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Tuesday, 21 October 2014 22:31

Daily Market Update

Written by Steve Randall

CMHC admits data vacuum on foreign investors… Vancouver property tax is outdated and unfair say critics… Calgary’s population keeps on growing… US housing market continues to grow…

 

CMHC admits data vacuum on foreign investors

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation admits it has little knowledge of the level of foreign investment in the real estate market but insists that it’s not a problem. Foreign ownership of property is blamed in part for the high prices, especially in our major markets, and there are concerns that we could see ‘ghost towns’ of investment property left empty by investors. Speaking to the Financial Post Evan Siddall, president of CMHC admits there are gaps in their data and says that while they are able to carry out telephone research on domestic ownership they wouldn’t know who to call in Hong Kong or Singapore. Siddall says that based on what they do know the agency does not believe that foreign ownership is excessive. Estimates on foreign ownership run as high as 50 per cent in the condo sector. Read the full story.

 

Vancouver property tax is outdated and unfair say critics

The property transfer tax introduced in Vancouver in the 80s is out of date and adding an unfair burden on buyers. That’s according to The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver which argues that while the original principle was to tax properties of high value, the formula hasn’t changed since. That means that around 96 per cent of buyers are forced to pay now, compared to a modest 5 per cent in 1987. The Board says that that makes it far from being a tax on the wealthy; its original aim. The city council may not be too keen to change things though as last year it raked in $937 million from the tax. Read the full story.

 

Calgary’s population keeps on growing

Calgary is booming with the ever-growing population driving increased construction in the city. Housing starts for the first six months of this year were 67 per cent higher than the same period last year according to a new report by Ben Myers, senior vice-president of market research and analytics with Fortress Real Developments. The year-end total is likely to be in the region of 16,400 units; the ten-year average is 12,000. Myers’ report describes the Calgary market as “red hot”. Read the full story.

 

US housing market continues to grow

New data from the National Association of Realtors shows that the market south of the border continues to strengthen. US home sales in September had their strongest month since last September; rising 2.4 per cent. Sales levels were however 1.7 per cent lower than the September 2013 figure. Home starts are also up but the battle for the US housing sector is the lack of wage increases, meaning many first-timers are frozen out of the market. Read the full story.

Investors in acquisition mode should allow for the municipal land transfer tax as two of Toronto’s three mayoral candidates have made it clear that its reduction or elimination will not be an option after the election.

 

The candidates took on the topic this morning in a debate at the Toronto Real Estate Board’s annual general meeting.

 

Doug Ford promised he would eliminate 15% of the land transfer tax as soon as he is elected, while John Tory would not commit to a reduction in the tax and Olivia Chow stated clearly that she will not reduce it.

 

The land transfer tax, which brings $350 million to the city, is charged to investors on a graduated basis, depending on the value of consideration paid for the property.

 

Chow said that if the land transfer tax was eliminated, it would increase property taxes by between 12 and 14 per cent.

 

Ford said he has budgeted for the reduction of the tax.

 

But Tory countered Ford by pointing out that Rob Ford had promised to eliminate the tax four years ago but never delivered. He added: “It hasn’t been done away with, and it won’t.”

 

The Toronto Real Estate Board supports the elimination of the land transfer tax by phasing it out.

Von Palmer, TREB's Chief Government and Public Affairs Officer, said: “It's an unfair $8,000 burden home buyers have to pay upfront on the average Toronto home purchase, for no additional services.

 

“It also hurts the economy through reduced economic activity. First time home buyers, growing families and retirees looking to fund their retirement are among those hurt by this unfair tax.”

Monday, 20 October 2014 11:10

Retail floor a cheat sheet for tenant profiles

Written by Olivia D'Orazio

It’s a foolproof cheat sheet for landlords investing in condo buildings: look no further than the retail spaces underpinning those highrises for clues revealing the type of tenant that you’ll likely attract.

 

“The retail portion of any building plays a huge role in setting the tone for the neighbourhood and the building,” says agent Andrew Harrild, who specializes in condo sales in Toronto. “It’s the first impression that a [renter] gets when they walk into a building. It’s on the street level, it’s hard to ignore… [Depending] on the nature of the commercial space, it can be a positive or a negative.”

