House Prices Could Fall 20 Percent When “Speculative Fever” Breaks Says OSFI

Property prices in Canada are set to fall as rising interest rates bring an end to a “speculative fever” in the housing market, the country’s banking regulator said on a podcast.

An extended run-up in home prices, readily-available mortgages, and a propensity among Canadians to buy and flip homes have all fueled the buying frenzy, Peter Routledge, head of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, said on The Herle Burly podcast on Wednesday.

Higher rates are set to dampen that fever and lead to a slowdown in prices, he said. “In some markets, where you had really rapid increases in prices, you could see a fall of 10 percent, 20 percent,” Routledge said.  

Canada has emerged as one of the world’s frothiest property markets — for 12 consecutive years, the housing market has soared to record heights. As fears of a housing bubble have grown, the government has imposed an added layer of protection in the form of a stress test, ensuring new borrowers have enough income to handle higher interest payments.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, home prices jumped 18 percent last year — taking the average price to nearly $1.1 million (US$867,500) — as buyers competed for a dwindling number of available properties.

Routledge indicated, however, that sharp declines in certain housing markets are unlikely to pose a broader threat to the country’s financial system, pointing to the way in which Vancouver and Toronto — the country’s two most expensive markets — have weathered similar declines in recent years.

“You’re talking peak-to-trough declines of 20 percent,” in those cities between 2015 and 2017, he said. “So we can absorb that volatility.”

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