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TD Canadian Housing Foecast Update

The COVID-19 pandemic has rippled across all segments of the economy, and of course, real estate has not been spared. The virus has put housing markets across the country in a deep freeze, with both buyers and sellers moving to the sidelines, awaiting the COVID-19 storm to pass. We got our first taste of the impacts of the virus in March, as Canadian home sales plunged in 14% m/m while listings were off by 13% m/m (Chart 1). And that result was recorded despite a strong first half of the month prior to the enforcement of containment measures. High frequency data points to another dramatic leg down in major markets so far in April.

The drivers of the demand decline are numerous: Social distancing is a prime culprit, as virtual tours struggle to replace in-home viewings.

Deep, historic job losses are another. On this front, most of the job declines observed during March were in lower wage industries, where homeownership rates are probably lower (Chart 2). This likely softened some of the fallout to ownership housing demand.

Collapsing equity markets have eroded an important source of down payments. This is particularly true for first-time homebuyers, who disproportionately rely on personal savings to fund their down payments. In addition, the nosedive in oil prices is a terrible development for incomes in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Stalled population growth will test the resilience of investors whose units will be completed soon, as the pool of potential renters will shrink in the near-term. This could force some selling pressure.