The following is an excerpt from Scott Barlow's collection of 10 charts that will define the markets in 2017. To view the entire series, click here.
The Teranet-National Bank composite index of the country's 11 largest housing markets shows a healthy 11.8 per cent year-over-year increase in residential real estate prices. This is deceiving. Once booming everywhere, national housing prices are now dependent to a great extent on the red-hot Greater Toronto Area and the now-flagging British Columbia markets.
The first chart below shows the year-over-year change for the Teranet-National Bank composite 11 index of home prices and all of its components (using October data). Vancouver homes saw the greatest increase at 22.5 per cent but recent measures to slow foreign investment flows saw prices fall in the September to October period. The Toronto real estate market remained strong and the 15-per-cent increase in Hamilton home prices indicates how far outside the city GTA homebuyers had to go to find affordable prices.
Five markets saw flat or declining housing values – Halifax, Montreal, Quebec, Edmonton and Calgary.
The second chart compares national home prices and retail spending in an attempt to predict the future course of the real estate market. The thesis here is that the infamously indebted Canadian consumer will pull back on discretionary spending when monthly mortgage payments start to bite. Mortgage payments aren't optional and if high household debt levels are about to slow the housing market and the economy at large, the trend should be visible first at the shopping mall.
From November, 2011, to July, 2013, the growth in Canadian real estate values trended lower, following declining sales growth with a lag of about six months.
This year has seen a much different pattern. Retail sales growth has slowed sharply, falling below the five-year average. At the same time, the Teranet-National Bank composite 11 index has continued to rocket higher, creating a major divergence on the chart.
The relationship between home prices and retail spending growth is far from ironclad – it is not guaranteed that housing prices will follow consumption levels lower. But it stands to reason that further weakness in Canadian spending levels is a negative sign for real estate and an indication that high household debt levels are beginning to limit domestic economic growth.