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CMHC finds 84% of condo owners want to live in them, not rent them out

05/22/2015 12:14 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT
A second annual survey of Canada's two largest condominium markets found that the financial health of owners might be, on average, better than some bleak headlines have suggested.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) surveyed 42,191 households in Toronto and Vancouver and asked them about their stake in the condominium market, if any. Among those who reported owning at least one condo, 83 per cent reported that they owned it to live in it.

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The remaining 16.2 per cent owned their primary residence and at least one other condo unit, a category that the CMHC calls "condo investors," since by definition they own at least one property for reasons beyond having a place for themselves to live.

Within that 16 per cent of condo owners who the CMHC deems to be investors, about 75 per cent of them own only one additional unit. About 18 per cent owned at least two units on top of their primary residence, and  almost 10 per cent owned three or more.

But on the whole, the survey suggests that relatively few condo investors are overly leveraged with debt. Some 45 per cent of all condo investors currently have no mortgage on the property, and almost 20 per cent of them say they have never had one — which implies they paid for it in cash up front.

Among owners who have mortgages, almost a third had a large down payment of at least 20 per cent when they bought. That ratio jumps even higher, to 45 per cent, among investors, but that's likely because there are much stricter lending rules for people buying second and third properties.

And contrary to the narrative of rampant "flippers" who buy and sell properties in quick succession, a surprisingly large number of condo owners have owned for a long time. Among the group the CMHC describes as investors, almost a quarter of them, 23.7 per cent, have owned their units for more than 10 years. That figure jumps to 45 per cent for owners — people who own only one condo, and live in it.

Changing market

The survey does, however, hint that that proportion may start inching down. It's the second year the housing agency has done the survey, and last year 61 per cent of Toronto condo investors said they planned on keeping their units for at least another five years.

In this year's survey, that figure dropped a little, to 54 per cent. That could be a sign that long-term condo investors have a little less faith in the market than they used to.

In Vancouver, there was also a dropoff although not quite as significant — from 53 per cent who planned to keep their investment condo for at least five years last year, down to 51 per cent today.

That caution played out in the responses to future buying intentions. A strong majority of condo owners in both cities — more than 87 per cent — said they had no plans to buy any more in the next year. In last year's survey, that figure was even higher, at 88 per cent.

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