NO Condo Bubble in Calgary nor Toronto!

These comments below are in addition to the report last week that said that because Toronto has:

  • lots of in-migration,

  • New to Canada migration and

  • no other kinds of homes being built in the inner city

they do need all of these new condos and it is not a bubble. Interesting.

Economists to condo investors: Smile!

Written by  Vernon Clement Jones

Condo investors in Toronto have every reason to be keep smiling, with two separate bank reports suggesting their assets are almost certain to retain their value at the same time their cash flow gets buoyed by rental demand.

“As CMHC… mentioned, capital return for investors who bought new condominiums and decided to rent them once the construction was complete, could earn superior returns than on other investment products,” reads Laurentian Banks’ July economic outlook. “Furthermore, condominiums rents are generally 40% more expensive than apartments of same dimensions in the Toronto CMA, the most important spread in the whole country.”

Smiling yet?

There’s more.

RBC is also weighing in on the future of Canada’s most controversial housing market, suggesting there’s no indication condos, despite what most see as a glut of inventory, are in a bubble.

Far from it.
“Based on market activity to date,” say economists for the heftiest of Canada’s big banks, “the total number of new housing units (condos) completed by builders has not exceeded the GTA’s demographic requirements and is unlikely to do so by any significant magnitude in the next few years.”


That dual analysis effectively counters concerns that T.O.’s high-rise properties are primed to fall in value as renters find themselves spoiled for choice and investors are forced to slash prices. The naysayers are also worried that even new construction will be subjected to a major price correction and in the short-term, a phenomenon directly tied to mortgage rule changes making it harder to win financing.

That could, in fact, still happen, although not likely on the scale many analysts had predicted earlier this year, says Laurentian in its analysis.

Occupied downtown Calgary office space at 2008 level

This is great news for the housing market as all those workers are moving into Calgary and will need places to live. There are details of the increasing need for housing in my free reports and most of these people will need a Calgary mortgage broker.

Large blocks of space short in supply

CALGARY — Occupied office space in downtown Calgary has surpassed the level reached during the height of the real estate market in the second quarter of 2008.

A report by Colliers International says that occupied space has reached 33.7 million square feet in the first quarter of this year.

The overall vacancy rate declined one percentage point to 10.92 per cent which equated to about 393,000 square feet of positive absorption in the first three months of 2011.

“Much like in the latter half of 2010, oilsands companies continued to grow, with numerous new projects on the horizon creating additional office space requirements,” said the report. “Most of the activity can be attributed to the strong oil prices and resultant higher levels of activity in the sector.”

The recently-completed Eighth Avenue Place office tower absorbed 50,000 square feet last quarter. It is currently 88 per cent leased.

Development of the 49-storey, 1.1 million-square-foot EAP began totally on speculation with no leasing deals in place.

“With oil trading above $100 a barrel, leasing activity in the Calgary downtown office market is expected to remain strong throughout 2011,” said Colliers. “As more companies take on additional projects, the highly active oil sector will continue to recapture most of the jobs lost during the recessionary period.

“As employment increases, vacancy numbers will continue to decline. Good quality space is leasing quickly in the current market, as shown by the strong absorption numbers for the upper classes of office buildings … Large contiguous blocks of vacancy in all classes of buildings have become short in supply.”

Meanwhile, the Calgary Board of Education has officially put the downtown Education Centre building up for sale. The building at 515 Macleod Trail S.E. has been put for sale by public tender with a minimum bid price of $40 million.

The five-storey building is close to 91,000 square feet on 1.08 hectares of land.

“The final bid and sale price will ultimately be determined by prevailing market conditions,” said the CBE.

The board said the Armengol sculptures, commonly known as the Family of Man statues, are not within the scope of the sale. The future of the sculptures will be determined by the City of Calgary, the sculpture’s owners.

The offer for sale by tender will expire May 4.

The CBE said the building will be vacant by June this year as staff moves into the new Education Centre at 1221 8th St. S.W.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Real estate: A ‘secret’ tax shelter

By Jason Heath

TFSAs have been a welcome addition to the tax shelter landscape in Canada, but they leave something to be desired for those with substantial assets and maxed out RRSP and TFSA room.

