What’s Next for Canadian Housing Markets in 2021?

January 22, 2021

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After several record-breaking months for home sales and prices in 2020, what can we expect to see in 2021? CREA’s Quarterly Forecast is back!

“The stat to watch in 2021 will be new listings, particularly in the spring – how many existing owners will put their homes up for sale?” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist. “We already have record-setting sales, but we know demand is much stronger than those numbers suggest because we see can see it impacting prices. On New Year’s Day there were fewer than 100,000 residential listings on all Canadian MLS® Systems, the lowest ever based on records going back three decades. Compare that to five years ago, when there was a quarter of a million listings available for sale. So we have record-high demand and record-low supply to start the year. How that plays out in the sales and price data will depend on how many homes become available to buy in the months ahead. Ideally we’d like for households to be able to find and acquire the homes that best suit their needs and for housing to remain affordable, but the fact is we’re facing a major supply problem in 2021.”

The number of newly listed homes climbed by 3.4% in December, led by more new listings in the GTA and B.C. Lower Mainland, the same parts of Canada that saw the biggest sales gains in December.

With sales up by more than new supply in December, the national sales-to-new listings ratio tightened to 77.4% – among the highest levels on record for the measure. The long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio is 54.2%.

Based on a comparison of sales-to-new listings ratio with long-term averages, only about 30% of all local markets were in balanced market territory in December, measured as being within one standard deviation of their long-term average. The other 70% of markets were above long-term norms, in many cases well above.

The number of months of inventory is another important measure of the balance between sales and the supply of listings. It represents how long it would take to liquidate current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

There were just 2.1 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of December 2020 – the lowest reading on record for this measure. At the local market level, 29 Ontario markets were under one month of inventory at the end of December.

The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) rose by 1.5% m-o-m in December 2020. Of the 40 markets now tracked by the index, only one was down between November and December.

The non-seasonally adjusted Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI was up 13% on a y-o-y basis in December – the biggest gain since June 2017. (Chart B)

Chart of interest B

Chart B

The largest y-o-y gains – above 30% at this point – were recorded in Quinte & District, Simcoe & District, Woodstock-Ingersoll and the Lakelands region of Ontario cottage country.

Y-o-y price increases in the 25-30% range were seen in Bancroft and Area, Grey Bruce Owen Sound, Kawartha Lakes, North Bay, Northumberland Hills and Tillsonburg District.

This was followed by y-o-y price gains in the range of 20-25% in Barrie, Hamilton, Niagara, Brantford, Cambridge, Huron Perth, Kitchener-Waterloo, London & St. Thomas, Southern Georgian Bay and Ottawa.

Prices were up in the 15-20% range compared to last December in Oakville-Milton, Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Montreal and Greater Moncton.

Meanwhile, y-o-y price gains were in the 10-15% range in the GTA and Mississauga, and in Quebec City, and in the 5-10% range across B.C., and in Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and and St. John’s NL. Price were up 1.5% and 2.7% in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively.

The MLS® HPI provides the best way to gauge price trends because averages are strongly distorted by changes in the mix of sales activity from one month to the next.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average home price was a record $607,280 in December 2020, up 17.1% from the same month last year.

The national average price is heavily influenced by sales in Greater Vancouver and the GTA, two of Canada’s most active and expensive housing markets. Excluding these two markets from calculations cuts almost $130,000 from the national average price.

On a monthly basis, sales are forecast to ease back to more typical levels throughout 2021; however, presuming there’s a more normal spring market in 2021, the year as a whole is expected to see more home sales than 2020. National home sales are forecast to rise by 7.2% to around 584,000 units next year. All provinces except Ontario are forecast to see increased sales activity in 2021, as low interest rates and improving economic fundamentals allow people to get into the markets where homes are available for sale.

Ontario has seen strong demand for several years, particularly outside of Toronto, which has eroded active supply in the province. This shortage is expected to limit sales activity in 2021. The strength of demand, particularly for larger single-family properties, will drive the average price higher as potential buyers compete for the most desirable properties.

View the entire forecast on CREA’s website here