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Major housing markets to shine this year and next: Reuters poll

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BENGALURU (Reuters) – The outlook for major global housing markets is brighter than previously thought due to expectations for a broad based economic recovery and easy monetary policy, with only a low risk that a COVID-19 resurgence will derail activity, Reuters polls showed.

Over 100 million people have been infected by the coronavirus, leading to a healthcare crisis and deep economic recessions, but fiscal and monetary stimulus, and the rollout of vaccines, mean the global economy is set to recover this year.[ECILT/WRAP]

While already high unemployment caused by the pandemic is expected to rise further, the Jan. 15-Feb. 1 poll of over 130 property market analysts showed average home prices would rise this year and next in most countries polled.

That compares to largely pessimistic predictions made in September.

An economic rebound, loose monetary policy, government stimulus, pent-up demand and tight inventories were expected to boost housing market activity to varying degrees in Australia, Britain, Canada, Dubai, India and the United States.

“A solid economic recovery bolstered by more fiscal stimulus, still-low mortgage rates, and unmet demand should continue to prop up home sales and construction in 2021,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

“We expect some gradual moderation in price growth over the course of 2021 as home sales cool, but sparse inventory will keep a solid floor under home prices.”

Reuters Poll: Major housing markets outlook https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/bdwvkybkqvm/Reuters%20Poll%20-%20Global%20housing%20markets%20outlook%20-%20Feb%202021.PNG

Three-quarters, or 77 of 102 analysts, said in response to an additional question that the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence derailing housing markets this year was low.

Although the U.S. economy on average contracted last year at its sharpest pace since the Second World War due to the pandemic, it had little bearing on housing market activity, an immunity the sector was expected to carry this year.

Despite the recent surge in coronavirus infections and renewed restrictions imposed in the United States, house prices there were forecast to rise over the next two years and activity was expected to continue on a strong course. [US/HOMES]

“The recent COVID-19 surge has not had any noticeable impact, with transactions near record high levels despite record high case growth,” said Brett Ryan, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

“Pent-up activity from COVID-19-shutdowns earlier in the year will soon start to wane and transactions will likely normalize. More housing supply will come online as vaccination picks up at the same time that base effects will start to roll off.”

Reuters Poll: Global house prices outlook – Feb 2021 https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/xklpylyqbvg/Reuters%20Poll%20-%20Global%20house%20prices%20outlook%20-%20Feb%202021.PNG

When asked about the primary driver of housing market activity this year, over 55% of respondents, or 57 of 101, chose an economic recovery and easy monetary policy.

Of the remainder, 20 analysts named a desire for more living space and 18 said a successful vaccine rollout, while six chose fiscal stimulus.

Australian and Canadian house prices were expected to rise significantly this year and next, helped by low mortgage rates and massive fiscal spending. [AU/HOMES][CA/HOMES]

When asked what was more likely for housing market activity, 58 of 100 respondents said an acceleration. The others expected a slowdown.

Those views were swayed by a somewhat modest outlook for the British, Dubai and Indian housing markets compared to the rest.

Indian house prices were expected to barely rise this year despite an economic recovery and supportive policies, and Dubai house prices were predicted to fall at a slower pace this year and next compared to the previous poll. [IN/HOMES][AE/HOMES]

British house prices were forecast to flatline this year.[GB/HOMES]

“While we expect a strong start to the year, we expect momentum to wane following the end of the stamp duty (property sales tax) holiday in April. Towards the end of the year the housing market should settle,” said Aneisha Beveridge at estate agents Hamptons International.

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3 Money and time-saving mortgage tips

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The path to buying a house isn’t the cheapest nor the easiest. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, there has been several opportunities and challenges for first-time home buyers in the Canadian real estate market.

For some, sudden changes to their lifestyle created better opportunities to improve their savings plan while for others, such plans were halted due to the economic impact of the pandemic and rising home prices in real estate markets across Canada. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, over 550,000 properties were sold in Canada last year, a new record for the country’s real estate market and a huge boost for the Canadian economy.

If you are a prospective buyer, looking to purchase a home within the year or just planning for the future, having access to the right information, resources and support can be crucial during your home-buying process. Many people—especially first-time home buyers—easily fall into home debt due to a lack of proper research into the market.

