Tag Archives: Canadian Housing Market

Canadian Housing Bubble Debt Stiring Financial Crisis Fears

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Toronto Condo Boom.

Everyone is fretting about the Canadian house price bubble and the mountain of debt it generates – from the IMF on down to the regular Canadian. Now even the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warn about the risks.

Every city has its own housing market, and some aren’t so hot. But in Vancouver and Toronto, all heck has broken loose in recent years.

In Vancouver, for example, even as sales volume plunged 45% in August from a year ago – under the impact of the new 15% transfer tax aimed at Chinese non-resident investors – the “benchmark” price of a detached house soared by 35.8%, of an apartment by 26.9%, and of an attached house by 31.1%. Ludicrous price increases!

In Toronto, a similar scenario has been playing out, but not quite as wildly. In both cities, the median detached house now sells for well over C$1 million. Even the Bank of Canada has warned about them, though it has lowered rates last year to inflate the housing market further – instead of raising rate sharply, which would wring some speculative heat out of the system. But no one wants to deflate a housing bubble.

During the Financial Crisis, when real estate prices in the US collapsed and returned, if only briefly, to something reflecting the old normal, Canadian home prices barely dipped before re-soaring. And this has been going on for years and years and years.

The OECD in its Interim Economic Outlook warned:

Over recent years, real house prices have been growing at a similar or higher pace than prior to the crisis in a number of countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The rise in real estate prices has pushed up price-to-rent ratios to record highs in several advanced economies.

Canada stands out. Even on an inflation-adjusted basis, Canadian home prices have long ago shot through the roof. The OECD supplied this bone-chilling chart. The top line (orange) represents Canadian house price changes, adjusted for inflation:

https://i2.wp.com/wolfstreet.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Canada-house-price-changes-v-US-UK-Germany-OECD.png

In the US, several national indices have now exceeded the crazy prices of the Housing Bubble that started blowing up in 2006. In some cities, the median price has shot way past the prior bubble highs – in San Francisco, by over 50%! But other cities have lagged behind, and the national averages paper over the local bubbles.

In Canada, real estate is more concentrated. The Canadian market is about one-tenth the size of the US market. But the two largest local markets, Toronto and Vancouver, together make up 54% of the Teranet National Bank House Price Index. So when these two local bubbles begin to deflate – or implode – they will create enormous havoc across Canada.

Real estate is highly leveraged. It’s funded with debt. Many folks cite down-payment requirements in rationalizing why the Canadian market cannot implode, and why, if it does implode, it won’t pose a problem for the banks. However, an entire industry has sprung up to help homebuyers get around the down-payment requirements.

So household debt has been piling up for years, driven by mortgage debt. Statistics Canada reported two weeks ago that the ratio of household debt to disposable income has jumped to another record in the second quarter, to a breath-taking 167.6%:

https://i0.wp.com/wolfstreet.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Canada-household-debt-to-income-ratio-2016-Q2.png

The BIS now too, in its Quarterly Review, jumped on the bandwagon of issuing ineffectual warnings about this pile of debt, fingering particularly China – and in the same breath Canada:

According to the BIS early warning indicators, which are intended to capture financial overheating and potential financial distress over medium-term horizons, credit growth continues to be unusually high relative to GDP in several Asian economies as well as in Canada.

Estimated debt service ratios, which attempt to capture principal and interest payments relative to income, appear to be at manageable levels at current interest rates for most countries, although they point to potential concerns in Brazil, Canada, China, and Turkey.

The BIS developed a metric – the “credit-to-GDP gap” – that compares current credit levels to long-term trends and serves as an early warning indicator for financial crises.

Everyone wants to know when the next financial crisis happens. It will happen, but once again, it will surprise the economic establishment because, in the eloquent words of the BIS, debts always “appear to be at manageable levels” – until suddenly, they’re not.

