Soft landing still likely

Soft landing still likely, conference told

Kiki Sauriol-RoodeRecently Genworth Canada hosted a half-day seminar for Realtors and mortgage industry professionals. The seminar was held in Mississauga and broadcast live across Canada via webcast. Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Group, delivered the keynote speech about the current state of Canada’s economy and real estate market. His presentation was followed by a review of Genworth Canada’s annual Homeownership Study – a survey that looks at homebuyer trends and behaviour and financial fitness levels of Canadians.

The results of the survey were discussed in a panel discussion featuring Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, Stuart Levings, COO of Genworth Canada, Henrietta Ross, CEO of Canadian Association of Credit Couselling Services and David McDonald of Environics Research Group. Following this discussion, Paul Belanger, co-chair of the Financial Services Regulatory Group at Blakes LLP and Mark Tamburro of Get A Better Mortgage Inc., deliberated over a number of probing regulatory issues.

The following provides a summary of key take-aways from the presentations and panel discussions:

* Canada has out-performed the U.S. during the economic recovery.

* The Canadian economy is expected to deliver moderate economic growth in 2013 and 2014.

* A soft landing is expected in Canadian real estate.  Home sales have fallen in response to the tightening of mortgage insurance rules and slower economic growth, but there has not been a price correction (outside of Vancouver). This reflects the fact that listings have declined in tandem with sales.  The result is balanced market conditions in most Canadian cities.

* The effects of the recent tightening of mortgage insurance rules will abate with time. There is no catalyst for a major correction in real estate, as Canada’s labour market will remain healthy and interest rates will remain low.

* Consumers have reduced their willingness to take on additional debt. This will constrain household spending, but it is a healthy outcome and spending will likely continue to advance at roughly the pace of income growth.

* TD Bank does not expect interest rates to rise until late 2014 to early 2015. The exception would be if the housing market rebounds and it leads to acceleration in debt growth, in which case the Bank of Canada could be forced to raise interest rates sooner or the government could tighten mortgage lending rules further.  An option that does not get attention, but could be prudent, is a change in the qualifying interest rate.

* People are putting more money down, but people are also buying smaller homes. Both are indications that people are opting for more affordable mortgages.

* There is still a need for increased financial literacy among Canadians (27 per cent do not even know what their credit rating is).

* The Canadian government was concerned with a rising debt-to-income ratio and changes to mortgage regulations in the past few years were a quick way to address the issue.

* This is likely not the end of changes in the mortgage industry; much depends on how changes made to date continue to affect the industry.

Kiki Sauriol-Roode is VP, strategic alliances for Genworth Canada. To view a replay of the live webcast of the seminar or find out more about Homeownership Education Week visit



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