September 2012 Market Update


September 2012


September Market Update

Summer is traditionally a slower time for real estate and 2012 was no different. Lower sales activity had several

prognosticators predicting that Canada's housing market would see a correction; however, to date, prices have

remained relatively stable in most jurisdictions. In fact, Vancouver's seemingly inflated Westside saw its average

price rise by 15% over August 2011 thanks to a relatively low sales volume and several significant transactions (this

is why last month we talked about how misleading 'average' statistics can be).


But aside from internal market forces, it's hard not to ignore how problems in the US and Europe and the resulting

economic turmoil will influence our housing market. And while it's true that consumer confidence plays a big role in

the overall health of housing, it's important to remember that Canada continues to look like an economic oasis in a

desert of bad financial news.


As you know, the US housing market has been in a severe recession for the past several years. And while there's

been talk of a possible correction in the Canadian housing market, it is unlikely we will experience anything near as

painful as our neighbours to the south.


There are 3 main reasons for this.


  • (1) Government Tax Policies
  • (2) Loan Qualification Policies
  • (3) Bank Lending Policies

Government Tax Policies

The US Government has long had a policy of encouraging home-ownership. Government-sponsored entities Fanny

Mae and Freddy Mac received most of the headlines during the US housing crisis for agreeing to purchase mortgage

loans that encouraged unsound lending. However, the US Government's tax policy of allowing homeowners to

deduct mortgage interest payments may be more significant, as it has encouraged Americans to maximize their

debt-loads in order to minimize their tax burdens.


Canada, of course, has no mortgage tax break for homeowners, with interest payment deductions only applying to

investment properties, meaning that Canadian homeowners don't have an incentive to take out larger loans than they

can afford.


Loan Qualification Policies

The secondary mortgage market in the US allowed the originators of mortgages to pass on the mortgage notes to

investors throughout the world. Because of this, lenders became incentivized to originate as many mortgages as

possible, with little-to-no regard for risk. These perverse incentives led to 'liar loans' - where individuals would simply

lie to their mortgage broker about their income or employment knowing that there would be no incentive to conduct a

background check - and 'NINJA loans' - where mortgage brokers offered mortgages to individuals with No Income,

No Job or Assets.


In Canada, the originators of loans (typically the Big Banks) tend to hold on to them. Because of this, the correct

incentives are in place to ensure that only individuals who can afford the mortgage receive them.


Bank Lending Policies

Another unintended consequence of the secondary mortgage market in the US has been the creation of extensive

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage products with attractive 'teaser' rates to take advantage of sub-prime borrowers. These

products allowed mortgage-holders to pay an unrealistically low rate for a period of time before 'resetting' to a much

higher, unaffordable, rate.


In addition to this, loans in the US tend to be 'non-recourse' meaning that the only collateral that a lender would have

on a mortgage is the house itself. In Canada, mortgages tend to be 'full-recourse', with many banks demanding

personal guarantees. This difference has resulted in people walking away from their homes in the US at a much

higher rate than in Canada.


In the end, the result of all of these policy differences means that Canada is fairly well-insulated from the carnage that

occurred south of the border. In addition, the Federal government, in coordination with the Bank of Canada, changed

the mortgage rules on July 9th to lower the amortization period to 25 years (from a peak of 40 years), effectively

making it harder for Canadians to borrow more than they can afford.


Interestingly, our conservative, low-competition banking environment may have saved our housing market from a

painful downturn.

If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me at the email address or phone number above.

  (Click chart to see larger image)  
*This communication is not intended to cause or induce breach of an existing agency agreement.

*Although this information has been received from sources deemed reliable, we assume no responsibility for its accuracy, and without offering advice, make this submission to prior sale or lease, change in price or terms, and withdrawal without notice.



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