There are some important factors to consider in ensuring that your mortgage works best for you by not only saving you time but money. However, before you start searching for a home to buy, you should have a good idea of just how much you’re able to afford for one. 

Checking your credit score using a Canadian mortgage calculator before applying for a mortgage, would give you a realistic price range and equally inform you of your chances of getting your mortgage approved.

Here are some important mortgage tips to help you save time and money while house hunting:

1. Know the penalties on your mortgage

There are several reasons why anyone would want to sell their property. From changes in your financial or marital status to getting transferred to a new location due to either school or work. However, these circumstances could lead to you selling your home and breaking the terms of agreement on your mortgage.

If you’re on a variable-rate mortgage with one of the major banks in Canada, to successfully break your mortgage, you would need to pay about 3 months’ worth of interest. For a fixed-rate mortgage, the cost is much higher than 3 months of interest and there’s also the option of an interest rated differential (IRD). This is typically based on your remaining mortgage balance and current mortgage rates.

To avoid penalties on your mortgage, apply for a portable mortgage that allows you to transfer your existing mortgage to a new property and even combine it with another loan, if necessary. There’s also the option of an assumable mortgage, where you can transfer the mortgage to a qualified buyer instead of breaking it.

2.  Inquire about pre-payment privileges

When buying a home, you need to understand how rising interest rates would affect your mortgage. Without having any pre-payment privileges, the larger portion of your monthly mortgage payment would go towards the interest against the principal—making it harder to complete your mortgage.

Once you have pre-payment privileges, you’re offered enough flexibility to repay a percentage of the principal on your mortgage before the amortization period is over—and without any penalty. In fact, some lenders may even offer you their best rate to avoid giving you the option of pre-payment over a fixed period of time. Therefore, it is important to ask your lender the specific kind of pre-payment privileges you enjoy on your mortgage.

The amount of money you save by taking advantage of pre-payment privileges is quite substantial. For example, if you took a $300,000 mortgage at a fixed rate of 3.29% over five years and is amortized over 25 years. By making a pre-payment of $2,000 annually, you would save about $21,787 in interest and finish paying off your mortgage almost 4 years faster—assuming the interest rate was fixed throughout the amortization period.

You can always use a mortgage calculator to check much you would be saving by making extra mortgage payments annually.

3.  Know the benefits of making a less than 20% down payment

Typically, when house hunting, the recommended amount of down payment you need to make is 20% of the property cost. However, you mustn’t always pay that high to get the best deal.

Surprisingly, lenders offer the best interest rates to those who want high-ratio mortgage because they have less than the recommended 20% down payment. This because a high-ratio mortgage borrower has a low risk against losses.  

Default insurance makes it a lot cheaper for lenders to easily fund the mortgage loan, allowing them to transfer some of the savings—in form of lower rates—back to the borrower.

It is important to always carry out thorough research before applying for a mortgage to know what the best rates are, if a broker is more advantageous than a bank, or simply how you can get the best credit scores.

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Windsor and London, Ont. make top three most affordable housing markets for 2020

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WINDSOR, ONT. — While the price of housing has been on the rise, Windsor and London are still considered the most affordable markets in Ontario.

According to a Point2 study, Halifax, N.S., Windsor and London make up the top three most affordable markets in 2020, with most homeowners’ mortgages in Windsor and London accounting for 11.4 per cent of their income.

“In all three cities, incomes have been increasing at a faster pace than home prices in the last decade,” the study says.

With the exception of Oshawa, Ont., Point2 says incomes in all of the 10 most affordable cities have increased fast home prices.

However, according to Point2’s latest study, increased income is “no match” for the surging home prices in the 50 most populous cities. The disparity between home prices and slower moving incomes means more cities are becoming unaffordable.

A market is considered unaffordable when homeowners are spending more than 30 per cent of their income to cover mortgage.

The study says 2020 caused disruptions due to the pandemic, but those challenges are “just the most recent events undermining” homeownership affordability in Canada.