The country with the highest credit-to-GDP gap is China (30.1), and the second highest is Canada (12.1). When it comes to debt creation, it’s not a good idea to be mentioned in the same breath with China. Turkey (9.6) is next in line. Then Mexico (8.8). And Brazil (4.6). Oh, and Australia (4.4)! So housing-bubble Canada is in excellent company!

The only saving grace is the permanently near-zero-interest-rate environment. Because that’s what it takes to keep this thing from deflating, according to the BIS, and even then there are “concerns.” But these countries, particularly Canada, are going to be in trouble when rates rise even a little.

So have central banks painted themselves and their entire bailiwicks into a corner with their ingenious emergency policies that have been dragging on for eight years? You bet. Is there a way out? Nope. Not a good one, at least. It’s just a question of when and how – and who gets to pay.

By Wolf Richter | Wolf Street

 

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Appraisals Are A Hot Topic Impacting Consumers Right Now

 : Consumers and lenders are upset with the current residential appraisal situation. This came from Southern California. “Why isn’t anyone publicizing the appraisal gouging going on in select markets? Due to a lack of appraisers since the financial reform acts (must be college educated and possess certificates) there is a ‘rush’ fee on top of an inflated appraisal fee for purchases topping $2,000. All of this is costing the borrower in fees and in rates since some appraisals are taking 6 weeks thus requiring a longer rate lock period and higher rate.  It seems like the financial and consumer protections are working in reverse order for the borrower. And speaking of appraisers, they are all older folks as the younger generation does not want to pursue a career in a dying industry (full automation).”

And this from one of the Rocky Mountain states. “Just this month, I have more than 4-week turnaround times quoted by most appraisers through the AMCs and appraisals as high as $2,620 for a non-rural basic FHA appraisal. Taking years to fix the problem is not good: we have major problems now. My first time homebuyers can barely afford the $500 appraisals let alone the $2,620 appraisals (most don’t even have credit cards with a limit that high). I even had an appraiser tell me (and it’s someone I know to be an honest hardworking appraiser) that if he can do 3 appraisals a week for $1000 each or 6 appraisals a week for $500 each, which do you think he will pick? Somebody asked me the other day if we did ‘cost plus’ for the AMC appraisals. We can’t do that as appraisals are one of the items we can’t redisclose if it comes in higher unless we can prove we didn’t know something about the property and that is extremely hard to prove. Something must be done.”

From Kentucky Dora Ann Griffin contributed, “The answer is with Collateral Underwriters (CU) – there is no reason we cannot go back to allowing brokers and lenders order appraisals from professional quality appraisers. It would allow small appraisal businesses to thrive and compete. The end result would be a much better pricing and quality. The question is how do we make that happen? I know it would be moving a mountain but is there a way associations, brokers, etc. can affect a movement back to common sense.

“I just closed a loan where the property failed CU. A desk review was done. Then a field review. The whole appraisal process spanned six weeks due to appraisers taking 4 days to accept and missing the delivery by four days. I was told repeatedly the AMC could not push because the appraiser would then not do it at all. That appraiser would be still on the roster if that happened!  Meanwhile my buyer is living in a motel for weeks with two dogs, three kids and her husband spending thousands of dollars to get by.

“In the end the original appraiser had the wrong property ID and even had an address wrong on a comp along with nine other serious or minor corrections. As a consumer that appraisal was faulty but there is no remedy. I suffer the loss of repeat business and referrals for something totally out of my control.

“I dream of the day I can engage a qualified appraiser directly. If that does not happen we are looking at even higher costs and increasingly inferior quality.  All the good appraisers in my market work directly with banks. I get the worst of the worst thru AMCs as a broker – an unfair playing field.”

