Canadian homebuyers are seeing a “long overdue” improvement in housing affordability, according to RBC, but the bank is warning Toronto residents to enjoy it while it lasts.
A drop in Toronto’s housing prices was largely responsible for the nationwide improvement, the bank said in a housing trends and affordability report released Thursday, but it added that the retreat from “dizzying heights earlier last year” will be brief.
“It would be tempting to view the fourth quarter’s affordability improvement in Canada as the start of a new, friendlier trend for homebuyers,” RBC Economic Research wrote. “But this is unlikely to be the case for a few key reasons.”
“First, we expect the reprieve in the Toronto area to be short-lived. We believe that Toronto prices will bottom out sometime this spring. Second, we expect interest rates to rise further.”
RBC wrote that the cost of home-ownership in Toronto and Vancouver remained “onerous” when compared to the rest of the nation.
The bank went as far as to call Vancouver’s current state of housing affairs – outlined in a 1.8 per cent gain in the bank’s housing affordability measure - the worst the country has ever seen.
“The unfortunate outcome for local homebuyers is that they are now challenged by the worst affordability levels ever recorded anywhere in Canada.”
RBC pointed to the Prairies and Atlantic Canada as being “broadly affordable,” and said Montreal’s previous reputation as an affordable market is starting to take a hit.
“The pick-up in activity has led to a firming in prices and gradual erosion of affordability, although this is not overly concerning at this stage,” RBC said of the Montreal and Ottawa markets. “This trend is starting to take some of the shine off its reputation as an affordable market—especially for detached homes.”