The 12-month change in the Teranet-National Bank House Price Index has decelerated in recent months to 3.4 per cent, led by declines in Vancouver (-1.4 per cent) and Victoria (-1.7 per cent). Some people interpret this weakness as a sign that a housing crash has started – see, for example, the Canadian Business article “Canada’s housing crash begins.” I don’t see a collapse in 2013 for several reasons. One is the highly supportive monetary environment.
In the case of the U.S. housing boom from 2003 to 2007, the overvaluation was pricked after the Federal Reserve dramatically tightened monetary policy to cool off an overheated economy. This catalyst is absent in Canada as 2013 commences.
Indeed, monetary policies in Canada, the U.S., Japan, China and elsewhere around the world are dialled to the opposite extreme. They are hyper-expansionary, with interest rates at record lows and printing presses running like never before.
This means that Canada and other countries should continue generating growth in jobs and income. Since higher employment and income typically support housing markets, prices are not likely to fall much in 2013. Or if they do, they shouldn’t stay down for long.
The crash crowd says Canadian houses are overvalued on the basis of the price-to-income ratio. So they fear the process of mean reversion will take prices down by 25 per cent or more. But with so much monetary stimulus in the system, the price-to-income ratio should also be normalized by income increases.
Interest rates may begin edging up later in 2013. They shouldn’t threaten the housing market because income and employment will be climbing as well, creating offsetting demand for housing. Similarly, the one-off impact of a tightening in mortgage rules during 2012 should not be cause for a serious setback.
There are other reasons for expecting a crash to be a no-show in 2013. Suffice it to say that the monetary cycle suggests a soft-landing scenario. This is not to deny there are pockets of extreme overvaluation or oversupply, where the risk of substantial correction remains. Cases in point could be Vancouver housing and Toronto condos.