From Washington Theresa Springer mailed, “In the PDX MSA (including Clark County, WA) it is a travesty with an average 4-6 week turn time with high rush fees to get us to this insane return point. Appraisers are cherry picking jobs based on amount given to receive appraisal back at a somewhat ‘normal’ time frame of 3+ weeks and where it is located, i.e. in town vs. ‘rural’ as in Camas and Ridgefield, like those two are rural (not). I spoke with an appraiser buddy of mine a week ago and he said, ‘I just scroll through my email in the AM to see what is being offered and I take the best fee and locale and go from there.’ He said he is getting offered $1,500- $2,000 to do an in-town appraisal with a 3 week turn time. Appraisers are now quoting mid-October to early November for an appraisal that is being ordered this week. We have a lack of appraisers, and here’s a video about why they’re taking so long. They are over loaded and it is the fault of the feds as they have made the bar to entry for an appraiser so high.

“This is getting so ridiculous and is causing a large uptick in costs to the borrowers and the sellers are so angry as they cannot close in any timely manner.  Most agents now are writing PSA’s for 8 weeks or 6 weeks knowing that they will need an extension(s). VA loans are upwards of 8+ weeks in town and the VA seems to be doing very little to fix this issue on their end.  Just closed a Brigadier General’s VA loan and he called the VA raised a riot and he was able to get his appraisal turned in 3 business days after an 8-week acceptance time lag. But it is taking the borrowers to call the VA to get anything done. The VA is only assigning out appraisals on Monday’s now and is no longer letting you know where you are in line. This is also hurting the Veterans as many sellers will no longer accept VA loans on their homes, which is their right.

“Due to the rules in place where a new appraiser needs a 4-year degree (this was the MOST insipid part of the appraisal license change, then comes the 2 +/- year apprenticeship where the certified appraiser has to personally review EVERY home and its comps in its entirety before approving the report, like they have time) we are not getting any new folks into the business. So much for saving the consumer money as all this is doing is creating more costs for the borrower and a longer wait time for the seller to close. Many sellers are only entertaining cash offers if they have this option due to these issues.”

Mike VanDerWeerd sent, “As a former (still licensed) appraiser, this appraisal discussion is quite interesting. In a nutshell, they took the business out of the profession and made appraisers lapdogs to AMCs. There is no incentive to perform quality work on a client basis. All you get is spoon fed assignments with no way of growing the business. My opinion is once the GSEs figure out an automated valuation method with a home inspection, appraisers will be VCR repairmen!”

And Bill King opined, “I would proffer that a good appraiser cannot do 2 to 3 appraisals per day and do them well. Unfortunately, that very expectation does more to drive down appraisal quality than almost all other things combined. Unless one has two or three of the same floor plan, in the same plat (rare) on the same day a good, competent appraisal isn’t going to happen with just 3 to 4 hours’ work. Without the ‘assembly line’ operation 2 or 3 appraisals per day is just not possible. The elephant in the living room is appraisal process itself. The single point value and single approach appraisal is fundamentally flawed and antiquated. Small data valuations in a big data world is silly.”

From Florida came, “As we all know, according to TRID, a consumer must receive Loan Estimate disclosures within 3 days of submitting all 6 items that comprise a loan application. First, the in-house stall was holding the property address out so more information could be gathered before mandatory disclosures. That worked for a while, except that when we have a purchase contract, we automatically have an address. So that stall doesn’t work anymore though offices do try to bury the contract for a while. Now, local offices are stalling disclosures until the appraisal comes back saying that is the basis for an estimate of property value. The obvious point being ignored by this argument is that if there’s a contract, there’s an estimation of property value. Two people have decided that the property is worth the agreed price and since a copy of the MLS listing is part of the loan file, processors and underwriters can see listed and contract values. The ‘wait for appraisal’ stall is a very thin one, and continues to make consumers wait longer for decisions and closing. As I have said before, every time CFPB tweaks a regulation a new cottage industry opens up in the lending community to try and circumvent the intended benefit to the public.” Thank you to Chris Carter for this note!

Chris Nielsen forecast, “I think in 10 years (maybe less) the Certified Appraiser will be little needed. With The UCDP and EAD portals, drone technology and other new intelligent systems, the routine property appraisal by a Human Being will be unnecessary.”

