While many areas of the economy have contracted, the housing market has stayed remarkably strong. But can the good news last?
When COVID-related shutdowns began in March, real estate brokers and clients scrambled to respond to the shift. Record-low interest rates caused some lenders to call a halt to new underwriting, and homeowners debated whether or not to put their houses on the market. However, those first days of uncertainty ushered in a period of unprecedented growth in the Canadian residential real estate market, which currently accounts for a record-setting 9% of the country’s overall economic output.1
Now, as the spring market approaches, you may be wondering whether the good times can continue to roll on. If you’re a homeowner, should you take advantage of this opportunity by putting your home on the market? If you’re a buyer, should you jump in and risk paying too much? Below we answer some of your most pressing questions.
Why are home prices rising during an economic downturn?
At the beginning of the pandemic, fears of an economic recession were top of mind for homeowners all across the country. Overall, credit product origination declined across a variety of sectors, including car loans and credit cards, and government forbearance programs were put into place to cushion the blow of anticipated economic hardships. However, strong demand —coupled with ultra-low inventory and interest rates—caused real estate prices to continue to rise. The national average resale price soared 17% during 2020, and mortgage originations showed year-over-year growth of almost 30% on the strength of renewals and refinancing in response to record-low interest rates.1,2
According to the Bloomberg-Nanos Consumer Confidence Index, confidence in Canada’s real estate industry reached its highest level on record during the thick of the pandemic.3 Montreal Chief Economist Douglas Porter attributes much of the ongoing strength of Canada’s real estate market to a simple matter of consumer choice and priorities while noting that the downside of the resulting rise in home values is increasing consumer debt.1
Are we facing a real estate bubble?
A real estate bubble can occur when there is a rapid and unjustified increase in housing prices, often triggered by speculation from investors. Because the bubble is (in a sense) filled with “hot air,” it pops—and a swift drop in value occurs. This leads to reduced equity or, in some cases, negative equity conditions.
By contrast, the current rise in home prices is based on the predictable results of historically low-interest rates and widespread low inventory. Basically, the principle of supply and demand is working just as it’s supposed to do.
Effects of low-interest ratesThe Bank of Canada projects continuing low-interest rates until sometime in 2023, aiding in economic recovery and increasing affordability.4 This helps offset the effects of high home costs even in markets where real estate might otherwise be considered overpriced. These low-interest rates should keep the market lively and moving forward for the foreseeable future.
Effects of low inventory
Continuing low inventory is the primary reason for higher-than-average home prices in many markets.5 This should gradually ease as an aggressive vaccination rollout and continuing buyer demand drive more homeowners to move forward with long-delayed sales plans and as new home construction ramps up to meet demand.6
Aren’t some markets and sectors looking particularly weak?
One of the big stories of 2020 was a mass exodus from attached home communities and high-priced urban markets as both young professionals and families fled to the larger square footage and wide-open spaces of suburban and rural markets. This trend was reinforced by work from home policies that became permanent at some of the country’s biggest companies.
Not surprisingly then, one of the hardest-hit sectors of the residential real estate market has been the rental market, especially in population-dense metropolitan areas. The rise in vacancies has been fueled by several factors, including less international migration, fewer student renters, and less tourist demand for short-term rentals.7
Interestingly, landlords have not responded to these vacancies with lower rental rates, which have actually risen nationally. Instead, most have used incentives like lower deposit fees, free utilities, and move-in bonuses to attract renters. This suggests that most property owners expect demand to return to normal quite quickly as the vaccine rollout begins to take effect.7
Some analysts predict a decline in the Canadian housing market at large due to the impending end of government emergency measures and lender deferrals. However, others point to the increased demand for homes in smaller markets and lower-density areas outside of the country’s urban centres as an optimistic indicator, especially since these distant suburban and rural enclaves don’t normally benefit from increases in home values or an influx of new investment.8 As many of these new residents set up housekeeping in their rural retreats, they’ll revitalize the economies of their adopted communities for years to come.
According to Susan Hosterman, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, another strength that may help to alleviate the effect of financial pressures brought about by the ending of emergency measures is the relationship lenders in Canada have with their borrowers. Canadian lenders tend to be proactive in offering modifications to make loans more affordable for struggling homeowners.8
How has COVID affected the “seasonal” real estate market?
Frequently, the real estate market is seen as a seasonal phenomenon. However, the widespread shutdowns in March 2020, coming right at the beginning of the market’s growth cycle in many areas, has led to a protracted, seemingly endless “hot spring market.”
