Bank of Canada June Rate Hike Spooks the Housing Market
The Canadian Real Estate Association says the BoC’s surprise rate hike in early June cooled activity following a two-month solid start to the spring housing season. Home sales posted a 1.5% gain between May and June, tepid by recent standards. Sales were up in June in a little over half of all local markets, with increases in British Columbia and Alberta offsetting fewer sales in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
On a year-over-year (y/y) basis, the number of transactions in June grew by 4.7%. According to Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist, “History suggests the price side of things will respond to this with only a slight lag. Add to that the recent Bank of Canada rate hikes, and we can probably expect price growth to be moderate in the months ahead, likely still with some degree of upward pressure, but less than in the last three months.”
The CREA cut its forecast for home sales this year as tight inventory, and the rate hikes weigh on the housing market. The CREA now estimates that sales in 2023 will be down 6.8% from a year earlier, a more dramatic slowdown than the 1.1% decline forecast in April.
“With the Bank of Canada unexpectedly ending its pause on rate hikes in June and hiking again in July, a major source of uncertainty has returned to the housing market,” the CREA said.
The number of newly listed homes was up 5.9% month-over-month in June. Building on gains of 3.1% in April and 7.6% in May, new listings have gone from a 20-year low in March to closer to (but still below) average heading into the summer.
With new listings outperforming sales in June, the sales-to-new listings ratio eased to 63.6% compared to 66.4% in May and a recent peak of 68.3% in April. The measure remains well above the long-term average of 55.2%.
There were 3.1 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of June 2023, unchanged from the end of May and down more than an entire month from the most recent peak at the end of January. The long-term average for this measure is about five months.
The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) climbed 2% month-over-month in June 2023—a significant increase for a single month on the heels of similar gains in April and May. It was again very broadly based, with a monthly price increase between May and June observed in most local markets.
The Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI now sits 4.5% below year-ago levels, the smallest decline since November 2022.
Home construction in Calgary, the home to the Canadian energy industry headquarters, is booming, driven by a rush of newcomers from abroad, as well as from more expensive housing markets in the rest of Canada.
Home prices in Calgary have risen 4.2% in a year, the most significant rise among the more than 50 markets the CREA tracks. It’s the only major Canadian city to experience any increase at all. The benchmark price in the city has risen 34% in three years.
Alberta’s population was 4.7 million as of April 1, up 4.5% in 12 months, trailing only tiny Prince Edward Island for the fastest growth among Canada’s provinces. In the first quarter, Alberta had the largest net interprovincial gain — almost 15,800 people — of the country’s provinces and territories. International migration contributed to nearly 36,000 new residents.
Unlike previous surges in Alberta’s population driven by the oil industry’s demand for labour, this boom is happening during a relatively tame period for the province’s most important industry.