But those in the appraisal business deserve to be heard.

Mike Ousley, President & CEO of Direct Valuation Solutions, sends, “Being a company that provides solutions for lenders and appraisers to work directly with one another and one that also provides AMC services (DVS-AMC) gives me a unique perspective. On the AMC side we have first-hand knowledge of appraisers purposely and actively trying to damage the AMC by accepting orders, holding them for a week or two or three, then rejecting the order saying, ‘we never accepted the order.’ Recently, we had an appraiser in a well populated area quote a 4 month turn time!!!!  Really? He had 80+ orders in his queue?

“The blogs are full of Appraiser v. AMC drama, and for sure there are good and bad AMCs, just like there are good and bad appraisers and yes, it would seem that some appraisers view the AMC as their shield from the relationships with the lender so they don’t have to ‘face the music’ when due dates are missed, report quality is substandard or errors are made and the lender is left holding the AMC responsible for their ‘inability to manage the independent appraiser.’

“The real rub is that in some cases the same appraiser who intentionally damages the AMC relationship is the same one professing to want the direct relationship with the lender through our software! Having started as a professional appraiser way back in 1979 and hopefully establishing myself as a ‘professional appraiser’ over the decades since, I am entirely flummoxed by the disconnect between saying as an appraiser you are a professional, acting professional and adhering to the Uniform Standards of PROFESSIONAL Appraisal Practice (USPAP) when the purpose of USPAP is ‘to promote and maintain a high level of public trust in appraisal practice by establishing requirements for appraisers.’ I think it is safe to say ‘public’ here includes the consumer who the lender is attempting to assist in securing a home loan for purchase or refinance purposes, and yet aren’t they the ones being damaged by the unprofessional conduct of the intentional actions of appraisers trying to damage the AMC hired by the lender and almost always paid for by the borrower?  All too often, it seems, the word ‘Professional’ has gotten lost and the very public (read consumer) trust lost with it.

Mike wraps up with, “I think everyone, appraisers, lenders & AMCs, need to keep in mind the public we serve and not only maintain their trust but take a big step towards consistent and professional actions. While there is most certainly an issue with the number of appraisers dwindling, the number and frequency of underwriting or lender/investor stipulations and overall volume impacting the appraisal process, keeping professional conduct by ALL parties must be non-negotiable. On a closing note, I hope to drive a conversation with our national representation, the Mortgage Bankers Association, at our upcoming National Convention and bring not only more awareness to these growing issues but discuss forward thinking solutions and inclusion of appraisers & AMCs in the MBA agenda.”

Last Saturday in the commentary I quoted a reader who noted, among other things, “AMCs are keeping 1/3 to 1/2 of the appraisal fee.” Paul Dorman, President of Accurate Group, writes, “I did want to respond to this to dispel a myth. Good AMCs who want to promote partnerships with appraisers and expand their appraisal panels are not taking anywhere close to 1/3 to 1/2 of the appraisal fee. Good AMCs are actually sharing more of the appraisal fee with the appraiser and, when necessary, sharing the entire appraisal fee with the appraiser or taking losses on some orders to ensure service levels are met for both consumers and lenders.

“Yes, there is an appraiser shortage and good AMCs are working on solutions to that shortage – helping appraisers stay in the business, paying appraisers timely, limiting revision requests, looking for ways to educate and train new appraisers and developing products that make appraisers more efficient so they can complete more than 2 or 3 assignments a day. We’re doing all we can to ensure appraisers understand that the right AMCs can add a ton of value for them. We are expecting to see these efforts differentiate us in the market and expect that overtime more appraisers will see that not all AMCs are created equal.”

by Rob Chrisman

Canada; The Myth Of An Epic Housing Bubble And The Next Great Housing Collapse

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Condos along Vancouver’s waterfront. (Photo: Getty Images)

Summary

  • U.S. investors betting on an epic U.S. style housing bust occurring in Canada have been doing so for a considerable period with no clear proof. 
  • Claims of a broad-economy wide housing bubble that is ready to burst are significantly overstated with no clear evidence that a bubble exists. 
  • The majority of price growth is coming from Vancouver and Toronto and there are specific reasons supporting higher prices in those markets. 
  • The conditions in Canada’s housing market are strikingly different compared to those that existed in the U.S. during the lead-up to the 2007 housing meltdown.