Film limited partnerships have disappeared, charitable donation tax shelters were flawed from the start and the investment tax credit for flow-through shares may or may not be extended in the next budget.

Real estate is often overlooked in the quest for tax reduction and deferral, let alone income generation and inflation protection. If real estate is all of these things, why doesn’t everyone own a rental property? The answer is simple – money.

It’s not that investors don’t have the money to get into the rental property market, because this can be easily accomplished with leverage and minimal monthly carrying costs. The problem is there is simply no money to be made by financial professionals when it comes to rental real estate. The result is that rental real estate is a secret tax shelter that few people ever consider.

Investment advisors sell stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Insurance agents sell insurance policies. Accountants sell tax preparation services. Real estate agents sell real estate, but they tend to sell real estate from a vendor to a purchaser to be used solely as a principle residence.

So rental real estate ends up being a golden goose, elusive, yet attractive.

According to Harvard professor Niall Ferguson in The Ascent of Money, “The original property game we know today as Monopoly was actually invented back in 1903 to expose the unfairness of a social system where a small minority of landlords [took advantage of] the majority of tenants.

“What the game of Monopoly tells us, contrary to its inventor’s intentions, is that it’s smart to own property.”

First, a lesson in rental real estate taxation. Rental income is taxable and rental expenses, including mortgage or line of credit interest, are tax-deductible. In many cases, if a property is financed, it will run at a loss for tax purposes creating a tax deduction against all other sources of income and therefore, a tax refund. In the meantime, real estate values grow tax-deferred until an eventual sale. Even if a property runs at positive cash flow for tax purposes, depreciation can be claimed to wipe out some or all of the taxable income inclusion.

Rental real estate has been described by some as the equivalent of a super-charged RRSP. What is a traditional RRSP? It’s a tax-deferred savings vehicle; contributions are tax-deductible; it provides a future income stream; and it’s an investment asset. Rental real estate incorporates all of these features, plus there’s no pre-determined maximum tax deduction limit like with RRSPs; withdrawals aren’t forced at age 71 like with RRIFs; contributions can be financed and the interest can be deducted, unlike RRSP loans; and the taxes paid on selling a rental property are at the 50% capital gains tax rate, unlike RRSP withdrawals which are fully taxable.

The Harvard and Yale endowment funds have more than 50% of their assets invested in non-traditional asset classes, like real estate. The Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada, has 18% of their pension assets invested in real estate. Maybe Harvard, Yale and the OTTP know something the mainstream investment community doesn’t know.

Jason Heath is a fee-only Certified Financial Planner (CFP) for E.E.S. Financial Services Ltd. in Markham, Ontario.

Calgary house prices expected to increase

Calgary house prices expected to increase

Local market classified as balanced

CALGARY — Short-term year-over-year price growth is expected to be in the five to seven per cent range for Calgary, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

In releasing its monthly Metro Resale Index on Wednesday, the board said Calgary’s real estate market is currently classified as being under balanced conditions.

In February, the average residential resale price rose to $406,216, up from $401,743 the previous month and $394,850 in February 2010.

The board also said that sales, on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, were up by 6.1 per cent in Calgary to 23,784 following a 2.2 per cent hike in January to 22,416. But that is still down from 23,820 in February 2010.

“It’s a reasonably balanced market. That’s what we’re seeing,” saids Robin Wiebe, senior economist with the board. “Sales are on the upswing. They rose six per cent in February from January and that builds on a two per cent growth the month before. And that’s starting to eat away at the stock of listings.

“Sales are bouncing back from a bit of a tough spot later in 2010. They’re coming back . . . There seems to be a little bit of momentum building in the Calgary market which is why we are forecasting a decent price outlook.”

The sales to new listings ratio in Calgary increased to 0.558 from 0.547 in January and 0.531 in February 2010.

The board also said that new listings were 46,812 in February on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis compared with 44,748 the previous month and 48,576 a year ago.

