New Mortgage Rules Now in Effect, GTA Sales Plunge, and Vancouver’s Priciest Home: Weekly Real Estate News Recap

New Mortgage Rules Now in Effect

Borrowers of new low-ratio mortgages (those who pay 20 per cent or more on their down payments), now face tougher qualification requirements as new guidelines for federally-regulated lenders took effect on January 1.

Called Guideline B-20, and introduced by Canada’s banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the new rules now require borrowers to pass a stress test when applying for home financing, either at the Bank of Canada’s (BoC) qualification rate (currently 4.99 per cent), or at their contract rate plus 2 per cent – whichever is higher.

The new rules are designed to reduce risky borrowing practices and to prevent mortgage applicants from biting off more home debt than they can chew; the average Canadian now owes $1.71 for every dollar they earn, a vulnerability that poses risk to the overall economy, according to the BoC.

The stress test is expected to reduce the average home buying budget by 20 per cent, which some experts say could knock as many as 10 per cent of prospective borrowers out of the market. Those who do pass may have to downsize their home buying ambitions as a result, for example, choosing a townhome or condo rather than a detached house, or moving to a community further from the downtown core.

However, these rules are only targeted at borrowers of brand new mortgages, or those refinancing their current ones; if you already have a mortgage, you will not be stress tested if you remain with your existing lender upon renewal. The rules also only apply to federally regulated lenders, meaning provincially-regulated credit unions, or non-regulated alternative lenders are exempt.

Check out our recent BNN appearance for more info on how B-20 may impact the housing market!

GTA Real Estate Sales Down 18% in 2017: TREB

The Toronto Real Estate Board has released its final monthly data analysis for 2017, and it reveals government policies have taken their toll on annual sales.

According the TREB, which included a total-year recap within its December report, overall 2017 GTA sales via the MLS fell 18.3 per cent from record-breaking 2016 – and the board isn’t shy to point the finger at the cause.

“Much of the sales volatility in 2017 was brought about by government policy decisions,” said TREB President Tim Syrianos. “Research from TREB, the provincial government and Statistics Canada showed that foreign home buying was not a major driver of sales in the GTA. However, the Ontario Fair Housing Plan, which included a foreign buyer tax, had a marked psychological impact on the marketplace. Looking forward, government policy could continue to influence consumer behavior in 2018, as changes to federal mortgage lending guidelines come into effect.”

Average home values still rose 12.7 per cent to $822,681 year over year, though much of that growth occurred during “extremely tight” conditions in the first quarter, prior to the FHP. Price growth then cooled throughout the remainder of 2017 as an influx of inventory and fewer sales tilted the GTA toward balance rather than the frantic seller’s market that had become the norm.

December, however, experienced a sharp – though seasonal – downturn in activity, with sales in the total TREB area falling 33.1 per cent from November, and the average price softening 11.1 per cent month over month to $735,021. Year over year, prices rose a scant 0.7 per cent.

Check out our infographic for the full story>

Newly-Built Houses Too Expensive for Most Buyers

There was a dramatic 82-per-cent-drop in sales for freshly-built single-family homes in November – but it’s not due to a lack of demand, reports the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) in its November report.

The latest numbers, which were released at the end of December, reveal single-family homes (including detached and semi-detached houses) accounted for just 9 per cent of all new build sales; of the 3,473 sold in November, 91 per cent were condos. It’s the lowest level of single-family segment activity since BILD started tracking the data in 2000.

As of the end of November, houses account for only 17.3 per cent of the 42,992 lots sold in the Greater Toronto Area. The average price, however, continues to rise due to lack of buildable land and tight inventory, and now sits at $1,223,610, up 25.1 per cent from last year.

Bryan Tuckey, BILD’s president and CEO, says lack of affordability is far and away the steepest hurdle for house ownership, and the main contributor behind the shift in buyer behaviour.

