Are you smarter than a housing analyst Photo: Jonathan Oakley/Flickr

The following is a guest column by Ben Myers, Senior VP Market Research and Analytics at Fortress Real Developments. Fortress Real Developments partners with builders and developers across Canada and Ben assists in evaluating the market and projects that Fortress engages in.

Housing market forecasting is hard. Yet every year, the bank economists, third-party research firms, and independent analysts take a shot at predicting where housing prices are headed, how many houses will start construction, and if the market is overvalued, overheating or oversold. None of the firms that publish these studies, or the authors that write them, have a consistent and stellar record of successful forecasts (my forecasts are published in the Fortress’ Market Manuscript reports), but some are clearly better than others. The complex and interconnected global financial markets makes it more difficult to pinpoint when recessions will occur, or what external forces outside of Canada may influence our housing market.

Despite this reality, people like forecasts, and they garner a lot of media attention. Since the global economic crisis pummeled the markets in late 2008 and into 2009, the calls for a Canadian housing market correction have increased. Many of the analysts that don’t hint at, or straight out forecast a housing market crash are often referred to as biased — some folks get downright angry at anyone with a positive outlook. I wanted to determine if the general public was any better at forecasting than professional housing analysts. The BuzzBuzzHome team and I determined the best way to do this was to poll their online community, have them forecast new home prices and housing starts in Canada overall, as well as Calgary and Toronto (click here for last year’s polls). So, one year later, are you smarter than a housing analyst?

The conclusion: nope, you are not. You are actually terrible at forecasting.

There were 195,536 housing starts in Canada in 2015. The point forecast for BuzzBuzzHome poll respondents was 176,000 – lower than all of forecasts from the major bank economists, and therefore, the worst forecast. Just 15 per cent of those polled expecting 195,000 or more starts. Grade: F

The average new single-detached house completed in 2015 was $694,000 in Canada in 2015 according to CMHC, an increase of 9.4 per cent annually. Statistics Canada’s New Home Price Index (NHPI), which is survey based and not transaction based, aims to compare a similar house over time (controlled for changes in home sizes, lot sizes, construction materials, etc). As of late 2015, NHPI new home prices were up 1.5 per cent annually. The Buzz Buzz respondents point forecast was for 0.5 per cent new home price growth in 2015, but 45 per cent of those polled called for growth between 0 and 3 per cent. Grade: B-

There were 42,287 housing starts in Toronto, while BuzzBuzzHome readers called for 29,700 on average. Good news is TD Economics had a worse forecast at 29,000. Just 5 per cent of respondents expected over 40,000 housing starts, which topped my forecast of 37,400, which was the highest among the professional forecasts at the start of 2015. Grade: D

The NHPI was up about 4 per cent annually in Toronto last year, while single-detached absorptions jumped by 13.8 per cent year-over-year. Buzz Buzz respondents called for just 1 per cent price appreciation on average, and approximately one-fifth of those polled expected a jump of 3 per cent to 7 per cent. Grade: C-

BuzzBuzzHome readers expected 12,200 starts in the Calgary CMA and there were just over 13,000. CMHC was closer at 13,600, while my forecast stunk at 14,100. Twenty-eight per cent of respondents expected starts of 10,000 to 12,500. Grade: C+

With the energy market declines, respondents to last year’s BuzzBuzz poll expected new home prices to fall by 1.6 per cent, they dropped by 0.6 per cent. Just under 20 per cent of respondents expected a decline of 0 to 3 per cent, while 45 per cent expected a decrease of 5 per cent or more. Grade: C

Despite your poor grades, you have another shot to take the test! Perhaps you can prove that you’re smarter than a housing analyst this year.

According to data from BuzzBuzzHome, the median price of new condo on the market is $338,000 in Calgary, while the median low-rise new home is $539,000. In Toronto, the equivalent figures are $400,000 and $575,000 (the last figure seems low, likely due to the rise of smaller stacked townhouses, but the average three bedroom low-rise house is $783,000). These are your starting points, let’s hear from ya!

Make your selections in the poll below:

If you’re feeling really ambitious, here are five more questions I’m asking for my next market report: click here.

Think you’re smarter than a housing analyst? Start the conversation on Twitter: @buzzbuzzhome, @benmyers29 and @fortressrdi.

Fortress Real Developments partners with builders and developers across Canada, and Ben assists in evaluating the market and projects that Fortress engages in (Twitter: @benmyers29). Follow his blog posts and commentary on the Canadian Housing Market at www.fortressrealdevelopments.com/news or for more info on real estate investing, go to www.fortressrealcapital.com

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