It appears that ‘group think‘, ignorance and cognitive dissonance have come to dominate the argument around whether Canada’s housing market is in bubble territory and poised to burst sometime soon. Struggling U.S. hedge funds, many of which missed out on the ‘big short‘ of book and movie fame, have been betting heavily on an epic Canadian housing meltdown by shorting Canada’s major banks, but to date have incurred considerable losses.

Then you have the chorus of economists, analysts and investors who have been claiming that not only has a massive real estate bubble formed in Canada but that it is poised to burst. In many cases, these proclamations go back as far as 2009 and despite being reiterated by naysayers now for close on seven years, a housing bust has yet to occur. Many including acclaimed investor Canada’s own Prem Watsa have stated that Canada’s housing market resembles that which existed in the U.S. during the run-up to the subprime crisis.

These claims rest upon a broad-range of assertions that a number of one-off, disruptive and unsustainable factors are driving Canadian housing prices ever higher, creating the perfect storm that will cause the bubble to burst in a spectacular manner. These claims, many of which have been voiced for some years now, include:substantial amounts of foreign (read Asian) investment;

  • lax lending standards;
  • large volumes of subprime mortgages;
  • growing financial stress being placed on households; and
  • the growing risk of external economic shocks.

However, it appears that many investors, particularly those based in the U.S. are ignoring the fundamental differences between the two markets and local attributes that will not only prevent an epic meltdown but backstop prices for some time to come. Let’s take a detailed look at some of the major myths that are regularly wheeled out by those who claim that a massive housing bubble exists in Canada and is poised to burst any time.

#1 There is a massive economy wide housing bubble

One of the main drivers of the massive U.S. housing meltdown was that frothy prices were not restricted to specific regional markets or segments but instead constituted an economy-wide housing bubble that was highly speculative in nature. And the risk that this posed to the U.S. financial system and economy was magnified by the prevalence of non-traditional and substandard lending practices as well as considerable volumes of inferior mortgage backed securities.

Yet in the case of Canada, overheated or bubbly housing markets are restricted to a small number of regional markets and market segments, with the growth of housing prices either slowing or falling across other regions. By the end of June 2016 it was only a handful of markets including Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton-Burlington that experienced double-digit growth.

In fact, it was the considerable increase of house prices in those markets which for June rose by 16.8%, 11.4% and 14.2% year-over-year respectively, which was responsible for the Canadian national average growing by 11%. Other regional markets such as New Brunswick and Quebec grew at more modest rates of around 3%, whereas Novia Scotia remained flat. Then you have Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are among the most affected by the prolonged slump in crude, where house prices fell by 1.4% and 1.6% respectively.

It is these points which indicate that Canada’s housing market on whole, is starting to cool with the growth in the national average house price predominantly being driven by Toronto and Vancouver. This does not necessarily mean that either of those housing markets have entered bubbles with a range of market specific dynamics responsible for the ongoing price growth.

#2 A massive influx of foreign investment is responsible for higher housing prices

Probably one of the biggest myths regularly bandied about by those that claim the market is in rarefied bubble territory and ready to burst, is that the tremendous inflow of foreign investment, particularly from China, is driving prices to unrealistic levels, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver. While it is certainly undeniable that these markets are attracting considerable amounts of attention from foreign investors this is not the only or most important factor in causing prices to surge in those markets.

Even naysayers such as Capital Economics economist Paul Ashworth believes that surging house prices are not being caused by foreign investment but rather by Canadians taking advantage of cheap credit and relaxed lending standards.

