Canadian Real Estate Prices Will “Rip” Higher Due To The Fed: Scotiabank

Canadian real estate might be slow right now, but a large bank thinks it’s going to “rip” soon. A new analysis from Scotiabank warns investors that the Federal government is at odds with the Bank of Canada (BoC) goals. The country’s central bank is trying to slow demand and the resulting inflation, while the Fed is doing everything it can to create excess demand. Consequently, it would be hard to create a better plan to raise home prices. Let’s unpack what the heck Scotiabank is talking about.

Pressure Makes Diamonds, But It Needs Dead Things First 

The BoC has been trying to lower demand, while the Fed has been trying to stimulate it, argues the bank. Canada’s labor shortage is one of the worst seen in decades. The bank sees this as predictable, since the Fed expanded by 420,000 employees since 2020. It’s roughly equivalent to the population of Halifax, and 51% of job creation. It’s an odd choice for the Fed to stimulate its own hiring program during a tight labor market.

Scotiabank argues the same logic is being applied to housing. The Fed is stating it wants to bring down home prices, but actively working to drive them higher.

“In a broader public policy sense, Ottawa’s housing strategy remains confusing,” writes Derek Holt, VP and head of Capital Markets for Scotiabank.  

“The BoC is trying to contain inflationary pressures and soften previously raging house prices. The Feds have thrown open the immigration doors into a market with no supply while another tax subsidy to housing starts up on Saturday in the form of the 1st time homebuyers tax-free home savings account that allows one to shelter up to $40k tax free with annual contributions of $8k. Housing is going to rip after a temporary retrenchment and there goes the BoC’s efforts.”  

If you’re not fluent in bankster, that might need some unpacking to fully understand what’s happening. 

Canada’s Immigration Policy Is As Generous As The British West Indies Were To India

Canada’s immigration policy was one of the most successful and mutually beneficial relationships. Historically, immigrants have been very successful in Canada. Unfortunately, that’s not the situation they’re entering today. High skilled immigrants are finding themselves underemployed and living in inadequate shelter. There’s constant focus on how Canada needs the immigration boost, but the country doesn’t even have a plan for basic shelter. It’s clear this is about driving demand, not a mutually beneficial growth opportunity.

Scotiabank isn’t alone on this one. RBC, Canada’s largest bank, recently echoed this opinion. They explained that immigration is the fastest solution to Canada’s demographic problem. But it takes time, you can’t just ramp up the numbers without a plan and count on churn. The bank warned that ramping up numbers without a plan for employment and shelter will just cause further inflation and higher shelter costs

If you’re still under the impression this is 1980, and immigrants are benefitting from this—you’re mistaken. Canada’s recent immigrants report feeling misled, with 2 in 5 preparing to return home. The country is run like a shady factory exploiting workers through a dodgy temp agency. It doesn’t matter if it’s possible to meet your basic needs, they just need someone to fill the seat. 

A shady factory sure can produce profits though. In this case, higher rents are a big win. That can translate to higher home prices when interest rates fall.

Canada’s New Tax Subsidy To Raise Home Prices Starts This Weekend

The tax subsidy mentioned by Holt is also another artificial demand-side pressure. In case you need a refresher, the First-Time Homebuyers Tax-Free Home Savings starts tomorrow. It’s a registered account like your RRSP, RESP, or TFSA that allows tax benefits for putting away more money for housing. 

Critics argued it was a problematic solution from the start. It doesn’t replace the existing Home Buyers Plan (HBP), which allows first-time buyers to borrow up to $35,000 from their RRSP. It exists in addition, further incentivizing housing investment.

If you’re from Canada, how many people have told you their home is their best investment? It probably was. They likely made minimal investments otherwise, because all of the incentives are being slanted to housing. This has led Canadians to invest less in productivity, and more into non-productive asset trading. It’s actually getting so bad that Canada now holds the spot Greece previously did during the Great Recession in the OECD forecast

The siphoning of tax-based incentives played a major role when inflating US home prices in the early 2000s. It also played a significant role inflating Canadian home prices post 2019-election. In a market, the role of the person that holds the asset is to capture as much capital as possible. If the Federal government is incentivizing you to put more capital into a home, a seller’s role is to capture that additional income. That’s how markets work—especially when you’re discussing shelter, which Canada views as a bond you live in.  

