We’ve been hearing for a while now about a coming crash in Canadian property values, and it’s really reached a fever pitch lately – seems like denying a Toronto bubble, at least, is pretty rare.
What’s interesting to me, though, is how different the bubble seems to be from the American one about five years ago. In the US, urban real estate definitely took a dive – tons of people went bankrupt, cranes got taken down – but ultimately it recovered much more quickly than the suburbs, and especially exurbs and sprawling Sunbelt cities.
What from what I can tell about Canada, the overvaluation is focused on urban properties, epitomized by the glassy blue towers going up in Vancouver and especially Toronto, and to a lesser extent Calgary. The Vancouver market has cooled and all the worry now is about Toronto, where sales volumes are still up from last year, but I’m not hearing too much worry out of Vancouver, even months after sales supposedly started cooling.
Anyway, the worry in Toronto is really rising. In a very widely-circulated Financial Post opinion piece last week, Diane Francis advocated placing restrictions on foreign (read: Asian) buyers. Despite the jingoism it was an interesting piece, but this chart is more interesting:
Complicating things is the mining energy boom in central Canada, which is also being felt in North Dakota and nearby states.
As you can tell, this is less of an informational post than a post calling for information. Canadians – what do you think is going to happen? Where is the bubble going to hit hardest, who’s going to recover first, and who’s never going to recover? I want your opinion! (Yes, yours!)
Or is there in fact no bubble at all, and all we’re seeing is that Canadians are falling (back) in love with their largest cities? I one said, half jokingly, that the unanimity in agreement that Canada’s in a bubble is the only thing that makes me wonder whether maybe it’s not! (After all, there was a lot of talk about us being in a tech bubble in the run-up to Facebook’s IPO, but that talk seems to have died down.)
Or is the bubble real, and yes, centered on cities, but because of a fundamental rise the demand for urban living, the excess stock will quickly be eaten back up? The US has experienced a boom in renting since our bubble popped, and if the same happens in Canada, then their overbuilt condo units in multifamily buildings will be much easier to convert to rentals than vice-versa, as Las Vegas and Phoenix have to do.
And then where does the rest of the country fit into all this? What about the parts of Canada that aren’t Toronto, aren’t Vancouver, aren’t Calgary, and aren’t energy-rich? Are there any parts of Alberta that aren’t sitting on liquid gold – how are they doing? And I haven’t heard a peep out of Montreal – is that because it’s too regulated to feel anything, up or down? (Kind of like a drugged-up human!)
Canadians – tell me what the hell is going on in your country’s real estate market!
(As always, if you wanna email me with confidential comments, please do! My address is smithsj at gmail.)