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) revised its 2021 Market Forecast based on more robust than usual figures for the second half of 2020. The new projection anticipates improvements even over 2020’s record-setting market figures, with potential sales limited only by the availability of inventory in most markets.9 Thus, we could be looking at another longer-than-usual, white-hot real estate market.
What’s next for the Canadian real estate market?
Projections vary widely, with some economists predicting a market correction and others predicting continuing strong growth. Overall, low inventory and lack of affordability appear to be the more negative factors applying downward pressures on the market, while pent-up demand and a return to normal employment and income levels, along with anticipated higher-than-average growth in the economy, point to ongoing good news in the sector.10
According to most indicators, the real estate news looks overwhelmingly positive throughout the rest of 2021—and possibly beyond. Pent-up demand and consumer-driven policies, along with a continued low-interest-rate environment and rising inventory, should help homeowners hold on to their increased equity without throwing the market out of balance. In addition, the increase in long-term work-from-home policies promises to give a boost to a wide variety of markets, both now and in the years to come.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? WE HAVE ANSWERS
While economic indicators and trends are national, real estate is local. We’re here to answer your questions and help you understand what’s happening in your neighbourhood. Reach out to learn how these larger movements affect our local market and your home’s value.
- Huffington Post -
- Global Newswire -
- Weekly Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index -
- Bank of Canada -
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- Bank of Canada Monetary Policy Report -
- CTV News -
- Huffington Post -
- Canadian Real Estate Association -
- Canadian Mortgage Trends -
Homebuyers, is this the year you work to improve your credit score, pay down some debt, or save for a down payment?
Home sellers, we’ve laid out plans for you to get top dollar for your property, including timing your home sale, making your property stand out from the crowd, and investing in your extra living space.
And even if you’re staying put for a while, homeowners, you can resolve to improve your status quo by evaluating your home budget, finalizing your home maintenance schedule, or maybe investing in a second property.
So no matter your homeownership status, we’ve got some ideas and advice for you to make this year your best one yet. Read on to learn more.
Resolution #1: Qualify for a better mortgage with a higher credit score.
Your credit report highlights your current debt, bill-paying history, and other key financial information. Importantly for your home-buying journey, it is also used by lenders and companies to calculate your credit score, which partly determines if you are qualified to obtain a mortgage. Therefore, before you start house-hunting, make sure your finances are in the best possible shape by checking your credit report and credit score, available directly from Equifax and TransUnion.1
Your credit score will be a number ranging from 300-900. Generally speaking, a credit score of 725 or higher is considered very good to excellent.2 If your score drops below 725, you might need to work at boosting your score for a few months before you begin house-hunting. Ways to do this are to pay your bills on time every month, keep your credit card balances low, and avoid applying for new credit.3
Resolution #2: Improve your credit health by paying down debt.
Do you have student loans, credit card debt, or car payments tying up your income each month? That debt is hurting your “buying power,” or the amount of home you can afford. Not only is it money that you can't spend on your new home, but your debt-to-income ratio also affects your credit score, which we discussed above. The less debt you have, the higher your score and the better mortgage you can obtain.
If you can, pay off some debt in its entirety—like a low balance on a credit card. Then apply that "extra" money you previously paid on that credit card to pay off bigger debt, like a car loan. Even if you can’t pay off all (or any) of your debt in full, reducing the balances of each account will help you qualify for the best possible mortgage terms.
Resolution #3: Create a financial safety net before applying for a mortgage.
Don’t forget that buying a home requires some cash as well. The down payment depends on the home’s price, but the minimum is 5% for a purchase price of under $500,000, and closing costs range from 2-3%.4,5 You’ll also need money for moving expenses and any initial maintenance tasks that might pop up. And as the pandemic taught us, you never know when an unforeseen event might cause a job loss, drop in income, or health care, so having some liquid savings will ensure that you can still pay your mortgage if a crisis occurs.
Dedicate some effort to building up your reserves. Cut down on unnecessary expenses and consider having a portion of each paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account to avoid the temptation to spend it.
Resolution #4: Decide on the right time to sell your home.
In a typical year, spring is when home sales spike in Canada. This might be the best time to take advantage of the price increase predicted by the Canadian Real Estate Association, which says, “The national average price is forecast to rise by 9.1% in 2021 to $620,400.”6
But sales price isn’t the only thing to consider. You might not be ready to sell your home yet because you don't want to uproot your kids during the school year or because you need to tackle some minor upgrades before placing your home on the market.
This means that there is no one month or season that is the perfect time to sell your home. Instead, the right timeline for you takes into account factors such as when you’ll earn the highest profit, personal convenience, and whether your home is even ready to put on the market. A trusted real estate professional can talk you through your specific needs to clarify when to sell your home.
