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Who is worried about Canada’s housing market?

Atlantic Cities just posted an article on the world’s 5 largest housing bubbles. In descending order of real growth, they are:

  1. Israel
  2. Norway
  3. Switzerland
  4. Canada
  5. Germany

Not surprisingly, Canada is on the list. There is, of course, lots of talk both locally and abroad about the stability and sustainability of our housing market. Here’s what the article had to say about Canada:

“With real home price appreciation near 20 percent, Canada’s home price growth has been raising eyebrows. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz doesn’t see a bubble, but others aren’t so sure. Climbing alongside housing prices have been levels of household debt, which surmounted 165 percent of income in the second quarter of 2013. (That’s not too far from where they were in the U.S. before it suffered its housing crisis.) And the Bank of Canada itself has even warned about risks posed by frothy condo sectors in big cities like Toronto. A few hedge funds, such as San Francisco-based Hyphen Partners, have even made high-profile bets on a Canadian housing bust. They haven’t paid off, yet.”

And here’s the full list of countries:


Overall, it’s not surprising to see that Canadian home prices have risen so dramatically since Q1-2009. As the US sank into deep recession (2008-2009), Canadian credit became cheap in order to stave off a recession of our own. This fuelled the housing market, which is an asset class that’s inextricably linked to financing costs.

The same thing happened in Ireland, which today sits at the bottom of the above list. It has seen real prices drop roughly 40% since Q1-2009. By adopting the euro currency, Ireland no longer had control over its own monetary policy (this is one of the downfalls of a centralized currency). So when the economies of the larger continental countries stuttered, interest rates were dropped. For the strong Irish economy, it ended up creating a housing bubble.

I worked in Ireland in the summer of 2007 and I remember people telling me about this. Already at this point there was concern that the market had become overheated. There are obvious parallels to what has happened in Canada, even though we don’t share a common currency. The Canadian and US economies are inextricably linked.

So will the same thing that happened to Ireland happen here in Canada? Nobody knows for sure, but I think we can take comfort in the actions taken by the feds to tighten up lending. They’re acutely aware of what easy credit has done to the housing market and they’re trying to temper it. And it’s certainly had an impact.

Early this week when I was on the panel about investing in condominiums, I asked a lot of the realtors about what they were seeing in the residential marketplace. A great number of them told me that their clients were struggling to obtain financing. A lot of deals were falling through because of it.

If you’re worried about our housing market, this should be taken as great news. Choke off credit and you choke off real estate.

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