In fact, according to a range of reports and research conducted by a number of economists there is very little evidence to support the assertion that foreign money is driving up housing prices. According to an article from Canada’s National Post earlier this year, vacancy rates in Vancouver are on average 2% which then increases to 7.5% for condos, with very few of those vacant properties being foreign owned. The same article goes onto state that it is the laws of supply and demand that are responsible for higher housing prices rather than foreign money.

Recent data from the B.C. government shows that between June 10 and June 29 only 3.3% of all real estate deals in Vancouver involved foreign nationals and as a share of sales by value they only amounted to 5.1% of all sales. This is a far cry from the figures to be expected from a market where foreign money is responsible driving property prices into a bubble.

Indeed, if we take a closer look at the property markets of Vancouver and Toronto it is possible to identify specific market dynamics that are responsible for higher prices and these factors will continue to push them higher for some time to come.

#3 Toronto and Vancouver are in bubble territory

According to the naysayers, Canada’s housing market is now truly defying common sense and that a colossal housing crash is on its way, with the housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto caught in massive bubbles. This they claim is supported by factors such as Canada being judged to have the most overvalued housing market among developed economies and that global investors are increasingly betting against Canadian housing in record numbers.

Nonetheless, there are also a range of factors that indicate that these claims are alarmist and inaccurate, with no evidence to support the view that housing bubbles exit in either market. Will Dunning, chief economist of industry group Mortgage Professionals Canada, believes that prices are sustainable and not representative of a property bubble, stating that this talk has been going on since 2008 with no evidence of one existing. He even went on to state:

Housing bubbles do not exist in Canada, . . .

If we turn to what defines an economic or market bubble it becomes apparent that Dunning could certainly be right. For a housing bubble to exist people have to be buying houses for purely speculative reasons and this has to be across a considerable portion of the market. Then to illustrate that a bubble exists there has to be expectations of self-fulfilling price growth and that those unrealistic expectations are leading to increased and excessive activity in the housing market.

The theories postulated by Nobel award winning economist Joseph Stiglitz also supports these notions, he defines a bubble as where the reason that the price is high today, is only because investors believe that the selling price will be higher tomorrow.

None of these factors in their entirety apply to Canada’s housing market nor those of Vancouver or Toronto. If anything it is far more mundane market specific factors that are driving housing prices ever higher. A group of academics from the University of British Colombia while proposing placing a tax on vacant properties in order to reduce the level of foreign investment in Vancouver have stated that the fundamental drivers of higher prices are higher demand and limited supply. Upon taking a closer look at the markets of Vancouver and Toronto this becomes very apparent.

You see, Toronto and Vancouver are defined as global gateway cities that sees them cast in the same light as global cities such as London, New York, Paris and Hong Kong that have far more expensive real estate markets. This makes them important destinations for immigrants, with them accepting around half of all external immigrants to Canada.

The reasons for this are predominantly economic with both cities, particularly because of the prolonged slump in oil prices, have the greatest concentration of jobs in Canada, with around 25% of total employment in Canada. And according to economists’ from Bank of Montreal these two cities accounted for all of Canada’s job growth in 2015.

It is these factors which according to National Bank economist Stefane Marion are responsible for the working age population in Toronto and Vancouver to be growing at a rate that is 70% faster than the national average.

The prolonged slump in oil has magnified this phenomenon, with the deep economic slump in Canada’s oil patch significantly impacting the economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan. This has not only made those regions less appealing to immigrants but triggered a marked uptick in the number of households seeking to relocate because of higher unemployment and falling wages.

Meanwhile, The Economist has theorized that this rapidly growing demand is placing considerable pressure on housing supplies particularly because of their unchanging supplies, stating:

The supply of housing is rather inelastic, so in the short term house-price inflation is driven more by demand factors, such as the number of households, disposable income, interest rates and the yield available on other assets. In recent years all of these have helped to push house prices steadily upwards, especially in big cities.

