Despite what all the real estate market pessimists might say in my opinion there is no condominium bubble in Canada. All signs point to Canada’s real estate market remaining strong for this year and well into the rest of the decade. But that doesn’t mean home prices are falling. In most major urban centers the average resale price is at historic highs. This indicates an even greater need for condominiums, which are often seen as a more cost effective alternative to single family homes. The dense makeup of multi family dwellings also allows more people to live in the core of Canada’s biggest cities.
Here are the major reasons that debunk any theory that Canadian condominium prices are bubbling.
The average cost of a resale home in Canada was $363,900 in 2011. Economists at the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation, estimate that cost will rise to $368,200 this year.
These costs are much higher in bigger centers like Toronto and Calgary. Where home prices on average are more than $400,000. In Vancouver the average cost of a resale home is expected to climb above $800,000 this year.
This is drawing more attention to smaller family dwellings like condominiums. Especially for the homeowner who’s main factors are location and affordability. For example, the average price of a condominium in Toronto is $234,680. Condominiums create a good alternative for anyone looking for a more cost affective alternative to a single-family home.
In its latest Housing Outlook the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation says, “demand for denser house types, particularly condominiums, will reflect demographic trends such as an aging population. There are also affordability concerns and transportation considerations, as condominiums tend to be priced lower than single-detached homes, are located near major transportation routes, and can require less home maintenance.”
According to Canada Citizenship and Immigration Canada more than 280,000 people immigrated to Canada in 2010 alone. Many of these people went to major centers such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary because of better job prospects and family connections.
There is an influx of a quarter of million people every year that need to find a place to live. For many new immigrants starting a new life in Canada a condominium is the first place they could land because of the affordability factor.
Low rental vacancy and ownership affordability
Rental vacancies in Canada are extremely low. The average rental apartment vacancy rate in Canada’s 35 major centers decreased slightly to 2.2 per cent in October 2011, from 2.6 per cent in October 2010, according to a recent Rental Market Survey by CMHC. In Toronto vacancy rates are at a mind blowing 1.4 per cent.
In the meantime, mortgage rates remain near historic lows, making home ownership possible for more people.
CMHC says in its forecast for 2012 that more affordable condominium projects are now competing with the resale market and enticing some renters to move into new condominium units. It adds in 2012 demand is expected to improve with rising incomes and new household formation.
Final thoughts and observations
Anyone driving down the main highways in Canada’s major cities can see lines of cranes indicating more buildings are coming up. The forecast is that despite the high level of construction, inventory levels will remain in check, as units are absorbed quickly in both the rental and condominium markets.
As long as immigration rates and interest rates remain where they are, and every indication says they will, the notion that Canada’s condominium market is in a bubble is simply fear mongering.
Although real estate has been on a bull run for the better part of the last decade, prices are not inflated as they were in the U.S before the housing crash. As well, Canadians are still carrying significant equity in homes giving options if interest rates were to rise to sell their home and downsize.
Don’t expect to make a quick profit by buying a condominium today to sell next year, but as a homeowner planning to live in the dwelling those homes in the sky are still a valuable alternative to higher home prices on the ground.