 

Indeed, Harrild says most people don’t want to live above a McDonald’s or a car dealership, but coffee shops, trendy bars and restaurants, and other convenient amenities are certainly great selling features for prospective tenants. These amenities are especially important for new developments where there is no existing infrastructure.

 

“The perfect example of that is CityPlace [in Toronto],” says Rob Ackerley, an agent who also specializes in condos. “There was no established neighborhood, so there are a variety of commercial ventures in these ground floor units… [Residents] are reliant on these spaces to bring in amenities, like grocery stores and bars and restaurants and banks; the types of daily things that people need.”

 

The type of amenity also needs to compliment the tone of the neighbourhood. For example, an area that is predominantly young families would not be well-served by a new sports bar, but a day care centre in the building would appeal to residents.

 

A perfect example of this, Harrild says, is the Toy Factory Lofts in the Liberty Village neighbourhood of Toronto.

 

“[The building] has a great coffee shop called Balzac’s on the ground floor,” he says. “I always point that out when I’m showing the building and that makes it more of a selling feature, rather than a 24/7 McDonald’s.”

Monday, 20 October 2014 18:38

Daily Market Update

Written by Steve Randall

Credit rating firm warning on housing market…CMHC president says market is robust…Calgary breaks an MLS record…Economic confidence falls again…Non-residential construction investment increases…

 

Credit rating firm warning on housing market

Credit rating firm Moody’s says that Canada’s economy is in good shape; with a stable banking system and a near-balanced budget; but there is concern over the housing market. The annual report supports Canada’s AAA rating but warns that the housing market presents a potential risk to the banks; and to the government finances due to the CMHC. Steven Hess who authored Moody’s report says the housing market is “particularly inflated” and represents the “largest downside risk” in the report. He also believes that with some slowdown in construction already being seen there are “no signs of a soft-landing”. Read the full story.

 

CMHC President: “The Canadian housing market is robust”

The president of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says that they are not alarmed by high prices and insists that the market is robust. Speaking yesterday Evan Siddall said that the agency is more concerned about levels of household debt and external pressures such as the global economy and the effect that could have on Canadian exports and employment. Responding to questions about the lack of data available Siddall said that CMHC is working to fill gaps in information and stated that transparency is important to the agency. He also confirmed that CMHC is continuing its “conversation” with the banking sector with the aim of it taking on more of the risk for home loans, reducing the federal agency’s exposure. Read the full story.

 

Calgary breaks annual MLS records

With more than two months still to go Calgary has broken one of its annual MLS sales records. According to Mike Fotiou of First Place Realty there had been 732 properties listed for $1 million or more in the year to October 18th; beating last year’s record of 726. Despite measures taken by the CMHC this year, including removing insurance for high-value properties where the buyer does not have a down payment of at least 20 per cent, there have been steady increases in luxury property sales this year. Read the full story.

 

Consumer sentiment trends lower again

The latest Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index shows that consumers are less confident in the economy last week than they were the week before. The index of those who believe there will be improvement in the economy in the next 6 months was at its lowest mark since April 2013. In the real estate sub-index there has also been a drop in the past week with those believing that prices will increase in the next 6 months dipping below the year’s average. Read the full story.

 

Non-residential construction investment increases

New quarterly figures form Statistics Canada show that investment in non-residential building construction increased 1.2 per cent to $13.1 billion in the third quarter. This was the second consecutive quarterly increase and largely resulted from higher spending for commercial building construction.The largest gains were in Alberta and Ontario. All four of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec posted declines.

The verdict may be in: a new report by global financial giant Credit Suisse suggests Canada has already avoided the kind of severe market correction many investors continue to worry about.
 
“Rapid growth in mortgages fuelled a continuing rise in household debt,” the company said in its report. “Mortgage terms were tightened, however, a few years ago, which appears to have had the desired effect as house price increases have moderated in the last three years. It may be that Canada’s housing market has achieved the elusive soft landing.”
 
That news, however, will likely surprise some investors alarmed by CREA September sales data pointing to a 1.4 per cent drop in seasonally adjusted month-over-month sales. That slowdown suggested a more precipitous decline may be in the offing.
 
“Low mortgage interest rates have been key to supporting home sales activity and prices,” says Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist. “Interest rates are likely to remain low well into next year, which is supportive for home sales activity and prices.”
 
