A new report from Capital Economics is warning the expected magnitude of interest rate increases from the Bank of Canada could “topple” the domestic housing market.
In a note to clients, Capital Economics Senior Canada Economist Stephen Brown said the 2.5 per cent benchmark rate markets are now pricing in for 2023 would likely not only slam the brakes on home price appreciation, but could put it in reverse.
“Can the housing market withstand a return to pre-pandemic mortgage rates, even though prices have risen by more than 50 per cent in the interim? The answer is a firm ‘no’,” he said.
“With house prices now so elevated versus traditional valuation metrics, the risk is that an initial decline could trigger a downward spiral of lower house prices and lower house price expectations.”
Even with Capital Economics’ more modest view of the benchmark rate topping out at two per cent, Brown said he expects home price inflation to stall next year.
The warning comes on the heels of a prolonged run-up in home prices not only in the nation’s largest urban centres, but in secondary communities as pandemic-weary workers were able to move further afield in search of more space during the work-from-home era. Rock-bottom rates also contributed to the price increases, as buyers were able to stretch their budgets to get into a home of their own.
Overall, prices were up 17.7 per cent in February year-over-year, according to the Teranet-National Bank House Price Index.
While the Bank of Canada has flagged sky-high household debt levels – thanks in no small part to mortgage debt – as a potential vulnerability for the domestic economy, Brown said the central bank may not mind seeing some moderation in home prices as it follows through with monetary tightening.
“We shouldn’t assume that the Bank wants to avoid house price declines at any cost,” he said. “House prices are a key driver of shelter inflation, so moderate declines would help to get consumer price inflation under control without seriously jeopardizing the economy.”