Housing markets on both sides of the border have continued to sizzle through 2021, but Canadian real estate is indisputably hotter than the US market right now.
In a recently published report by TD, Senior Economist Sri Thanabalasingam compared the two markets and surfaced a few commonalities and a raft of differences when it comes to what’s driving activity skyward.
Housing Market News Alerts
Sign up now for news alerts on the Canadian housing market
In terms of similarities, Thanabalasingam writes that mortgage rates are comparably low in both countries as a result of pandemic-induced monetary policies from the Bank of Canada and Federal Reserve. These record-low borrowing costs meant that many Millennials in their prime homebuying years could finally make the jump into homeownership.
Furthermore, the so-called “race for space” is a phenomenon observed widely in both countries as households that didn’t lose income during the pandemic and were largely working remotely looked to suburban and mid-sized cities for larger homes.
But instead of logging similarly strong sales and price gains over the last year, Thanabalasingam writes that Canadian housing activity has “sprinted ahead” of the US.
“As of March 2021, home sales in Canada were 75 percent higher than the average over 2018 and 2019, while it was 13 percent above in the US. Likewise, home prices also spiked. In Canada, the average home sold was 32 percent more expensive than what it was a year ago, and it was 17 percent higher stateside,” Thanabalasingam writes.
So what’s driving the Canadian market to leave the US market in the dust? The TD economist believes it comes down to a number of connected factors.
First, Thanabalasingam writes, Canadians have been more enthusiastic about listing their homes compared to Americans, leading to higher home sales north of the border.
Canada also experienced stronger population growth relative to its size between 2016 and 2019, with larger numbers of non-permanent residents — particularly international students — being welcomed to the country.
Among the other reasons flagged by Thanabalasingam was looser mortgage restrictions in place north of the border. The US sought to tighten things up in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis while the Canadian housing market made it through the downturn with relatively less scarring.
It’s the latter reason that Thanabalasingam believes is connected to one of the most significant drivers of Canada’s overperformance: FOMO, or the fear of missing out.
Because of Canada’s comparatively mild experience with the Financial Crisis, housing has been viewed as a solid investment for several decades without interruption.
“FOMO has resulted in prospective homebuyers, who may have preferred to buy in later years, pulling forward their housing purchase decisions either because of low mortgage rates, or to get ahead of future price increases, adding to the housing frenzy. This appears to have been more of a driver in Canada,” writes Thanabalasingam.
This buying frenzy — and some of the worrying speculative activity that’s come with it — is likely a big contributor to Canadian home prices outperforming their US counterparts in recent months.