by Dan Krell © 2010
Bubble housing markets occur when real estate markets, either local or regional, are overvalued. The cause of bubble markets is often debated, as has been hotly argued in recent times, to be the cause of speculation and/or credit policies.
There are several real estate markets that have rebounded much faster than most such that they are in danger of becoming bubble markets. Some economists rank the real estate markets in China, Australia, and Canada as having the highest risk of becoming the next busted bubble market. Because of Canada’s close proximity and similar real estate market, we’re compelled to take a closer look.
Canada’s equivalent to the Federal Reserve Bank is called the Bank of Canada (www.bank-banque-canada.ca) and much like the Fed, the Bank of Canada is a central bank that offers advice on monetary policy. The Deputy Director of the Bank of Canada, Timothy Lane, PhD, offered his analysis on the current situation that is occurring in Canada’s real estate market in a speech given on his behalf on January 11th, 2010.
Although Dr. Lane’s speech was delivered by an advisor, in what may seem like a déjà-vu to Americans, there was somewhat of a denial of a bubble market. The Deputy Director maintained that fundamentals of the Canadian market are intact, such that recent increases in home prices are not unusual for supply and demand economics. As Canadian housing starts are below the target to meet population growth requirements, the Deputy Director made clear that inventories were diminishing as well.
Although Dr. Lane’s opinion is that housing bubbles are fueled by credit expansion, and that recent growth in the Canadian housing market is due to low interest rates and pent up demand. Mr. Lane pointed out that the Canadian housing market was not as turbulent as the market in the United States because Canadian home price appreciation was not as steep. The resulting turbulence manifested in sharp declines in American housing, while Canadian housing fared much better.
Similarities between the current Canadian housing market and the U.S. market prior to the global recession includes: historically low mortgage interest rates, reduced inventory, and increased real estate speculation. The role of increased real estate speculation is of interest because it is not only the domestic investors fueling the Canadian market, but foreign investor looking for large gains.
However, fundamental differences also exist between the markets. Dr. Lane pointed out that the Canadian mortgage system is inherently different than its counterpart in the U.S. Canadian mortgage guidelines are written primarily by mortgage insurers because mortgage insurance is compulsory for mortgages with less than a 20% down payment. Additionally, about 70% of Canadian mortgages are held by the lending institution (rather than becoming securitized) forcing the lender to make more responsible lending decisions.
Deputy Director Lane’s summation was that the Canadian housing market requires “vigilance, but not alarm.” However, they may not have much choice but to ride out market disturbances because any intervention may stall the recovering Canadian economy in a global recessionary environment.
Time will tell whether the Canadian real estate market is a bubble waiting to burst, or just a manifestation of solid economic principles. Either way, we will learn whether prudent mortgage policies can play a part in mitigating future real estate bubbles here in the U.S.
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of March 8, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell