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Housing Market Digest by Will Dunning, Economist for Mortgage Professionals Canada

Posted on February 15, 2018 by Circle Mortgage Team

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (“OSFI”) now requires that all residential mortgages by federally-regulated lenders must be “stress-tested”, at two percentage points above the contract interest rate (or the 5- year posted rate, if that is higher). In combination with the requirements for mortgage insurance, about 90% of all new mortgages will be tested.
This can be expected to reduce housing activity by 10-15%. It is on top of the impact from recent rises for mortgage interest rates (another 5-10% drop in activity). The combined 15-25% drop in housing activity will affect the broader economy.
In two years, employment could be 150,000-250,000 lower than it would otherwise be. There is a risk that house prices will fall. In a modern economy, a sustained drop in house prices is one of the most dangerous things that can happen: as happened in the US a decade ago, falling house prices can turn into widespread economic decline.
Resale activity recovered a bit more in September, to 492,900, due to partial rebounds in BC and Ontario. Activity is flat in most other areas.
CREA’s House Price Index was flat in September. The year-over-year change is now 10.7% (down from the peak of 19.7% that was seen in April).
The sales-to-new-listings ratio (“SNLR”) was 55.7% in September, slightly above the balanced market threshold of 51%. This indicator points to an outlook for stable prices (at worst). But, as noted, OSFI’s stress test policy creates a risk of falling prices.
We should, in general, expect that resale activity will trend upwards over time, because the population is growing and the housing inventory is expanding. Therefore, it is useful to look at sales on a per capita basis. Recent activity is below the long-term average.

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