home prices are decreasing but it did not prevent affordability to
deteriorate further amid higher interest rates and declining median annual income. In this
city, our measure for the non-condo segment have crossed the psychological threshold
of 100% as it would now require 101.5% of pre-tax median household income to pay for a
representative home. In other words, this segment is even more out of reach for a median
income family. As it is the case in Vancouver, both segments at the national level
experienced a significant deterioration over the past 3 years but the magnitude of the
worsening has been less pronounced for condos (left chart) which could explain why
prices are still running at a solid pace in 2018 (+6.2% y/y vs. 1.2% for non-condos). That
being said, a moderation in the condo segment should not be ruled out in 2019 as stiff
competition is now coming from the rental apartment option.

Read research report..

Post Category: Research
November 15, 2018
Housing affordability worsens again in Q3 2018

In Q3, affordability worsened in no less than 9 out of ten urban markets which explains the
13th consecutive deterioration of our urban composite index. Expensive housing markets
such as Vancouver and Toronto slowed down markedly in 2018 and home prices even
declined in Q3 due to the combined effect of rising mortgage rates (up for a fifth consecutive
quarter) and macro prudential measures. Despite lower home prices, homebuyer
affordability failed to improve as wages were down in those markets (left chart). Elsewhere,
Montreal and Ottawa-Gatineau experienced the sharpest deteriorations in affordability
among urban centers in Q3 but for another reason: home prices surged respectively by 2.1%
and 2.5% Q/Q. These markets appear to be unaffected by rising interest rates and tighter
credit standards as shown by resale market conditions being strongly tilted in favor of sellers.
Looking at the national picture, while a significant portion of home buyers have been priced
out of single-family homes, demand is currently strong for condos as shown by prices rising
6.8% over the past year (non-condo prices are flat). As a result, the affordability deterioration
was more pronounced in this segment (vs. non-condo) in each of the last four quarters (right

Full Report

For further information about upcoming reports, please contact:

Kan Zhu
Leader, Data & Advisory Solutions
Teranet Inc.
Phone: 416-360-8863 x 2270
Michael Pertsis
Director, Mortgage Derivatives
National Bank Financial
Phone: 416.869.7124