Mortgage rates – how low they can go?

Four times in the past four years, Flaherty has tightened mortgage insurance rules, each time making it a little more difficult to get home financing. And although household debt continues to hit new record highs—reaching 165% of disposable income by the end of last year—Flaherty has succeeded in slowing housing activity in Canada. But that comes at the expense of the mortgage market, which is the largest of the banks’ lending businesses. Mortgages in the banking sector are currently growing at about 6% a year—half of the pre-recession rate of growth. “The competition between institutions is so fierce that they really have no choice but to compete by offering as low a rate as they possibly can,”  says John Andrew, a real estate professor at Queen’s University.

Lenders still make money on low-rate mortgages. Their profit margins are roughly measured by the difference between mortgage rates and the banks’ own costs of borrowing, which is approximated by the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark bond rate—about 1.2%. Most of the money the banking sector lends out is provided by retail deposits, supplemented by borrowing on the “wholesale” market. The minimum spread at which a bank would be willing to offer five-year mortgages is about 140 basis points, says Ohad Lederer, a financial services analyst at Veritas Investment Research. That would put a floor on five-year mortgage rates of about 2.6%—assuming the five-year bond rate doesn’t fall any further. Variable or shorter-term mortgages are already available for even less.

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Real Estate Market. March 2013.

Montréal Real Estate Market has Something for Both Buyers and Sellers

Île-des-Sœurs, April 8, 2013 – According to the real estate brokers’ Centris® provincial database, the market for single-family homes continued to favour sellers, while that of condominiums gave buyers the upper hand, said the Greater Montréal Real Estate Board (GMREB).

“Market conditions for condominiums have been relaxing quickly in recent months,” said Diane Ménard, Vice-President of the GMREB Board of Directors. “In early 2012, the condominium market still advantaged sellers slightly, but after a short period in balanced territory the condominium market is now a buyer’s market, both on the Island of Montréal and in the suburbs,” she added.

The number of sales concluded in the Montréal Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) decreased by 17 per cent in March 2013 compared to March 2012, with a total of 4,435 transactions. The drop in sales in Greater Montréal began with the entry into force, last July, of the most recent tightening of mortgage rules.

Sales fell for all property categories in March 2013 compared to March of last year. Single-family home sales decreased by 15 per cent, condominium sales fell by 18 per cent and that of plexes by 24 per cent.

The drop in sales in March 2013 was felt in all five main areas of the Montréal CMA. Sales decreased by 36 per cent in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, by 23 per cent in Laval and by 20 per cent on the Island of Montréal. The North Shore and South Shore registered smaller drops at 9 and 10 per cent, respectively.

As for the median price of single-family homes, Vaudreuil-Soulanges ($285,450) led the way with a 7 per cent increase compared to March 2012, followed by the South Shore ($274,500) with a 5 per cent increase, the Island of Montréal ($370,000) with a 3 per cent increase and the North Shore ($235,000) with a 1 per cent increase. The median price of single-family homes in Laval ($290,000) remained stable compared to March of last year.

In the Montréal CMA as a whole, single-family homes ($275,000) and plexes ($417,000) both registered a 1 per cent increase in median price compared to March 2012. The median price of condominiums ($222,000) fell by 1 per cent.

As at March 31, 2013, there were 32,934 active listings in the Centris® system, up 12 per cent compared to the same period last year. The largest increase was for condominiums, as the number of active listings for this property category grew by 25 per cent. Geographically, the Island of Montréal (+22 per cent) registered the largest increase, while it was barely noticeable on the North Shore (+1 per cent).


CREA Updates Resale Housing Forecast

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has updated its forecast for home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate Boards and Associations in 2013 and extended the outlook to include 2014.
National sales activity has held fairly stable after gearing down last August in the wake of changes to mortgage lending rules and guidelines. Supply is responding to lower demand, keeping the housing market in balanced territory and resulting in stable average prices. However, national housing market trends continue to mask some increasingly divergent regional trends.
National sales activity is forecast to reach 441,500 units in 2013. This represents a 2.9 per cent decline from 454,573 sales in 2012, and stands five per cent below the 10-year average (2003 – 2012). It was also a downward revision from the previous forecast for a 2.0 per cent decline.
Alberta and Manitoba are the only provinces where sales are expected to rise in 2013, albeit modestly. The percentage decline in sales in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia is forecast to exceed the national result this year. The percentage decline in sales in British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador is forecast to be less than the national result.
In 2014, CREA forecasts that national activity will rebound by 4.5 per cent to 461,200 units, reflecting a slow but steady improvement in activity. This would still leave national sales about one per cent below their 10-year-average, with activity not expected to return to levels recorded in the first half of 2012 at any point in the forecast horizon.
“Mortgage rules are expected to remain as they are, so sales should be less volatile than they have been in recent years,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “Interest rates are also expected to remain low as the economy grows and adds jobs, which is supportive for the resale housing market.”

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