Resolution #5: Boost your home’s resale value by making your property shine.
Housing inventory is at historic lows across the country, and that means the market is fiercely competitive.7 Selling your home in 2021 has the potential to net you a huge return right now, and you can maximize that amount with some simple fixes to make sure your property outshines your neighbors’ for sale down the street.
In your home, you might need to tackle a minor remodeling project, such as upgrading the flooring or adding a fresh coat of paint. According to one remodeling impact report, simply refinishing existing hardwood floors recoups 100% of the cost at resale, and completely replacing it with new wood flooring recovers 106% of costs.8
Outside, you might consider improving your curb appeal by removing a dead bush, trimming a tree that blocks the front window, or power-washing your moldy driveway and sidewalks. In fact, real estate agents say cleaning the exterior of your house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to a home’s sale price.9 And improving a home’s landscaping may increase its value by 15 to 25%.10
A good agent should provide custom-tailored suggestions to ensure your property pops inside and out. Ask us about our local insider secrets that will make your home stand out from others on the market.
Resolution #6: Invest in your “extra” living space to meet current buyers’ needs.
Due to COVID-19, more people are staying at home to work, go to school, exercise, and stay entertained. And these lifestyle changes are showing up in home buyer preferences. For example, according to one study, buyers are looking more and more for homes with formal, outfitted home offices, private outdoor spaces, and updated kitchen appliances.11
So if you’ve got an underutilized room, consider turning it into an office, home gym, schoolroom, or multi-purpose room to meet current home buyer needs and attract better offers on your home. Got some underwhelming space outside? You could turn it into an outdoor entertainment area by adding a firepit, upgrading the patio furniture, or installing a grilling area. Be sure to consult with a local real estate professional before investing in a renovation, however, as each market’s buyers have different tastes.
Resolution #7: Evaluate your household budget to reflect financial changes.
After this past year, in particular, your financial picture may have changed. Maybe you were furloughed, had your hours reduced, or got a new job further from home. Perhaps you’ve kept the same job, but you’re now working remotely. A work-from-home arrangement could mean less money spent on gas, tolls, a professional wardrobe, and dining out for lunch.
But this could also mean new (or increased) expenses now that you’re working at home, such as new tech-related purchases, faster Wi-Fi, and higher energy bills. January marks the perfect opportunity to update your income and expenses and review last year’s spending habits, tweaking as needed for 2021.
For more specific ideas, contact us for our free report "20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget."
Resolution #8: Save money now (and earn more later) with a home maintenance plan.
Having a schedule of regular home maintenance projects to tackle will save you money now and in the long-term. You’ll avoid some surprise “emergency fixes,” and when you’re ready to eventually sell your home, you’ll get higher offers from buyers who aren’t put off by overdue repairs.
Even if nothing necessarily needs fixing right now, you can lower your energy costs by maintaining and upgrading your home. For example, consider upgrading some features to ENERGY STAR high-efficiency products. You could save 10% in energy costs if you switch out your gas broiler, and up to 45% if you change your windows!12,13
For a breakdown of home maintenance projects to tackle throughout the year, contact us for our free report “House Care Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home.”
Resolution #9: Invest in real estate for a better standard of living.
Even if you don’t plan on leaving your current residence, real estate is a great way to improve your quality of life in 2021.
Have cabin fever from the long quarantine? Vacation home in a getaway location you love lets you safely spread your wings. And if you have been looking for a second stream of income, an investment property might be your answer. Just be sure to consult with a real estate professional to get a realistic sense of a property’s true income potential.
Want more information on how a second property fits into your 2021 plans? Request our free report, "Move Up vs Second Home: Which One Is Right For You?"
LET US HELP YOU WITH YOUR 2021 GOALS
Without a plan and a support system, 73% of Canadians will break their new year’s resolutions.14 Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or stay put in your home, it helps to connect with a trusted real estate agent to keep you motivated and on track.
As local market experts, we have the knowledge, experience, and networks to help you achieve your homeownership goals, whatever they may be. Reach out to us today for a free consultation and commit to a happy and prosperous new year.
- Government of Canada -
- Equifax -
- Government of Canada -
- RateShop -
- Bank of Montreal -
- Canadian Real Estate Association -
- Canadian Mortgage Trends -
- National Association of Realtors -
- House Logic -
- Ottawa Citizen -
- HomeLight -
- Government of Canada -
- Government of Canada -
- Ipsos - https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/three-ten-31-canadians-will-set-new-years-resolution-yet-three-quarters-73-eventually-break-them
We’ve all spent a lot more time at home over the past year. And for many of us, our homes have become our office, our classroom, our gym—and most importantly, our safe haven during times of uncertainty. So it’s no surprise to see that design trends for 2021 revolve around soothing colour palettes, cozy character, and quiet retreats.