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve definitely seen sales pick up,” said Dan Sumner, economist with ATB Financial in Calgary. “I still think all in all sales aren’t really strong. We are seeing kind of a recovery from really low levels.

“In Calgary, it’s been stronger than other areas of the province. The Calgary resale market has been better than most of the rest of Alberta but it’s still nothing to get too excited about.”

Sumner said preliminary data indicates that March “has not been a blockbuster month” for MLS sales in the city.

In its Metro Resale Index, the board classified Saskatoon, Gatineau, Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres and Saguenay as having short-term price growth expectations in the seven per cent and higher range.

Victoria, Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Halifax and Newfoundland joined Calgary in the five to seven per cent range followed by Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Kitchener, Kingston, Ottawa, and Saint John in the three to five per cent range.

Toronto, Oshawa, London and Windsor can expect short-term year-over-year price growth of zero to three per cent.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Intra-provincial migration at 20-year high

Comment: This is exactly what started the boom in Calgary in 2006 when 25,000 people moved into town from all over Canada. This should drive the rental market vacancy rate down and increase rental prices. Then it will be more affordable to buy and the slack in the market will slowly get taken up; supporting home prices.

Good news for everyone in the housing industry and for home owners.

—- Nicolas Van Praet, Financial Post · Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011

MONTREAL — The number of Canadians moving to another province has punched to a high not seen in 20 years as people pack up in search of better jobs and salaries elsewhere.

Roughly 337,000 Canadians were on the move in 2010, says a report on interprovincial migration published Thursday by TD Economics. That’s 45,000 more than the year before and the most since the late 1980s. It also represents the largest share of the overall population since 1998.

“It’s a good sign in the sense that whenever you see that kind of movement, it’s an expression of a labour market that’s healing after a pretty severe recession,” said TD senior economist Pascal Gauthier, who wrote the study. “People are either returning home or moving to areas that didn’t have employment before. For those that are already employed, they’re finding potentially better prospects.”

Interprovincial migration matters because when there is a net movement of people to higher-employment and higher-productivity areas, that generates net economic output gains on a national basis. It’s also crucial for businesses because people often make big-ticket purchases when they move, which can have a significant impact on local housing and retail markets.

Canada’s situation lies in stark contrast with the United States, where census data show long-distance moves across states fell last year to the lowest level since the government began tracking them in 1948. Americans used to be a nation of big movers, with as many as one in five relocating for work every year in the 1950s. Now, experts are debating why they’ve become a nation of “hunkered-down homebodies,” as the New York Times put it.

Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, says the United States is experiencing a new kind of class divide now between “mobile” people who have the resources and flexibility to pursue economic opportunity, and “stuck” citizens who are tied to places with weaker economies.

He argues the U.S. housing crisis is a big factor slowing mobility down. When the housing bubble popped, it left millions of Americans unable to sell their homes. “It’s bitterly ironic that housing, for so many Americans, has gone from being a cornerstone of their American dream to being a burden,” he wrote in a recent opinion piece.

Mr. Gauthier agrees that the housing crash is partly to blame for keeping Americans put. “There’s such a glut of supply that it’s just difficult to sell your house. In Canada, that’s not been an issue.”

In Canada, the biggest impediment to the free flow of labour between provinces and territories remains regulation as occupational requirements fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Workers in regulated professions and skilled trades, such as teachers and engineers, still face major barriers trying to work in provinces other than their own. Solving that problem will be key ahead of the looming labour force crunch, Mr. Gauthier argues.

Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan have seen the strongest net inflow of people of all provinces for the past three years and that will not change in the short term, the TD report forecasts. The three jurisdictions are working to implement a newly signed trade and labour mobility agreement between them that could eventually see seamless movement of workers between their borders.

TD says Ontario and Quebec will continue to lose residents to other provinces on a net basis, but the bleeding will be at a slower pace than in previous years. It says Manitoba and Prince Edward Island will be the only provinces still shedding a significant share of residents through the end of 2012.

