Steve Baldwin


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OTTAWA -- Foreign buyers make up a minuscule portion of the overall housing market in this country, new research shows, but what they own is more expensive and newer than the average Canadian homeowner.

And there are indications foreign buyers are moving out of the traditional bases of Toronto and Vancouver and into new cities.


Non-residents owned 3.4 per cent of all residential properties in Toronto and 4.8 per cent of residential properties in Vancouver, according to new housing statistics by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and Statistics Canada.

Largely what foreign buyers scoop up are newer, more expensive homes. In Vancouver, non-resident owners, as they're known, had homes valued on average at $2.3 million compared to $1.6 million for the owners whose primary residence was in Canada.


In Toronto, the average detached home owned by a non-resident was valued at $944,100 compared to $840,600 for residents, a difference of $103,500 or 12.3 per cent.


Foreign owners are stepping into the big-city condo market where, again, what they own is more expensive than the what residents own. In and around Toronto, the average assessed value for a condo owned by a non-resident was $420,500, compared to $385,900 for a resident. In Vancouver, the figures are $691,500 and $526,700, respectively.

CMHC says that overall, foreign buyers owned less than one per cent of the condo stock in 17 metropolitan areas across the country.


The figures mark the first time that CMHC and Statistics Canada have measured foreign ownership in the country's hot housing market to see how much influence foreign buyers have over skyrocketing prices.


Ontario and B.C. have rules in place to dampen foreign interest in buying properties as investments.


The data from CMHC suggests that the foreign buyer tax in both provinces has shifted foreign ownership to other parts of the country.


The CMHC survey found that downtown Montreal and the city's Nun's Island had the largest increases in the share of non-resident owners over the last year. On Nun's Island, the rate went from 4.3 per cent in 2016 to 7.6 per cent this year; on the island of Montreal, the rate went from 0.9 per cent to 1.5 per cent.


"The lack of growth in Toronto and Vancouver, combined with the increases in Montreal, indicate the possibility of a shift from these centres after the introduction of foreign buyers' taxes in Ontario and British Columbia," CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said in a release accompanying the data.


"Other factors attracting demand to Montreal include lower housing prices and a relatively strong economy."


The head of CMHC has publicly argued that foreign ownership is not the main driver for increasing housing prices. Evan Siddall has previously said that foreign ownership makes up less than five per cent of the housing market.


"Foreign ownership is a thing; it's not the thing," Siddall said in an interview earlier this year.


"The sources of demand that are pushing prices higher are many-fold and the sources of investment the real estate part of our economy are many-fold and more domestic than foreign."

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With tougher new home-buying and mortgage rules and somewhat higher interest rates in place, Canada's once-hot housing market seems to be losing some of its mojo.

House prices in Canada fell for the third month in a row in November, pulled down by weakness in Toronto and other parts of Ontario, according to data released Wednesday.


The Teranet-National Bank house price index fell by 0.5 per cent in November. It was the largest drop for the month of November recorded outside of a recession, National Bank economist Marc Pinsonneault said in a statement.


Prices in Toronto, Canada's largest real estate market, fell by 1.4 per cent, while nearby Hamilton saw prices fall by 1.6 per cent, suggesting that Toronto's housing cool-down has spread to surrounding areas.


House prices also fell in Ottawa-Gatineau (down 0.8 per cent) and Edmonton (down 0.7 per cent). They were unchanged in the two British Columbia markets covered by the index, Vancouver and Victoria.

Prices rose in all the other cities covered by the index, including Montreal ( up 1.0 per cent), Quebec City (up 0.9 per cent), Halifax (up 0.8 per cent), Calgary (up 0.7 per cent) and Winnipeg (up 0.5 per cent).


Toronto's market has seen a significant cooldown since the province introduced its Fair Housing Plan in April, which includes a 15-per-cent tax on foreign home buyers, as well as expanded rent controls.

But National Bank's Pinsonneault notes that sales in the city grew from October to November, something that usually doesn't happen. It's a sign that some buyers are racing to purchase ahead of tougher new mortgage rules that will come into force in January.

"Therefore, a resumption of the downward price trend early next year cannot be excluded," Pinsonneault wrote.

"Be that as it may, market conditions turning from extremely tight at the beginning of the year to balanced is good news for affordability."


But in Vancouver, "market conditions remain tight," Pinsonneault wrote, noting that the city's condo price index has risen by 19 per cent in just the past 10 months.