The constrained supply situation caused by limited inventories in both cities is easy to see. As the chart below illustrates, Toronto’s housing inventory by June of this year was at less than half of its 10 year average and a third lower than the previous year.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Association.

When turning to Vancouver it is possible to see that for the same period inventories are around 60% lower than the 10 year average and a third lower than a year earlier.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Association.

With expanding populations, driven by growing internal and external migration, causing demand to swell coupled with extremely limited housing supplies in Toronto and Vancouver there is considerable support for higher prices, which means there won’t a correction in those markets anytime soon.

#3 The Conditions in Canada are similar to those in the U.S. prior to the financial crisis

One of the biggest myths concerning Canada’s housing market is that the conditions that exist are similar to, if not the same as those that existed in the U.S. in the lead-up to the massive housing meltdown that almost caused the U.S. financial system to collapse in 2007.

According to ratings agency Moody’s:

. . rising levels of Canadian household debt relative to income, along with rapidly increasing house prices, have created conditions similar to those in the United States prior to the financial crisis of 2008.

Then there is Steve Eismann who rose to fame betting against the U.S. housing market in the lead-up to the subprime crisis. He is making similar claims to Moody’s but was doing so way back in 2013 and has been recommending that investors bet against Canada’s mortgages lenders and banks.

It is this which has attracted the attention of short-sellers and now sees Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE:TD) and Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE:BNS) being the first and third most shorted stocks on the TSX.

However, there are a range of reasons why Canada is not a repeat of what was occurring in the U.S. back in 2006, key among these is far higher underwriting standards for loans and a distinct lack of subprime mortgages.

It appeared that way back in 2006, anyone with a pulse could obtain a mortgage with mortgage underwriting standards relaxed to levels that were ridiculously low. Then there was the huge influx of fraudulent applications and an extremely lax approach to checking applications for accuracy. This easy money helped to fuel ever rising house prices and give a leg up to the next round of frenzied speculation. No one, from mortgage brokers, to the major banks wanted the merry-go-round to end as they all sort to cash in on the growing frenzy.

Clearly, Canada has not reached this stage yet and in fact it is doubtful that it ever well, with its property market certainly not caught in the same type of speculative frenzy.

Furthermore, it was the presence of considerable volumes of subprime mortgages that essentially precipitated the U.S. housing meltdown. It is estimated that they made up somewhere between 18% and 21% of all mortgages originated in the run-up to the housing crash. Whereas, in Canada subprime mortgages are estimated to make-up less than 5% of the market, and that was when the market was at its peak. With Bank of Canada pushing for tighter mortgage underwriting standards since this figure was released, it will certainly have fallen.

Aside from these key differences there are also a range of other Canada specific factors to consider including:

  • the lack of non-recourse mortgages, a greater prevalence of mortgage insurance;
  • the fact that borrowers on average have higher levels of equity in their homes; and
  • lower loan-to-valuation ratios for non-insured mortgages.

As a result, these differences mean that the market is not exposed to the same degree of risk nor the same volume of rapid defaults that forced U.S. lenders in 2006 and 2007 to flip repossessed properties as quickly as possible, causing prices to cascade ever lower.

Final musings

The differences between Canada’s housing market and that which existed in the U.S. in the run-up to the housing meltdown, which almost caused the U.S. financial system to collapse, are strikingly important. They highlight that not only is a sharp correction or housing meltdown unlikely but that in marked contrast to the claims of naysayers that there is in fact no evidence of a housing bubble. If anything while some regional markets are cooling, Vancouver and Toronto’s ever higher housing prices can be attributed to demographic pressures, higher demand and constrained supply. These factors will push prices higher in those markets for some time to come and backstop prices if there is a sharp economic downturn. For all of these reasons it is difficult to envision an epic Canadian housing meltdown occurring any time soon.

by Caiman Valores | Seeking Alpha