What’s ahead for Real Estate in 2019?
As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”
Across Canada the real estate market experienced a cooldown in 2018 following years of rapid growth. This left many homeowners and potential buyers feeling skittish. Though, National sales activity has lost a bit of momentum over the past couple of months, local (Ottawa) market trends can be, and very often are, different by comparison, as all real estate is local.
Trends continue to vary widely among the 17 housing markets tracked by the MLS® HPI. In British Columbia, home price gains have been steadily diminishing on a year over year basis in the Fraser Valley (+4.7%) and Victoria (+7.2%). By contrast, price gains picked up elsewhere on Vancouver Island (+12.6%) and, for the first time in five years, were down (-1.4%) from year-ago levels in the GVA.
Among housing markets tracked by the index in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, MLS® HPI benchmark home prices were up from year-ago levels in Guelph (+9.3%), the Niagara Region (+7.2%), Hamilton-Burlington (+6.3%), Oakville-Milton (+3.4%) and the GTA (+2.7%). Meanwhile, home prices in Barrie and District remain below year-ago levels (-2.1%).
Across the Prairies, benchmark home prices remained below year-ago levels in Calgary (-2.9%), Edmonton (-1.9%), Regina (-4%) and Saskatoon (-0.3%). Amid elevated supply relative to sales, the home pricing environment will remain weak in these housing markets until they become better balanced.
Home prices rose 6.6% year over year in Ottawa (led by a 7.3% increase in two-storey single-family home prices), 6.2% in Greater Montreal (led by a 9.4% increase in townhouse/row unit prices) and 4.2% in Greater Moncton (led by an 11.2% increase in townhouse/row unit prices).
Fortunately, economists expect the market to stabilize in 2019 and continue to appreciate at a more sustainable rate. To help guide you through this shifting landscape, Ive summarized some of the expert predictions and key factors expected to shape the housing market in 2019 and beyond.
SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE
A combination of rising interest rates, provincial policy changes, and a newly-implemented “stress test” requirement for mortgages pushed National sales activity to a five-year low in 2018. However, economists expect the impact to taper off over time due to positive economic fundamentals: a strong economy, low unemployment, rising incomes, and rapid population growth.
“Far from a sign of trouble, we view this cooling constitutes as a healthy correction that would prevent overheating conditions from re-emerging in parts of Canada such as the Vancouver and Toronto areas. We expect a modest recovery to take shape in 2019,” noted the Royal Bank of Canada in its Canadian Housing Market Forecast. “We see little risk of a downward spiral because demand and supply conditions are balanced in the majority of local markets and expected to remain so over the forecast horizon.”1
What does it mean for you? If you’ve been scared off by reports of a market slowdown, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Policy changes were put in place to cool down an overheated market that had led to increased debt levels, decreased affordability, and historically-low inventory levels. A gradual and sustainable pace of growth is preferable for long-term economic stability.
PRICES WILL HOLD STEADY
Economists expect prices to hold steady this year, rising slightly to keep pace with inflation. While the national average price declined by 4.2 percent in 2018, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts it will rebound slightly this year by 1.7 percent.2
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also expects prices to remain high, but stable. “By 2020, demand is expected to continue to shift towards relatively less expensive housing options such as apartment condominiums. This combined with slowing growth in economic conditions will lead to modest average price growth over the forecast horizon.”3
The Royal Bank of Canada agrees, cautioning that “would-be buyers hoping for a meaningful [price] break will likely be disappointed—we don’t expect aggregate prices to fall on an annual basis either this year or next.”1
What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer waiting on the sidelines for prices to drop, you may want to reconsider. For the last decade, we have experienced steady growth in our real estate market from volume to prices; The past two years have jumped significantly in activity with a 12.6% increase in unit sales from 2016. Ottawa, and its surrounding area, has excellent employment numbers and has proven to be one of the most affordable larger cities in the country. All signs indicate continued price growth.
NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL SLOW
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts new home construction will trend down over the next two years from a 10-year high in 2017. “Single-detached housing starts are anticipated to decrease over the forecast horizon. Construction of this housing type will continue to be limited by residential lot availability, but also by elevated price and borrowing costs in some major CMAs that represent an important portion of national starts.”3
However, economists expect the decline to be gradual. According to Fotios Raptis, a senior economist at TD Bank, “a steep downturn in homebuilding nationwide appears unlikely. Canada’s population is on the rise, medium-term income growth should remain healthy, and most markets are generally not overbuilt.”4
What does it mean for you? Buyers will continue to have options in new construction. But the decreased rate of supply should help prop up the resale market, which is good news for sellers.
INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL TAKE A BREATHER … FOR NOW
After a prolonged series of interest rate hikes, the Bank of Canada announced in December that it will likely slow its pace of rate increases. “We no longer expect the Bank of Canada to hike its policy interest rate in January. Spring 2019 now appears to be the more likely timing, allowing for the bank to ensure that the growth narrative is back on track,” commented Brian DePratto, a senior economist with TD Bank.5
At the same time, the impact of the mortgage stress test has slowed the pace of new mortgages being issued by traditional lenders. So even as funding costs have risen, banks have been hesitant to raise the 5-year qualifying rate. In its latest Mortgage Rate Forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association predicts that the 5-year mortgage rate will hold steady this year—and may even decline in the first quarter.6
What does it mean for you? If you currently have a variable rate mortgage, the bank’s revised policy should offer some welcome relief. And if you thought rising interest rates would prevent you from buying a home this year, you may be pleasantly surprised.
WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU
While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big picture” outlook for the year, real estate is local. And as a local Ottawa market expert, I can guide you through the ins and outs of the Ottawa market and the local issues that are likely to drive home sales and values in our area.
If you have specific questions or would like more information about where we see real estate headed, let me know! I’m here to help.
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If you plan to BUY this year:
If you plan to SELL this year:
- RBC Canadian Housing Market Forecast –
- CREA Resale Housing Market Forecast Update –
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Housing Market Outlook –
- TD Economics –
- TD Economics –
- BCREA Mortgage –