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Mortgages & Rates Despite low rates, many Canadians holding off home purchases: survey

A "For Sale" sign is posted outside of at Toronto townhome Tuesday Oct. 25, 2011. (

Tim Fraser/tim fraser The Globe and Mail

A growing majority of Canadians do not intend to buy a house in the next two years, even with mortgage rates near record lows, according to a Royal Bank of Canada survey released on Thursday.

In RBC's annual poll of Canadian homeowners, 73 per cent of respondents said they are unlikely to buy within the next two years, an increase of 2 per cent over the previous year's survey.

However, 46 per cent of those polled expected mortgage rates to stay at ultra-low levels next year, up sharply from 30 per cent in 2011. The poll also found that nearly 60 per cent felt this year was a good time to buy a house, compared to 41 per cent that felt 2013 would be better.

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"Canadians still feel confident about real estate but are a little uncertain about where the market is heading and when it makes sense to buy," said Marcia Moffat, head of home equity financing at RBC.

Ms. Moffat added that considerations such as affordability may be keeping potential home buyers on the sidelines.

Canadian policymakers and economists have fretted about rising housing prices as household debt levels have soared. The ratio of debt to personal disposable income hit a record 151.9 per cent last year.

The market has been sustained by ultra-low interest rates since the financial crisis began in 2008. The Bank of Canada is widely expected to keep its main policy rate at the current 1 per cent until the third quarter of 2013 as global economic growth remains subdued.

Earlier this week, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney warned that household spending relies too much on low borrowing rates and the high value of homes, which prompted traders to increase bets on a rate hike in late 2012.

Recent industry data showed overall home prices rose just 0.1 per cent in January from December, but were up 6.5 per cent from a year earlier.

In the RBC poll, 68 per cent of homeowners said the value of their home had increased in the last two years, but only 47 per cent expected prices to be higher a year from now.

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The poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid between January 24 and 30.

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