According to many real estate experts, the Canadian housing market is expected to stabilize in 2011 returning to more normal long-term growth patterns after a decade-long bull run.
The housing sector has avoided two extreme bubble-and-crash scenarios over the past three years when resale prices dropped sharply in 2008, then quickly rebounded as low mortgage rates and lower prices supported the turnaround.
Record low interest rates fuelled a home buying spree in 2009 that helped pull the Canadian economy out of recession and pushed home sales back to record levels. The market cooled rapidly over the summer of 2010 as the Bank of Canada began hiking interest rates, though recent data have indicated the market may be stabilizing.
In 2011, interest rates are expected to hike further as the economy improves. While still at historical lows, any hike in interest rates have big effects on mortgage rates. If interest rates are raised too quickly, this will further dampen real estate prices. On the other hand, if the government decides to lower the rates once again, as unlikely as this may seem, then home sales might surge slightly.
Government and institutional lending policies will also affect real estate prices. As banks and governmental policies become increasingly strict, more people will be turned down for mortgages. At the very least these potential home buyers will need to choose from more modest homes if their mortgage is declined.
In 2011, Canada will experience an overall decline of 0.9% in home prices. Not all provinces will feel the effects of fluctuating real estate prices equally. Some provinces will have a more profound move in housing prices than others.
While real estate prices might remain fairly stable, buying activity is expected to slow down significantly. The Canadian Real Estate Association expects a 7.3% decline in home sales. This means that homeowners in a panic to sell may have to drop their prices substantially in order to liquidate. Others may need to wait longer than in previous years to sell.
The drop-off in home sales comes from an anticipated slowing of economic growth along with a reduction in consumer spending. Less free floating capital means fewer large purchases. Ample inventory levels, steady demand, and moderate growth, both in terms of sales and prices, will characterize the market in 2011.