5 things to watch in Canada's housing market this year

(January 04, 2018 , posted in Real Estate)

Real estate was a major topic in the business world in 2017, and with some big changes on the horizon, the subject is likely to dominate headlines again this year.

Here are five things to watch in Canadian real estate.

Policy-makers in Toronto and Vancouver have taken steps to try to curb activity in a perceived problem: foreign buyers gobbling up houses as investment vehicles, driving prices up for everybody else.

Vancouver slapped a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in late 2016, and Toronto followed suit in April of last year with a similar policy.

The impact on both markets was immediate, as sales and prices fell, although they have since both rebounded.

Despite those moves, don't expect the issue to dissipate this year. Statistics Canada got money to study foreign buyers in the last budget, and in December, the data agency published its most authoritative numbers on non-resident investment in real estate.

Both cities still have less than five per cent foreign ownership, the numbers show, but market watchers in both cities say that segment is growing, and the issue is worthy of more study before any rash decisions.

"In places like Toronto and Vancouver," CMHC's chief economist Bob Dugan told CBC in an interview recently, "there's been very strong growth in houses prices. So people became concerned with trying to get that in check."