Unadjusted sales for all property types rose 10.6 per cent year-over-year to 42,151 units, led by significant gains in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. New listings rose eight per cent, thanks to growth in the Maritime provinces, while the average price increased almost six per cent over 2013, to $408,795.
 
That price hike, in particular, will interest analysts. The Credit Suisse report stated that Canadians are better able to afford higher-priced homes. Since 2000, household wealth grew at an annual rate of 7.1 per cent.

Sunday, 19 October 2014 22:45

Daily Market Update

Written by Steve Randall

Inflation figures should be good news for homeowners… Vancouver’s commercial sector suffers a setback… Developers pay for upgrading transit stations… US housing starts increase…

 

Inflation figures should be good news for homeowners

The latest figures show that Canada’s inflation was under control in September. The consumer price index fell to 2 per cent last month; placing inflation firmly within the Bank of Canada’s target. When governor Stephen Poloz delivers the bank’s monetary policy report this this Wednesday he is not expected to make any shock announcements on interest rates; in fact the inflation figure will influence keeping interest rates lower for longer. Of course inflation is not the only concern; jobs, exports and the world economy are all shaping monetary policy; however it could still be towards the end of 2015 before we start to see interest rates creeping up. Read the full story.

 

Vancouver’s commercial sector suffers a setback

Business groups are angry that tax breaks on commercial property will be withdrawn pending an appeal on split-use land assessments. Last month the Property Assessment Appeal Board ruled to allow split assessments for some land in the city. This would mean that some businesses would benefit from paying the lower residential rate on unused or undeveloped land; currently they may be paying the commercial rate on land that may or may not be used for that purpose. On Friday BC Assessment said it would appeal the PAAB’s decision and would not be implementing the ruling until after the appeal is heard. Read the full story.

 

Developers pay for upgraded transit stations

Being near good transport links is often a must-have for homebuyers and developers are prepared to ensure that their projects have the best transit facilities, even if they have to fund them. A number of Vancouver transit stations have been upgraded or newly built using funding from developers and it seems to be a good solution for everyone. For TransLink is means better facilities without extra cost to taxpayers; developers are able to attract buyers at higher costs; and buyers benefit from better transit links despite ultimately paying more for their home. Read the full story.

 

US housing starts increase

South of the border the recovery in the housing market is showing better signs. In September housing starts were up 6.3 per cent; higher than forecast. Single family home starts increased 1.1 per cent while the multi-family sector saw a 16.7 per cent rise. Housing permits have also increased; rising 1.5 per cent. 

Friday, 17 October 2014 02:56

Far Out Friday: Retaliation homes

Written by Olivia D'Orazio

If your neighbour did something that absolutely infuriated you, how would you react?
 
Most people would cut ties or build a tall fence. One man in Virginia City, Nev., however, purchased the land on the other side of his enemy and built a large house just one foot away, blocking his neighbour’s view and restricting the ventilation on that side of the neighbour’s house.
 
The idea of spite homes isn’t new. In 1830, one cranky individual in Virginia constructed a building just seven feet wide to prevent strangers from using the alley next to his house. In 1814, meanwhile, a doctor in Maryland quickly built a mansion so that the town couldn’t construct a road through his property.
 
In Vancouver, spite is the reason the city is home to the world’s shallowest commercial building. The city expropriated 24 feet of existing property from the Sam Kee Company, which owned a standard-sized lot that featured retail space on the ground floor and living quarters above. The remaining space was wide and shallow, and many people thought it was unusable. But the owners decided to go ahead with their construction plans, and now these shops are just five feet deep.

Not all spite houses are necessarily bad. The Westboro Baptist Church has undoubtedly angered a lot of people with its extreme anti-gay stance, its picketing of military funerals and its belief that U.S. President Barack Obama is the Antichrist – to name but of a few of its controversies. So, in the best spite house case we can find, the non-profit group Planting Peace, which advocates for equality, runs orphanages and conducts various human rights campaigns across the globe, purchased the house directly across the street from the group’s headquarters, and painted it in the colours of the Gay Pride flag. The Equality House, as it’s now called, is a resource centre for the LGBTQ community and a strong symbol of peace and positive change.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 22:50

Daily Market Update

Written by Steve Randall

Experts insist the housing boom is coming to an end… Parking lots disappearing all across Canada…  Alberta economy is “a concern” says BMO report… Toronto couple plan to downsize…from their $25 million home!

