Why Some Say Housing Prices Aren’t Coming Back

Homewatch Newsletter Archive


Real estate, particularly housing prices, is often the subject of media headlines. A recent article published in the Globe and Mail by Professor George Athanassakos from the University of Western Ontario called “Why Housing Prices Aren’t Coming Back,” is a perfect example. The article discusses some challenges faced with the reality of an aging population, and what impact this large group will wield on the housing market.

While Professor Athanassakos’ point about the relationship between demographics and housing prices is valid, truthfully, the full impact on the market is slightly more complex.  Without question, demographics play a role in the supply and demand of housing, but the intricacies of the Canadian real estate market bring many factors which influence prices. To understand the how and the why of this, it is essential to understand the market and its varied influences in context.

For example, Canada has always relied on immigration to fuel our economy and our housing market. Immigrants tend to pick large urban centres as a destination, which helps keep the demand for housing in cities stimulated. Government monetary policies and mortgage programs have also played as large a role in the increase in property values. With world governments using aggressively low interest rates to stimulate the global economy since 2008, cheap borrowing costs have prompted a push in buying activity, which have caused Canada’s housing prices to spike. Global real estate speculation has also played a factor. As other markets saw their prices drop, Canada’s solid real estate market attracted a massive inflow of foreign capital which contributed in part to the condominium booms of Vancouver and Toronto. So while demographics do play a role in housing prices, these other factors have contributed to the growth (and potential decline) of real estate values in Canada.

Given the size of our country, I always raise my eyebrows over predictions or trends that reflect the ‘entire Canadian real estate market’. With a resource rich country that straddles two oceans, is predominantly populated within 200 miles of the United States border and has become highly attractive to global investment by different cultural groups, Canada has several housing markets co-existing at once. Rarely are these markets operating in a similar cycle at the same time. Not only do we have these interrelated economies, but we also have distinctive regional markets. How the supply and demand of these regions change is not exclusively dependent on the demographic profile of Canadians.

When it comes to regional real estate values, not only are they operating on their own economic engines and resources, but each area often has a different approach to land use, density and design guidelines. Vancouver has a limited supply of land which makes vertical condominium living (with smaller units) a dominant housing form. On the east coast, most housing is comprised of single family dwellings. Plus there’s the matter of location, whether that be rural, suburban or urban geographies which play into demographics. Some areas appeal or cater to younger, professional or retiring populations.

For example, Kelowna, B.C has boomed because it is one of the warmest destinations in Canada. Given the massive number of zoomers moving into retirement, while some areas of the country may see snowbirds seeking an exit from frostier climates, the demand for smaller cities with warmer weather should support a stable or increasing market value. Victoria, B.C, or Whiterock, B.C. are other destinations that, regardless of how much real estate values might drop in other parts of the country, could ultimately outstrip or keep pace with the demand for new housing geared to this market. However, a distinction must be made in the dwelling type. People moving into retirement will likely want to spend less than the property they’re selling, and they’ll want to have less property maintenance as they age. Count on seeing the lock-up-and-go condominium serving as a stable investment more so than the large single family dwellings which require upkeep.

The same goes for most urban centres. As long as any major Canadian city remains a stable economic engine in its region, and the destination of immigrants and career-pathing professionals in growth economies, those properties which are the most centrally-located will continue to rise in value simply due to proximity to the central business district, public transportation, and cultural amenities. The value of a Triple AAA location will trump demographics every time. I believe there will always be someone wanting to own in the most convenient coveted part of town.

We also have to be cognizant of a shift in the occupancy of housing. While there is a movement of smaller households, including single professionals into condominium housing, those large suburban houses that once contained middle class nuclear families are increasingly being purchased by large extended and multi-generational immigrant families. In fact, there are new suburban communities containing massive estate homes specifically geared to the style and needs of specific cultural groups. Instead of a family of four in 3500 square feet, these large suburban dwellings are being occupied by eight or more people, several whom may be working from home.

I’m not here to disagree with the role of demographics as it relates to the housing market. In fact, there are likely several locations and dwelling types across the country which are susceptible to price drops because their target market is diminishing. The key here is to take a critical look at your property and assess who your future buyer is and whether you may be susceptible to a price drop because your target market is shrinking.

However, for downtown Torontonians, demographics are one dynamic of the market to be cognizant of, but not a significant one like it may be for other places.

Do you need assistance? At urbaneer.com we’re here to help, all without pressure or hassle. We simply love what we do. With a multi-disciplinary education in housing, sound knowledge of the mechanic of real estate and sharp skill in targeting the right market based on over two decades of real estate sales- through all points of the real estate cycle, we would love to share our insights with you. If you need assistance, insights, or guidance maneuvering market realities as they pertain to you, log on to urbaneer.com to learn more about us! Not online? Just pick up the phone and call us for an introductory package at 416-322-8000. Consistent top producers for over 20 years, we are your friendly, effective real estate team!

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative and his urbaneer team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
(416) 322-8000


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