Canadians may see the real estate market return closer to normal in 2024, after years of unprecedented irregularity. According to the Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast, the aggregate price of a home in Canada is set to increase 5.5 per cent year over year to $843,684 in the fourth quarter of 2024, with the median price of a single-family detached property and condominium projected to increase 6.0 per cent and 5.0 to $879,164 and $616,140.
“Looking ahead, we see 2024 as an important tipping point for the national economy as the majority of Canadians acknowledge that the ultra-low interest rate era is dead and gone,” said Phil Soper, President and CEO, Royal LePage. “We believe that the ‘great adjustment’ to tolerable, mid-single-digit borrowing costs will have a firm grip on our collective consciousness after only modest rate cuts by the Bank of Canada.”
Home prices are expected to increase next year in all major markets across the country, with Calgary forecast to see the highest gains. Throughout the second half of 2023, while prices have been declining in other cities, the Calgary real estate market has bucked the trend continuing on an upward price trajectory.
Royal LePage’s forecast is based on the prediction that the Bank of Canada has concluded its interest rate hike campaign and that the key lending rate will hold steady at five per cent through the first half of 2024. The central bank is expected to start making modest cuts in late summer or fall of next year. In the meantime, several major financial institutions have already begun offering discounts on fixed-rate mortgages.
“For the last year, many Canadians have been fixated on the idea of interest rates needing to come down significantly before they can afford to enter or re-enter the housing market. Acceptance that a mortgage rate of four to five per cent is the new normal should untether pent-up demand as first-time buyers, flush with savings collected during the extended down market in housing, regain the confidence to go home shopping. And, with the return of first-timer demand, we expect families who have put off upgrading their homes to begin to list their properties in much greater numbers,” continued Soper.
How we got here
Over the last eighteen months, sales activity in most of Canada’s major real estate markets has been lower, while inventory levels have gradually increased. While transactions are down as much as 20 - 30 per cent in some regions, home prices have only declined slightly during this time, due to a simultaneous drop in demand as buyer hopefuls continue to hold out for lower interest rates. Still, prices remain higher than 2022 levels.
“Canada’s real estate market has been on a roller coaster ride for the last four years. A global pandemic briefly brought market activity to a grinding halt in early 2020, followed by a rapid, widespread spike in demand and price appreciation as Canadians sought safety and greater living space in their homes among a world of uncertainty. By the spring of 2022, home prices had reached unprecedented highs, but when interest rates started rising quickly and steeply to combat inflation, the extended market correction began,” said Soper. “Markets take time to adjust. We see a move toward typical home sale transaction levels in 2024, and as the year progresses, appreciating house prices.”
Nationally, home prices are forecast to see slight quarterly gains in the first two quarters of 2024, with more considerable increases expected in the second half of the year, following the anticipated start of interest rate cuts by the Bank of Canada. The aggregate price of a home in Canada is forecast to be 3.3 per cent higher in Q1 of 2024 compared to the same quarter in 2023, reflecting a 0.5 per cent increase over the fourth quarter of 2023. In the second quarter of next year, the national aggregate home price is forecast to be 0.2 per cent higher year over year and 0.9 per cent above the previous quarter. In the third quarter, home prices are expected to be 3.3 per cent higher year over year and 2.3 per cent higher on a quarterly basis. And, in the fourth quarter of 2024, the national aggregate price of a home is expected to land 5.5 per cent above the same quarter in 2023, an increase of 1.7 per cent quarter over quarter. Based on this, by the end of next year, home prices will have essentially gotten back to their pandemic peak, that was reached in the first quarter of 2022.
Supply shortage and affordability challenges
In Canada, there is a continuous struggle with a chronic housing supply shortage. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the country needs about 3.5 million additional housing units by 2030 to restore affordability, with the greatest need concentrated in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. At the current pace of housing construction and considering the rate of new household formation and immigration projections, inventory will remain out of step with projected demand for years to come.
“For many years, condominiums have offered an affordable opportunity for entry onto the real estate ladder, in addition to their ‘lock and leave’ lifestyle that is typically attractive to young people. Of late, however, this segment of the market has also become out of financial reach for many in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where new construction cannot keep pace with growing demand. And, the elevated cost of construction materials and labour are adding additional pressure on builders,” said Soper. “What’s more, with ultra-low vacancy rates, the rental market is not the escape route many would-be buyers hope it could be, with monthly lease rates on the rise from coast to coast.”
Competing public policy objectives
In the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement released last month, billions of dollars were committed and reaffirmed towards increased levels of new housing construction. This includes favorable loan agreements and tax benefits for developers of purpose-built rental buildings and public housing projects, as well as financial assistance for municipalities to be strict on short-term rentals in an effort to push more supply onto the resale market in urban centers.
“It is encouraging to see policy makers tackling Canada’s housing affordability issues and supply shortfall, yet there remains a large accessibility gap for first-time buyers and middle-income earners. Those that have salaries or wages that have not kept up with the cost of living find it difficult to achieve the dream of home ownership. Thankfully, many have received financial help from family or friends, yet this is not something Canadians should have to rely upon,” said Soper. “With competing policy objectives – record-high immigration to combat labour shortages, for example – I see little hope that housing construction will meet that need this decade. The demand/supply imbalance will put further upward pressure on home prices.
“While uncomfortably expensive housing in our major markets is inevitable, it is imperative that governments adopt quick and extraordinary measures to mitigate affordability challenges and address the housing supply crisis,” concluded Soper.