 

Experts insist the housing boom is coming to an end

With plenty of positive data still flowing Canadians are upbeat about the housing market, but some experts are now insisting that we’ve seen the peak and that the boom is over. The Canadian Real Estate Association’s Gregory Klump says that there are signs that momentum is slowing and Phil Soper from Royal Le Page says he doesn’t think we’ll see much growth in prices in 2015 although he’s not expecting losses either. There could still be problems for some households though; those that push their budgets to the limit at this time of low interest rates with the belief that if they don’t buy now they’ll miss out. There is still an expectation among many Canadians that house prices will only increase and they may get caught out by flatter growth. Read the full story.

 

Parking lots disappearing all across Canada

The value of land currently used as surface parking lots means that many of the lots are starting to disappear in favour of housing developments. Jeff Costello, professor of transportation at the University of Waterloo says surface parking lots are a poor use of land and he’s pleased that redevelopment is gathering pace after years of talking about it. From Halifax to Toronto to Calgary there are big projects underway while Edmonton and Winnipeg are also rethinking the use of surface lots. In Sudbury a parking lots was scrapped in favour of green space. Read the full story.

 

Alberta economy is “a concern” says BMO report

While it still leads Canada’s economies the falling oil prices are a concern for Alberta’s energy fuelled economy. A report by BMO Economics predicts that the GDP gap between Alberta and other provinces is likely to narrow in the coming months with growth slowing down. Although the BMO says the drop in oil prices is a concern, the general picture for the province is optimistic. Employment levels and wages are in relatively good shape and although Calgary prices are high there are still other cities where housing is more affordable and the population continues to grow. Read the full story.

 

Toronto couple plan to downsize…from their $25 million home!

A Toronto couple are planning what many empty-nesters do, downsize from their family home now that the kids are all grown up. The difference for the owners of 68 The Bridle Path, is that they are selling a property with a $25 million price tag. Even in a hot market like Toronto this is a high-end home; built in the 80s by property tycoon Robert Campeau. The 28,000 square foot residence boasts palace-like rooms, majestic staircases and fantastic grounds. Read the full story.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 20:36

Study on foreign investors raises eyebrows

Written by Vernon Clement Jones

Some investors are hoping a UK study of foreign property investors will serve as a cautionary note for both provincial and federal lawmakers in this country.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 08:35

Immigration to boost Halifax housing market – eventually

Written by Vernon

Investors in Nova Scotia’s HRM remain bullish on the market, despite the latest CREA numbers suggesting a boom from the much-touted shipyard contract could take more time than expected.
 
“I think Halifax has a pretty solid record historically,” Paul MacNeil, a 26-year veteran sales rep in Halifax, tells REP. “I can see some changes here; immigration will be changing things.”
 
While Halifax saw year-over-year increases in the average sales price, namely a 1.8 per cent rise, that’s still below the national average of a 5.9 per cent increase. The hike in the number units sold throughout the HRM was higher at 9.3 per cent, likely a function of supply continuing to outweigh demand.

 
That means investors are still in a position to capitalize on the HRM’s current buyers’ market, ahead of the city’s $2 billion shipyard contract.

 

Like many of Halifax’s industries, the shipyard is effectively a government project phased in over a number of years. Its announcement two years ago stirred interest in the Halifax region and, for investors, not only lifted their expectations in the number of potential renters, but also boosted their confidence in the much-awaiting housing boom.

 
That boom hasn’t yet happened.
 
“You might get more density in the northern parts,” says McNeil, pointing to the shipyard. “But in terms of a city, you need more than that to keep it going.”
 
Still, MacNeil isn’t alone in believing the future for Halifax is a good one.
 
“Evidence suggests that some sellers have begun to soften their position on what they are willing to accept by way of offers in regards to price,” says CREA’s chief economist, Gregory Klump. “Over the rest of the year, CREA expects that sales will gradually draw down inventories, return the market from buyer’s to balanced territory, and ultimately cause prices to become firmer.”

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