“In the last 10 years, the share of income needed to afford housing has gone up exponentially, with monthly mortgage payments becoming a financial burden for increasing numbers of homeowners across the nation,” the study says.

Over the last 10 years, mortgage affordability has worsened in 38 of the country’s 50 largest real estate markets, and the number of unaffordable markets has jumped from six to 16.

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Even with the highest apartment vacancy rate since 2012, rent in London, Ont. keeps rising

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Even with hundreds of new apartments on the market last year, the average monthly rent in London, Ont., rose by seven per cent in 2020 to an all-time high of $1,119 a month. 

The new data was published in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) rental market survey, which is a yearly snapshot of the apartment rental market across Canada, which reported London, Ont., saw its lowest vacancy rate in nearly a decade. 

The CMHC survey data from October 2020 suggests the overall vacancy rate in the London region was 3.4 per cent, which is a 1.6 per cent increase in the vacancy rate from the same period last year. 

With a 3.4 per cent vacancy rate, it puts the London region slightly higher than the national average of 3.2 and with a seven per cent bump in average monthly rent to $1,119, it puts London more in line with the national average of $1,508, according to CMHC data. 

“The vacancy rate did increase, however when you break down the reason, it’s more of a supply story,” Anthony Passarelli, a senior analyst with the CMHC, told CBC News Friday.

“The vacancy rate didn’t increase because there was more people renting, it was actually because London had a pretty strong increase in rental units last year.”

Passarelli said 746 new apartment units came online between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020, pushing the overall vacancy rate to height unseen since 2012. 

“It really wasn’t the function of demand being lower for renting. It was more of a strong increase in supply. Generally it’s not that strong an increase, it just happens to be this year.”

The data suggests the surge in supply has not forced landlords to offer anything in terms of concessions on rent. All bedroom types saw gains, with bachelor apartments leading the way with an 8.5 per cent increase over last fall to an average monthly rate of $774. 

It means cheaper apartments are in short supply, according to CMHC data. Last year’s survey suggests only 2.3 per cent of the region’s rentals were considered affordable, which is 30 per cent of average household income. 

While vacancies in the London region may have risen overall, Abe Oudshoorn, a homelessness advocate and the managing editor of the International Journal on Homelessness, said it only reflects the upper tiers of the rental market. 

On the lower end, the demand to get out of homelessness and into housing continues to put pressure on the supply of cheaper rentals.

He said it means landlords aren’t looking to give concessions on rent, even with the pandemic still raging, because once it’s over they know it will be back to business as usual and they can almost name their price. 

“If you’re a landlord you know this is time-limited,” Oudshoorn said. “There’s not a huge motivation to sign yourself into a renter at a lower rate if you know it’s going to pick up.”

It’s why the homelessness situation in the city seems worse than ever before, he said, even with the public sector providing temporary housing through the course of the pandemic. 

“We have a temporary mitigation right now, it’s the WISH project and it’s the motel hotels.”

WISH, or the COVID-Winter Interim Solution to Homelessness, is a coalition to try new solutions for survival and sheltering during London’s coldest months. This winter, the City of London is funding two temporary shelters for up to sixty people.

“It has de-intensified shelters and allowed them to make their COVID changes and decreased the number of folks who are urban camping at the moment.”

Oudshoorn said governments need to invest in more housing that’s geared to income, which would alleviate the stress on the apartment rental market caused by competition between people with low to moderate income looking for cheaper accommodations. 

“It’s not like we’re even investing to build at the bottom end, we’re just investing to stop the inflation of rent,” he said, noting most attempts at subsidizing rent are aimed at affordable housing rather than geared-to-income. 

Come spring, temporary housing for the city’s homeless will end. If the federal government makes good on its promise to give each Canadian a jab of COVID-19 vaccine by September, Oudshoorn said competition for an affordable apartment will become even more intense. 

“It is bleak,” he said. “Londoners are often being priced out of both the purchase and the rental market by folks across the province.”

Passarelli said he agrees with Oudshoorn’s interpretation of the rental market, adding the same trend is being reflected in most cities across the province. 

“I definitely agree. The data bears that out and this is not just in London. This is in most markets in Ontario. It’s harder to find a lower rent apartment, there’s more demand there.”

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