Even if you don’t have immediate plans to buy or sell your home, we advise our clients to be mindful of modern design preferences when planning a remodel or even redecorating. Over-personalized or unpopular renovations could lower your property’s value. And selecting out-of-style fixtures and finishes could cause your home to feel dated quickly.
To help inspire your design projects this year, we’ve rounded up five of the hottest trends. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy or list your property, give us a call. We can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.
Colours are gravitating toward warm and happy shades that convey a sense of coziness, comfort, and wellbeing. This year’s palettes draw from earthy hues, warm neutrals, and soothing blues and greens.1
While white and grey are still safe options, expect to see alternative neutrals become increasingly popular choices for walls, cabinets, and furnishings in 2021. For a fresh and sophisticated look, try one of these 2021 paint colours of the year:
- Aegean Teal (coastal blue) by Benjamin Moore
- Urbane Bronze (brownish-grey) by Sherwin-Williams
- Soft Candlelight (muted yellow) by Valspar
On the opposite end of the spectrum, indigo, ruby, sapphire and plum are showing up on everything from fireplace mantels and floating shelves to fabrics and home accessories. These classics, rich hues can help bring warmth, depth, and a touch of luxury to your living space.
To incorporate these colours, designers recommend using the “60-30-10 Rule.” Basically, choose a dominant colour to cover 60% of your room. For example, your walls, rugs, and sofa might all be varying shades of beige or grey. Then layer in a secondary colour for 30% of the room. This might include draperies and accent furniture. Finally, select an accent colour for 10% of your room, which can be showcased through artwork and accessories.2
After a decade of minimalism, there’s been a shift towards highly-decorative and personalized interiors that incorporate more colour, texture, and character. Clearly-defined styles (e.g., mid-century modern, industrial, modern farmhouse) are being replaced by a curated look, with furnishings, fixtures, and accessories that appear to have been collected over time.3
This trend has extended to the kitchen, where the atmosphere has become as important as functionality. The ubiquitous all-white kitchen is fading in popularity as homeowners opt for unique touches that help individualize their space. If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, consider mixing in other neutrals—like grey, black, and light wood—for a more custom, pieced-together look. And instead of a subway tile backsplash, check out zellige tile (i.e., handmade, square Moroccan tiles) for a modern alternative with old-world flair.4
Reimagined Living Spaces
The pandemic forced many of us to rethink our home design. From multipurpose rooms to converted closets to backyard cottages, we’ve had to find creative ways to manage virtual meetings and school. And designers expect these changes to impact the way we live and work for years to come.
For example, some home builders are predicting the end of open-concept floor plans as we know them.5 Instead, buyers are searching for cozier spaces with more separation and privacy. Cue the return of walls and, in some cases, alcoves and sliding partitions that enable homeowners to section off rooms as needed.6
The necessity of a home office space is also here to stay. But what if you don’t have a dedicated room? Alternative workspaces have become increasingly popular. In fact, one of the biggest trends on Pinterest this year is the “cloffice”—essentially a spare closet turned home office. Searches for “home library design” and “bookshelf room divider” are on the rise, as well.7
With travel options limited right now, more homeowners are turning their vacation budgets into staycation budgets.8 Essentially, recreate the resort experience at home—and enjoy it 365 days a year!
Bedrooms should provide a soothing sanctuary for rest and relaxation. But this year, minimalist decor and muted colours are giving way to bolder statement pieces.3 To create a “boutique hotel” look in your own bedroom, start with a large, upholstered headboard in a rich colour or pattern. Layer on organic linen bedding and a chunky wool throw, then complete the look with a pair of matching bedside wall lights.9
Carry those vacation-vibes into your bathroom with some of the top luxury upgrades for 2021. Try a large, zero-entry shower for two, a floating vanity with hand-free faucets, or a radiant-heated floor for the ultimate spa-like experience.10
From exercise to gardening to safer options for entertaining, the pandemic has led homeowners to utilize their outdoor spaces more than ever. In fact, backyard swimming pool sales skyrocketed in 2020, with many installers reporting unprecedented demand.11 But a new pool isn’t the only way homeowners can elevate their outdoor area this year.
Composite decks have become a favourite upgrade for their low-maintenance and durability. And in 2021, creative design elements are on the rise, including unique inlays, wider planks, and multiple deck board colours. Add stair or bistro lights for a touch of ambience while enhancing safety and visibility.8
DESIGNED TO SELL
Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighbourhood and price range. We can share our insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, we can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!
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9. Homes & Gardens –