Friday, January 28, 2011

City of Vancouver Permit Update for 2010

I have been producing some graphs starting in early 2009 showing the trend of permits in the City of Vancouver (here and here). Here is an update to December, 2010.

Residential dwelling permits graphed since 2007:

Permits parsed for 1-2 dwelling units only (i.e. SFHs):Multi-unit building permits:

All permits' value, residential and commercial:


1. There was a significant, though not full, rebound in multi-unit permits in late 2009 and into 2010. This is commensurate with the rebound in construction employment coming out of the recession.
2. The detached market is extremely hot right now. This is evident through significant price appreciation of detached-zoned lots in the City, notably (but not exclusive to) the west side.
3. Detached permits have been falling significantly since mid-2010. Seasonality in permit applications cannot be discounted; I would not be surprised to see detached permit applications rebound going into the first half of 2011. A builder friend of mine claims the City's permit office has a backlog it's working through.
4. The building recession in late 2008 through mid-2009 is now bookended.
5. The data presented here show what a severe housing recession looks like and hint at how dependent the City is on sustained permit revenue to fund its operations.
6. The permit data are coincidental with faltering sales, however the permit data are released with about a month's delay; sales are available with virtually no delay thanks to paulb over at It's worth remembering that with housing markets, prices are a lagging indicator.
7. Laneway housing continued its upward trend. Builders and the permit department are likely becoming more familiar with the process and relevant codes (and likely fine-tuning it as they go). I would expect to see a continued increase in laneway housing permits, barring any major pullbacks in the availability of credit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teranet Index - November 2010


Third consecutive monthly price decline in November

Canadian home prices in November were down 0.2% from the previous month, according to the Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index™. This retreat followed monthly declines of 0.4% in October and 1.1% in September after a run of 16 consecutive increases. November prices were down from the previous month in four of the six metropolitan markets surveyed. Declines of 0.9% in Ottawa and 0.5% in Toronto were each the third in a row. The Calgary decline of 0.7% was the fourth in a row. Halifax prices were down 0.8%. Montreal prices were again flat from the month before. Prices in Vancouver were up 0.6%. After three consecutive months of decline in the composite index, Canadian home prices are still 4.8% above the pre-recession peak of August 2008.

Teranet – National Bank National Composite House Price Index™

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The November result was reflected in a further deceleration of the 12-month rise of the composite index, to 4.9%. It was the fifth consecutive month of deceleration, leaving the 12-month increase the smallest since December 2009. Market by market, the 12-month changes range quite widely: increases of 7.2% in Ottawa, 7.1% Montreal, 5.9% in Vancouver, 5.1% in Toronto and 2.7% in Halifax, with a decrease of 1.5% in Calgary.

Data from the Canadian Real Estate Association show generally balanced conditions in major urban markets in December. Toronto and Vancouver could even be considered sellers' markets.

Teranet – National Bank House Price Index™

The historical data of the Teranet – National Bank House Price Index™ is available at

Metropolitan areaIndex level
% change m/m% change y/y
Calgary154.21-0.7 %-1.5 %
Halifax127.91-0.8 %2.7 %
Montreal135.560.0 %7.1 %
Ottawa131.07-0.9 %7.2 %
Toronto124.21-0.5 %5.1 %
Vancouver155.900.6 %5.9 %
National Composite137.07-0.2 %4.9 %

The Teranet–National Bank House Price Index™ is estimated by tracking observed or registered home prices over time using data collected from public land registries. All dwellings that have been sold at least twice are considered in the calculation of the index. This is known as the repeat sales method; a complete description of the method is given at

The Teranet–National Bank House Price Index™ is an independently developed representation of average home price changes in six metropolitan areas: Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax. The national composite index is the weighted average of the six metropolitan areas. The weights are based on aggregate value of dwellings as retrieved from the 2006 Statistics Canada Census. According to that census1, the aggregate value of occupied dwellings in the metropolitan areas covered by the indices was $1.168 trillion, or 53% of the Canadian aggregate value of $2.207 trillion.

