Toronto Home Prices May Jump 25% This Year, TD SaysBy
Economist says signs show ‘speculative forces’ driving market
Caranci had previously seen 2017 price growth of 10% to 15%
Toronto’s housing market is likely to stay strong for the rest of the year, with home prices jumping as much as 25 percent, amid hints that speculators are fueling demand and posing a potential risk to the economy, TD Economics Chief Economist Beata Caranci said.
A “strong Toronto home-price forecast is not a vote of confidence in market fundamentals,” Caranci wrote Monday in a note to clients. “It’s getting harder to ignore warning signs that market demand pressures are increasingly reflecting speculative forces.”
Residential prices in Canada’s largest metropolitan region are forecast to grow 20 to 25 percent this year, up from a previous estimate of 10 to 15 percent, according to the report by TD Economics, part of Toronto-Dominion Bank. Toronto-area prices have climbed 19 percent in the past 12 months, the fastest clip since the 1980s, when a frenzied housing market resulted in year-over-year increases of 55 percent, Caranci said.
“Evidence is building that speculative forces are growing deeper roots, which raises the risk that prices will move closer to the top end of that forecast in the absence of policy measures,” Caranci wrote.
As for next year, higher mortgage rates and fewer affordable properties will likely cut the growth rate to 3 to 5 percent, though a lack of clarity on housing speculation makes predictions difficult, Caranci said. A housing market driven by speculators seeking a quick profit boosts the risk of rapidly unwinding price gains at the same time homebuyers are contending with larger debt burdens, she said.
“The risk is that if you were to have any interruption in income or a downturn in the economy, your landing in the housing market is harder,” Caranci said in an interview.
A possible foreign buyer’s tax, which has been the focus of policy debate on how to cool the market, has been effective in other cities worldwide in the short-term, but also can trigger unintended consequences, Caranci wrote. A tax imposed in Vancouver last year pushed foreign investment into other areas, including Toronto. And a tax focused solely on foreign investors wouldn’t discourage speculators from Canada, she said.
Bank of Montreal Chief Economist Doug Porter said last week that Toronto is clearly in the midst of a housing “bubble.” Caranci called the bubble debate a distraction because it’s usually not clear what’s happening in an economy until the cycle ends.
“What we can say is that when comparing this housing cycle to previous ones that lack a happy ending, Toronto appears to be moving in that direction,” she said.