OTTAWA — The federal government's recent changes to mortgage lending have injected uncertainty into the real estate market, the president of the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday.
The measures — which include an expansion of stress test provisions that take effect Monday — could deter first-time homebuyers, said Cliff Iverson, who represents more than 100,000 real estate brokers across the country.
"The finance minister's recent changes to regulations affecting mortgage lending has added to housing market uncertainty among buyers and sellers,'' Iverson said in a news release.
"For first-time home buyers, the stress test for those who need mortgage default insurance will cause them to rethink how much home they can afford to buy.''
Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced new rules for the housing industry earlier this month, including a new "stress test" for borrowers of the most common kinds of mortgages. (Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie)
Gregory Klump, CREA's chief economist, said the effects on first-time homebuyers will likely trickle down into other segments of the housing market.
"First-time home buyers support a cascade of other homes changing hands, making them the linchpin of the housing market,'' Klump said in the same statement.
"The federal government will no doubt want to monitor the effect of new regulations on the many varied housing markets across Canada and on the economy, particularly given the uncertain outlook for other private sector engines of economic growth.''
"The million dollar question now is whether ... Toronto has become the new Vancouver.''
— Diana Petramala, TD Economics
CREA's comments came as it released figures for home sales last month, which saw a 0.8 per cent increase nationally compared to August. Compared with a year ago, the number of home sales was up 4.2 per cent from September 2015.
Home sales in the Toronto region rose while they continued to fall in and around British Columbia's Lower Mainland region, which includes Vancouver.
Sales in and around Vancouver have fallen sharply since the August implementation of a 15 per cent tax on foreigners purchasing homes in the city.
"The million dollar question now is whether foreign investment has shifted east and Toronto has become the new Vancouver,'' TD Bank economist Diana Petramala wrote in a report.
A house for sale in downtown Toronto. (Photo: Reuters/Mark Blinch)
The national average price for a home sold in September was up 9.5 per cent compared with a year ago at $474,590. Excluding the expensive Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto regions, the average price was $358,884 last month.
The number of newly listed homes on the market was up 0.5 per cent in September compared with August, while the national sales-to-new listings ratio stood at 62.1 per cent compared with 61.9 per cent in August.
CREA says a sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 per cent is generally consistent with a balanced housing market, with readings below and above this range indicating buyers' and sellers' markets respectively.