In Manitoba’s case, it’s not that there aren’t any jobs. The province’s unemployment rate has been consistently lower than that of the rest of Canada since the 1990s. It’s that people are being lured by the prospect of higher-paying jobs in neighbouring provinces.

Landlords Dodge New CMHC Rule

Landlords Dodge New CMHC Rule

The recent changes to CMHC rules on qualifying for investment mortgage are having an effect that is causing havoc on an investor’s debt-service ratio, making it difficult for investors to qualify without a more-than stable personal income.

The following article discusses how recent investors are experiencing difficulty when qualifying for mortgages, and explores the best ways to avoid CMHC, highlighting that investors should deal with banks that “go outside of CMHC”.

We DO have lenders that still do the offset under certain circumstances. Call to find out how and when.

— Mark Herman

Article Source (Calgary, Alberta – Financial Post) – These are particularly confusing times to be a real estate investor due, for the most part, to a policy change made by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) in April.

The major issue concerns mortgages on CMHC-insured properties with four complete units or less, which went from being calculated using an 80% offset model to a 50% add-back one. As reported in this paper, the offset model meant that up to 80% of the expected rental income is used to offset the cost of the mortgage. With the add-back model, half of the expected gross rental income will be added to an investor’s income, but the entire mortgage is added to expenses.

In other words, it wreaks havoc on an investor’s debt-service ratio, as was the case with full-time Toronto investor and consultant Cindy Wennerstrom, who is currently shopping for her eighth property but is “stuck, mortgage-wise,” she says.

“When banks take off 50% of the rent and apply that to your expenses, there is usually a deficit. That is subtracted from your actual income,” she says.

And with Ms. Wennerstrom’s other properties each producing a cash flow of $800 to $1,100 per month, there still isn’t enough to bring her to the desired debt-service ratio of 40%.

“That means 40% of your gross monthly income has to service your monthly debts,” says Barrie, Ont., broker Adam Bazuk. “That makes it very difficult to qualify investors unless they also have an enormous personal income.”

If that wasn’t difficult enough, the 50% add-back policy is not rubber-stamped across all lending institutions, with some allowing investors to use more than 50%, and others maintaining different versions of the offset program.

“It’s gone from a nice simple A or B plan, to an A, B and C plan, with all different ways to get there,” says Dustan Woodhouse, a B.C. mortgage broker with Invis.

Confusing, perhaps. But is it a bad thing?

Consider the 80% offset, for instance. “Everybody thought rental offset was gone,” says Mr. Woodhouse. “All they could see was that, based on a $1,000 monthly rental income, an 80% offset would qualify you for a $190,000 mortgage, while a 50% add-back would qualify you for $45,000, so it’s messed up the market from that perspective.”

But he says that for “organized property investors,” who have been reporting rental income on their T1 forms for the past two years, there are still good, if not better, options out there.

“Under the old rules, I would only be allowed to subtract 80%,” Mr. Woodhouse says.

While not a true 100% offset, it is the easiest way to explain the program, says Chris Hoeppner, a regional vice-president at Street Capital.

“If a client can provide the statement of real estate rentals from the T1 General, we just go with the net gain or net loss that property produces. As long as a person claims enough rental income to cover all the expenses, it basically becomes a wash, taking that property out of the debt servicing.”

But for those not so organized, who have not been reporting rental income on their T1 forms, there are still options.

As well, private mortgage insurers Genworth allows for rental offset.

Mr. Bazuk suggests avoiding CMHC by having a 20% or more down payment, and dealing with banks that “go outside of CMHC.” He also says Scotiabank, National Bank, Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce still offer a 70% offset arrangement, or are rental-property friendly.

Ms. Wennerstrom, despite being without a mortgage at the moment, is still confident.

“The option is still there, but you just have to buy the right properties,” she says, which means ones with “exceptionally positive cash flow.” To her, that’s more than $700 a month after expenses, plus a 10% reserve for maintenance and a 5.4% vacancy slush fund.

“After that, it’s just what sort of hoops to jump through to get the mortgage,” she says. “They will continue to change the rules and we will continue to find ways around them.”