‘Historic’ Correction Grips Canada’s Housing Market, RBC Says

(Bloomberg) -- The housing market correction that’s taking hold in Canada could turn out to be its biggest in recent history, according to a new forecast from the country’s largest bank.

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Benchmark home prices could fall more than 12% through early next year from the market’s peak, a bigger decline than any of the four national downturns of the past 40 years, according to a report Friday by Royal Bank of Canada economist Robert Hogue.

Sales are also expected to slump 23% this year and 15% next year, RBC said. That total decline of 42% since early 2021 would outrank the 38% drop in 2008 and 2009.

Canada’s housing market has sharply shifted since the Bank of Canada began raising its benchmark interest rate from record lows in March. The central bank, seeking to rein in inflation that is running at its hottest in four decades, unveiled its largest one-time interest rate hike since 1998 last week. It raised the benchmark rate a full percentage point to 2.5% and promised more increases to come. RBC’s Hogue predicts policy makers won’t stop until they hit 3.25% in October.

“This will send more buyers to the sidelines,” he said in his report. “We expect the downturn will deepen in the coming months with both resale activity and home prices reaching lower levels than we previously anticipated.”

Affordability Issues

Rising mortgage rates could put even more pressure on affordability. Hogue expects one measure of housing affordability, the cost of ownership as a percentage of household income, to reach its worst level ever, forcing many buyers out of the market.

Hogue said the Canadian provinces with the highest home prices -- currently British Columbia and Ontario --will see even steeper downturns, with benchmark prices falling 14% in both as sales slide 45% and 38%, respectively.

Still, Hogue characterized the forecast as “a correction, not a collapse,” given given the overheated pace of the past two years. A decline from such record levels could start to ease some of the affordability issues, he said, adding that soaring immigration combined with the low likelihood of overbuilding could ensure the market doesn’t enter a “death spiral.” He expects the correction to be over sometime in the first half of next year.

“We’d argue the unfolding downturn should be seen as a welcome cooldown following a two year-long frenzy that put a huge financial burden on many new homeowners and made ownership dreams harder to achieve,” Hogue wrote.

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