A year ago it sat like a blemish on a silken face. Its broken and boarded windows beckoning yet more vandals. A dab of inner-city badass in a manicured land. This non-descript 4-bedroom, garage-pasted-on-the-front, face-brick home in a respectable tract of Mississauga was abandoned and decaying last March when a blog dog snapped the picture below (left) and neighbours gossiped about a foreclosure.
Of course, there are literally thousands of identical houses here, in a land of undulating streets devoid of stores or culture, where minivans swim upstram to breed. It also yields a nice insight into the real estate mess we’ve created, thanks to flippers, speckers and unbridled HGTV house lust.
5304 Glen Erin Drive is now for sale, spruced up with shiny hardwood and granite. Asking price: $834,800. Which begs the question – is an utterly unremarkable house on a street of clones in a burb 40 minutes from downtown Toronto worth most of a million dollars?
Increasingly, the world says no.
So far this week the alarm has sounded in many quarters. CMHC running up against its allowable lending ceiling, threatening the entire market. The second-largest mortgage lender cutting off commission salesguys and business owners, plus capping loans. The federal bank regulator warning of Canadian subprimes and a dangerous condo market. F muttering about all this being a ‘matter of concern.’ And now the banks (led by TD) moving to further protect themselves from potential losses by massive increasing rates on unsecured variable LOCs, from 5.5% to 8.5%.
The IMF has warned. So has the Bank of Canada. Plus analysts like Capital Economics (“We’re not confident we can dodge the bullet and that there won’t be a correction in the Canadian housing market in the not too distant future.”). Bloomberg moved a worrisome piece on the Canadian housing bubble three days ago. And now The Economist, also read globally, has a column headlined: “After years of lecturing America about loose lending, Canada must now confront a bubble of its own.”
As the mag reminds us, there are 173 condo towers being built in Toronto. In New York (population 8,008,000), only 96. Worse, condo insiders estimated up to 80% of all new units in the GTA are gobbled by speculators, convinced prices will rise without end, regardless of supply overwhelming demand.
House prices have doubled since 2002. Household debt has swollen 40% in a decade. Regulators, economists, central bankers and politicians are worried. Lenders are moving quickly to cover their assets. Some markets are already showing signs of severe stress, like Vancouver – as I detailed yesterday, with sales down a sharp 16% and listings popping. And look at this chart of home prices in Victoria – one of the most expensive places in the country to live – at least for now.
So, what comes next? More real estate angst, even as mortgage rates stay at historic lows in the middle of a non-existent winter with the Spring market beckoning. I hear it’s unlikely CMHC will be granted an increase in its already-obese mortgage default insurance activities, once it hits the $600 billion ceiling.
The consequences: A rationing of mortgages to all those horny young couples swimming in hormones rather than cash. Expect fewer loans and higher rates on high-ratio borrowings. This is how Ron Swift, CEO of Pacific Mortgage, puts it to Canadian Mortgage Trends this week: “The result of these restrictions ultimately means there will be an impact on liquidity in the market place. I think this will first impact products that have the higher insurance costs, such as stated income and self-employed. They will either be stopped or the rates charged to these clients will have to be significantly increased. Either way, tightening liquidity, reducing mortgage options or increasing the costs will take some buyers out of the market, which will affect all of us.”
Now, tell me you didn’t see this coming.
When houses here cost twice as much in the US, when Vancouver’s the second least-affordable place on the planet, when icy Toronto becomes the condo capital of the world, when growth in debt swamps gains in income, when lenders get scared, and a flipper wants $834,800 for a Mississauga rescue, how is this a surprise?
Tomorrow: Pity the wrinkled ones.