Mo (Shelter) Money, Mo (Shelter) Problems

In addition, there’s the introduction of more leverage into the real estate market. The price of an asset is not determined by how many people want it, but what someone is willing to pay. Since shelter is mortgage dependent in Canada, the role of financing plays a major role in the price of a home. To understand this, first you need to understand how very mistaken economists were about interest rates. 

It’s widely believed that lower interest rates reduce the cost of housing. The legend repeated amongst central bankers is that cheaper rates mean more goes to principal. Home prices are strictly influenced by the demand for the supply available. Even the BoC has determined that was spectacularly wrong. 

Looking at 30 years of data, a BoC head found people adjusted their spending to credit. As interest rates fell, people just kept spending the same share of income on the asset. Buyers continued to adjust their spending, inflating home prices without spending more. After 30 years, the BoC finally decided to study what they were doing, and it turned out to be wrong. Whoops!  

Sidenote: If you’re thinking, “but low rates help people buy their first home,” that’s not true. Prestigious NBER researchers from MIT Sloan and Boston University, determined that credit supply shocks increase home prices, but the change in ownership is insignificant. Sad trombone. 

This behavioral principle is likely to apply to the tax incentive, in addition to the diverted funds. If people typically put down 10%, they’re likely to continue putting down 10%. Additional funds aren’t likely to make it easier to put it down, but they’re more likely to be incorporated as a part of the norm. The final price would just adjust to reflect the influx of new capital for the segment first-time buyer’s purchase. Ultimately, the only real limit is the amount that can be spent on servicing a mortgage. 

Holt’s right, the Federal government is very confusing when it comes to housing policy. If you wanted a perfect plan to increase home prices, you would create new demand, incentivize it, and then increase its leverage. Examples would be something like increasing immigration, giving tax breaks for one specific segment of investing, and increasing leverage for just that segment. 

Why does that sound familiar? 

Anyway, home prices can’t rise forever since eventually it creates systemic issues that result in more permanent economic damage. However, home prices can climb until it hits that point with reckless policy.

28 Comments

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  • Oldguy 10 months ago

    On reading the Scotiabank report, it twists itself in knots trying to explain what is going on in Canada in terms of relatively conventional economic thinking. It would, I think, be much easier to understand what Trudeau is up to if we accept the more honest explanation: classic redistributive socialism. Plain and simple. The only questions are if and when enough Canadians will get fed up with living in a socialist paradise. Don’t hold your breath.

  • Ashwin 10 months ago

    Just a theory but I feel the incentivizing of the FHSA is not going to mean much because a fire needs oxygen which in this case is real income, not credit. Unless they have a new 50 year mortgage product, or private mortgages that continue giving million dollar mortgages to Uber drivers, finding qualified mortgage applicants would be a problem in this market. Increasing home and rental prices will just divert more capital and strangle an economy already on life support.

  • Basil 10 months ago

    Canada needs immigrants. Or rather their savings, their tuition fees, their investor visa payments, their real estate investments and, last but not least, whatever they have to launder.
    Without those streams of income Canada would go bust pronto, along with its educational institutions, high employment, expensive rents and real estate prices.
    Alas, Canada today is like an impoverished nobleman running Bed and Breakfast in a dilapidated family mansion. He may hold his nose and despise the guests but he understands that it is the only way to stay afloat.

  • Kim 10 months ago

    I’m not surprised that they come up with some piece like this.
    In preparation of taking the next group of buyers to slaughter for a mini housing bump.

  • Kennet 10 months ago

    Nice industry Ad. What about interest rates and high unemployment in the recession that is occuring?!

  • Jason Balewski 10 months ago

    As a Reator in the GTA I will tell you bidding wars are back, at least right now in the lower GTA. 2 weeks ago it was non existent for the most part, then it did at 180 like that. Bidding will become common place like in the last couple of years in a few months maybe less. I’m seeing it from KWC, Mississauga, Toronto to Durham. Northern GTA hasn’t gotten there yet…

  • John 10 months ago

    No one, I mean No One in any level of government are wilfully do something against the real estate in Canada. Simply because if you start implementing new rules or new taxes into this sector, Voters will definitely vote against YOU on the next elections. It’s about politics.