All indices have a base value of 100 in June 2005. For example, an index value of 130 means that home prices have increased 30% since June 2005.


Marc Pinsonneault
Senior Economist
Economy & Strategy Group
National Bank Financial Group

Teranet - National Bank House Price Index™ thanks the author for their special collaboration on this report.

1 Value of Dwelling for the Owner-occupied Non-farm, Non-reserve Private Dwellings of Canada.

Monday, January 17, 2011

CMHC Rules Tightened - A LIttle

The Harper Government Takes Prudent Action to Support the Long-Term Stability of Canada’s Housing Market

Related Document:
Backgrounder: Supporting the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market
The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, and the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources, today announced prudent adjustments to the rules for government-backed insured mortgages to support the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market and support hard-working Canadian families saving through home ownership.
“Canada’s well-regulated housing sector has been an important strength that allowed us to avoid the mistakes of other countries and helped protect us from the worst of the recent global recession,” said Minister Flaherty. “The prudent measures announced today build on that advantage by encouraging hard-working Canadian families to save by investing in their homes and future.”

“The economy continues to be our Government’s top priority,” continued Minister Paradis. “Our Government will continue to take the necessary actions to ensure stability and economic certainty in Canada’s housing market.”
The new measures:
  • Reduce the maximum amortization period to 30 years from 35 years for new government-backed insured mortgages with loan-to-value ratios of more than 80 per cent. This will significantly reduce the total interest payments Canadian families make on their mortgages, allow Canadian families to build up equity in their homes more quickly, and help Canadians pay off their mortgages before they retire.
  • Lower the maximum amount Canadians can borrow in refinancing their mortgages to 85 per cent from 90 per cent of the value of their homes. This will promote saving through home ownership and limit the repackaging of consumer debt into mortgages guaranteed by taxpayers.
  • Withdraw government insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes, such as home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs. This will ensure that risks associated with consumer debt products used to borrow funds unrelated to house purchases are managed by the financial institutions and not borne by taxpayers.
Our Government’s ongoing monitoring and sound underlying supervisory regime, along with the traditionally cautious approach taken by Canadian financial institutions to mortgage lending, have allowed Canada to maintain strong and secure housing and mortgage markets.
The adjustments to the mortgage insurance guarantee framework will come into force on March 18, 2011. The withdrawal of government insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes will come into force on April 18, 2011.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Psychology of a Bubble

I stumbled upon this excellent post on the Irvine Housing Blog.
I suggest reading through when you have a few moments to review some of the important markers of a bubble market, how people rationalize purchasing in a bubble, and how it always ends.
Here is a great quote and some useful visuals:
The efficient markets theory does explain the behavior of asset prices in a typical market, but when price change begins to feedback on itself, behavioral finance is the only theory that explains this phenomenon. There is often a precipitating factor causing the break with the normal pattern and releasing the tether from fundamental valuations. During the Great Housing Bubble, the primary precipitating factor was the lowering of interest rates. The precipitating factor simply acts as a catalyst to get prices moving. Once a directional bias is in place, then price-to-price feedback can take over. The perception of fundamental valuation is based solely on the expectation of future price increases, and the asset is always perceived to be undervalued. There are often brave and foolhardy attempts to justify these valuations and provide a rationalization for irrational behavior. Many witnessing the event assume the “smart money” must know something, and there is a widespread belief prices could not rise so much without a good reason. Herd mentality takes over.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Greater Vancouver Sales Data Update

I've compiled a graph of sales in the REBGV (Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver) over the past 12 years.

2010 was a below-average year for sales but not significantly so. As with 2009 there was a surge in Q4 sales that helped muster some respectability to the sales levels. 2011 starts anew; as a friend from Australia recently commented, the markets in Canada and Australia are drifting into uncharted waters.

Happy New Year