Prospect of rising mortgage rates may prompt heightened buyer activity early in the year, according to Royal LePage forecastTORONTO, January 6, 2011 – The average price of a home in Canada increased between 3.9 and 4.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to the previous year, as markets shrugged off a lackluster third quarter and returned to a post-recession growth profile. Home values are forecast to continue a moderate and steady climb in many of the country’s key housing markets through 2011 with sales activity skewed to the first half of the year, according to the Royal LePage House Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast released today.
The low cost of borrowing stimulated the housing market in 2010, and this trend is predicted to continue in the first half of 2011. The widely held consumer belief that rates will rise in the latter part of 2011 may prompt an increase in buying activity early in the year.
“Trends in the housing market continue to be driven by the lingering after-effects of the recession,” said Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services. “Canadians realize that interest rates are unsustainably low and that homes will become effectively more expensive when mortgage rates return to normal levels. We will likely see more price appreciation early in 2011 as some buyers complete transactions in advance of anticipated higher borrowing costs.”
Soper added, “2011 is expected to unfold much like 2010, when close to 60 per cent of sales volume occurred in the first half of the year in anticipation of interest rate increases that never materialized. However, housing market activity in the first half of 2011 will be modestly closer to the norm, as last year’s phenomenon was exacerbated by mid-year tightening of mortgage accessibility and the introduction of HST in Ontario and British Columbia.”
Regionally, the strongest price appreciation of the cities studied is expected in mid-sized urban centers where affordability is better than the national average. For example, in Winnipeg, St. John’s and Fredericton, two-storey homes below $300,000 are still widely available. Demand in these cities is expected to be strong, putting upward pressure on home values.
Cities in Alberta are expected to be among Canada’s strongest performing markets in 2011. Woes in the historically volatile region’s housing market stretch approximately five years, when the Alberta housing market suffered a sharp correction following several years of double-digit price increases. The province’s energy-driven economy staged a comeback in 2010, recovering from the recession-led plunge in oil and gas prices. Major employers are expected to steadily increase hiring in 2011 which should attract new residents to the province and put upward pressure on the limited supply of housing. Royal LePage forecasts the average price of a home in Calgary will increase 5.4 per cent through 2011 while Edmonton home prices will increase 3.3 per cent. Home sale transactions are predicted to rise 6.7 per cent in Calgary and 9.1 per cent in Edmonton over the same period.
Across Canada, the average price of a home is forecast to rise 3 per cent over the coming year to $348,600 while the number of transactions is expected to drop 2 per cent.
During the fourth quarter of 2010, average home prices either increased or stabilized year-over-year, with Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and St. John’s seeing the biggest gains. Nationally, the average price of detached bungalows rose to $324,531 (up 4.6 per cent), the price of standard two-storey homes rose to $360,329 (up 4.4 per cent), and the price of standard condominiums rose to $226,746 (up 3.9 per cent), compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.
Mr. Soper continued, “Like many Canadians, we anticipated an end to the ultra-low interest rate era before year-end 2010. Paradoxically, global economic weakness, particularly in the United States, allowed policy makers and financial institutions to keep borrowing costs low, resulting in a stronger Canadian housing market and a better than forecast fourth quarter.”
House prices surveyed in Toronto increased modestly year-over-year. Standard two-storey homes witnessed the largest increases at 5.6 per cent. Market activity slowed in the second half of the year as buyers rushed to the market in the first half of the year in anticipation of interest rate hikes and HST. For 2011, price increases are expected to be very modest at approximately 1 per cent.