  • S.R. 10 months ago

    Multiple offers are back in Vancouver, even with much higher rates and rampant inflation. This will lead the BOC to raise rates by the end of Summer. Anyone buying now should be prepared to pay more in six months. I would love feedback, do you agree or disagree.

  • Matteo 10 months ago

    Awesome aeticle. It explains perfectly what I’ve been feeling as an immigrant for the past 7 years.

  • Scott Henderson 10 months ago

    Housing will rocket higher.
    Naysayers have no credibility.

  • Shandawg 10 months ago

    Lots of mortgages still coming due at a much higher rates. A recession on the horizon and housing prices are still going to go up ? Not for long .

  • Tara 10 months ago

    Let’s just ignore the actual problems, a generation that used their homes as their retirement fund, the commodification of housing in the form of private landlords and REITS, the shift from purpose built rental housing to corporations simply buying up single home housing stock at market rates and then tacking on rental profit (which is also the large driver behind what’s wrong with the rental market right now), and blame everything on individual Canadians wanting to own their own home (how dare they) and that age-old scape goat immigration (which is to address a problem that everyone knew was coming for more than two decades and refused to acknowledge, our readjusted birth rates after the baby boom).

    This article is everything that’s wrong with our housing system and in a wider sense our financial system as a whole.

    • Tia Wolfe 10 months ago

      No, poor literacy is what’s wrong with the financial system as a whole. The article is about a bank telling investors why they see higher prices.

      I know communists think if you hide a problem it doesn’t exist, but that’s not how the rest of the market works. Now go back to being tricked by real estate developers claiming there’s no concrete to build houses, so you need to give them a tax break.

  • Yoroshiku 10 months ago

    The federal government does not want a housing collapse. So it would rather re-inflate the bubble and get the bubble inflating again than let higher interest rates deflate it any further. It’s very irresponsible but Canada’s economy is highly dependent on housing.

  • Rob Perry 10 months ago

    Good article. To bad the federal government can’t stop stealing the bright minds and putting them behind a desk producing nothing. Let the private sector produce the jobs and bring immigrants too fill if needed.

  • RWZM 10 months ago

    Referring to the Canadian government as “The Fed” is needlessly confusing in an article that discusses Central banks.

    • Frank 10 months ago

      Actually, I agree.

    • Hj 10 months ago

      Agreed

    • Timmie O'Toole 10 months ago

      In the US the Fed is the Federal Reserve, and the Feds are the FBI. In Canada the Feds are the Federal Government.

      Surprisingly nicknames mean different things in different countries.

  • Kash 10 months ago

    Someone milking the cow again!!!

  • Butwhytharum 10 months ago

    It’s almost as if the author is doing it on purpose as a propaganda hit piece so people will turn on the central bank to leverage themselves into oblivion to own a rental property.

  • CD 10 months ago

    We’re currently looking to buy in NS and it’s brutal. Seven offers on a fixer upper and the only edge we have is offering 20% down.

    There are still investors trying to outbid families for flips or airbnbs. Even despite telecom and grocery prices, I’ve never felt more let down by the government who let this predatory buying go on and on.

    • Kevin 10 months ago

      Banks and government were making money hand over fist,this out of control bus could have been stopped well before where we are at now. Time to make new cities for the young and first time buyers, give free land to young families give them a future they can actually obtain without being a slave

  • J Dow 10 months ago

    Indeed. The Fed refers to the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Canadian federal government can be referred to as the Feds. Though in this context use of either is unnecessarily confusing. Small distinction but that’s the way it’s been for decades.

    • Terrance Yu 10 months ago

      No, the “Feds” are the FBI in the US. Canada is a different country, with different government and slang. The Bureau also refers the FBI and Census Bureau, the US version of StatCan.

      Wild, right? It’s like the US is a whole different country or something.

  • AJ 10 months ago

    I read some articles , including some by Joseph Barbuto, that the recession is imminent and that the housing prices will crash after 2025 to sync up with real wages.
    I agree because like you said the immigrants are under employed on low wages, to be able to afford the homes at the current prices.

  • Dennis_K 10 months ago

    When reading stuff like this, it makes me wonder who exactly is driving the government’s decisions on policies related to housing affordability, given the BoC’s own research showing it’s a folly relative to the government’s stated intentions? What’s the end-game here, and why? How will the effectiveness be gauged, and who will be held to account should it fail to meet expectations?

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