Starting in January, borrowers of uninsured mortgages (those with 20 per cent or more down) will have to pass a "stress test" to see if they can afford their mortgage at interest rates about 2 percentage points higher than the rate they are being offered.

Of all the mortgage rule changes enacted in recent years to cool the housing market, industry insiders say this one will have the most impact. It's expected to reduce home-buying power by around 21 per cent.

No agreement on where prices are headed

In a report released this week, realtor Royal LePage predicted the new rules would slow down home sales, but "insufficient housing supply in Canada's largest cities" will keep prices rising.

Royal LePage predicts prices will rise 4.9 per cent next year.

However, not every forecast agrees with that. In a client note Wednesday, Capital Economics predicted that the new mortgage rules will end Canada's run of rising house prices.

"Higher interest rates and tougher mortgage rules will depress prices next year," economist David Madani wrote.

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The median net worth of Canadian families rose to $295,100 in 2016, a jump of nearly 15 per cent from four years ago, mostly due to an increasing value of homes, Statistics Canada reports.


Statistics Canada released its Survey of Financial Security Thursday, the first time since 2012 the data agency has offered a comprehensive look at the financial health of Canadians.


The agency defined net worth as the amount of money they would be left with if a family sold all its assets and paid off all its debts. Any family of two or more persons was considered a “family.” Unattached individuals were also included.


The survey found that housing was typically both the largest asset and the largest debt for Canadians.


In 2016, 61.7 per cent of Canadian families reported a principal residence as an asset. Of them, 57.3 per cent still had a mortgage on their principal residence.


The median reported value of principal residences was $349,000, up just over 10 per cent from 2012 and double that of 1999.


Overall, only 29.6 per cent of Canadian families were debt-free in 2016. Among Canadians aged 35 to 44, only 15.4 per cent were debt-free.


The share of those who were debt-free was highest among senior-led families; 58 per cent no longer had debt. However, this was down from 1999 when 72.6 per cent of senior-led families were debt-free.


Families in British Columbia reported the highest median net worth in 2016 -- $429,400. Families in Ontario were next with a median net worth at $365,700. New Brunswick reported the lowest median net worth among the provinces at $158,400.


Differences in the value of homes accounted for most of the provincial differences in net worth. The median value of principal residences in B.C. was $550,000 in 2016 -- the highest value in the country.


Vancouver residents had the highest median net worth in 2016, at $434,400. Toronto families had the second-highest median net worth, at $365,100, followed by:


  • Calgary ($339,400)
  • Québec ($335,100)
  • Winnipeg ($287,800)
  • Edmonton ($230,200)
  • and Montreal ($170,000).

Private pensions were the second-largest asset category, accounting for 29.2 per cent of assets -- up 17.7 per cent from 2012. The majority of this growth came from employer-sponsored registered pension plans (EPPs.)


Other real estate such as cottages, rental properties and other commercial properties represented 10 per cent of total assets. Just under one-fifth of Canadians owned these types of properties in 2016.

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Canada's two priciest housing markets are both showing signs of recovery following the introduction of foreign buyers' taxes in Toronto and Vancouver. But the markets went off in separate directions in November, data from the cities' real estate boards shows.


In Toronto, home sales were down 13.3 per cent in November, compared to the same month a year earlier. The average house price of $761,757 was 2 per cent lower than the same month a year earlier.

All the same, sales bucked the seasonal trend and rose slightly from October, to 7,374 transactions.


Board president Tim Syrianos suggested the sales bump may have to do with the upcoming new mortgage rules.

"It is ... possible that the upcoming changes to mortgage lending guidelines, which come into effect in January, have prompted some households to speed up their home buying decisions," Syrianos said in a statement.


He added that "similar to the Greater Vancouver experience, the impact of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan and particularly the foreign buyer tax may be starting to wane."


Residential home sales in Greater Vancouver jumped by about 26 per cent in November compared with the same month a year ago.


The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says the number of sales, which saw 2,795 homes sold, is 17 per cent above the 10-year average for the region in November.

Sales dropped by 7.5 per cent in November compared with October, when just over 3,000 homes sold.What's Going On In Housing?

Board president Jill Oudil says there is a steady demand in the market, with the townhome and condominium markets being particularly strong.

The benchmark price for detached properties was about $1.6 million, about a six per cent increase from November 2016.


Oudil says there are more listings entering the market this year compared with the same time last year, but inventories are still below typical levels.


The benchmark price of an apartment property was about $648,000 in November, an almost 24 per cent increase from November 2016.

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