“The November data should not be interpreted as a sign of diminished demand for single-family housing in the GTA, in fact, quite the opposite,” he stated. “A big reason single-family homes represent a decreasing portion of new home sales is that people simply cannot afford them.” He adds that while the new build industry wishes to create product within home buyer budgets, they’re hamstringed by “provincial policies such as the Places to Grow Act, which mandates intensification.”

Patricia Arsenault, executive vice president of Research Consulting Services at Altus Group, BILD’s data partner, alludes that more buyers are exploring their resale options, the prices of which have softened in comparison to their newly-built counterparts.

“The decline in new single-family home sales in the GTA relative to last year in large part reflects low inventories of new homes available to purchase,” she stated. “As well, with more resale single-family homes available to purchase compared to last year, many potential new home buyers now feel they can take the time to explore their range of options more carefully.”

BILD reveals existing inventory is in a range “well below” what’s considered healthy, at just three to four months compared to the usual nine to 12.

Newly-built condos, which include low-, medium- and high-rise units, stacked townhomes and lofts, saw prices surge 42.6 per cent year over year to an average of $702,992.

Vancouver’s Priciest Home Valued at $78.8 Million

The latest valuations from BC Assessment were released this week, and they reveal Vancouver’s most expensive home rose a whopping $3,016,000 over the course of a year.

It’s also the fifth year in a row that the 15,694-square-foot waterfront Kitsilano property, which belongs to Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson, has been crowned the priciest abode in the region, reports the Globe and Mail.

However, while its annual appreciation may be eye-popping, it actually reflects a slowing trend in price growth among high-end Vancouver real estate, with an increase of only 4 per cent compared to last year’s 18 per cent, though the property’s value has jumped a massive 45 per cent since 2013.

According to the overall assessment for the region, detached home values in Vancouver rose only 15 per cent, compared to 50 in 2017. Conditions have been slower for higher-priced homes following the introduction of a foreign buyer tax in 2016, though prices have since recovered to hit record highs.

Lack of Supply Pushes Vancouver Prices Higher

And speaking of Canada’s most expensive market, it continues to be grapple with a good old-fashioned supply-and-demand imbalance, as a lack of new listings and rampant buyer activity drove December home prices ever higher, to an average benchmark of $1,050,300.

This is contributing to increasingly tighter market conditions even as sales slow to more “historically normal” levels.

“It was a steady year for home sales across the region, led by condominium and townhome activity, and a quieter year for home listings,” said Jill Oudil, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. “Metro Vancouver home sales were the third highest we’ve seen in the past ten years while the home listings total was the second lowest on record for the same period.”

Home listings in Metro Vancouver reached 54,655 in 2017. This is a 5.1 per cent decrease compared to the 57,596 homes listed in 2016 and a 4.5 per cent decrease compared to the 57,249 homes listed in 2015.

“Market activity differed considerably this year based on property type,” Oudil said. “Competition was intense in the condominium and townhome markets, with multiple offer situations becoming commonplace. The detached home market operated in a more balanced state, giving home buyers more selection to choose from and more time to make decisions.”

According to REBGV a total of 35,993 homes exchanged hands over the course of 2017, a 9.9-per-cent decline from 2016, and down 15 per cent from 2015 levels. December sales, however, surged 17.6 per cent from the same time last year at 2,016 units, though a 27.9 per cent decrease compared to November 2017 when 2,795 homes sold.

Condo activity continues to outpace all other housing segments, with 1,028 sales in November, at an average price of $655,400, In comparison, there were 371 townhouse sales, at an average of $803,700, and 617 detached sales, at $1,605,800.

About Penelope Graham

Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor at Zoocasa. A born-and-bred Torontonian and quintessential millennial, she has over a decade of experience covering real estate, lifestyle and personal finance topics. When not keeping an eye on Toronto's hot housing market, she can be found brunching in one of the city's many vibrant neighbourhoods. Find her on Twitter at @pjeg14.

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