A strengthening economic recovery and low interest rates will push Canadian housing prices to record highs as buyers flood the market, a new study says.
After jumping between 3.9 percent and 4.6 percent in the past three months, prices should continue a "moderate and steady climb" in many key housing markets, said Royal LePage, Canada's largest real estate company.
President and CEO Phil Soper said with interest rates "unsustainably low," there will be more price appreciation in the next six months before anticipated higher borrowing costs.
Any losses from the recession have been "fully recovered" and Royal LePage expects house prices nationally to rise 3 percent to a record average of $348,600 with a 2 percent drop in sales this year.
The largest increases will be in midsized urban centers with greater affordability, such as Winnipeg, St. John's and Fredericton, where two-story houses are still available for less than $300,000.
Most expensive is Vancouver, where an expected 3.7 percent increase will push the average house price to $699,000, while Toronto prices will jump only 1 percent to $435,300.
Other predictions: Calgary, up 5.4 percent to $421,500; Regina, 5 percent, $270,900; Winnipeg, 7 percent, $244,000; Montreal, 3 percent, $301,200; and Halifax, 3.8 percent, $262,000.
Parity of the dollar pushes prices up
With Canada's dollar again equal to the U.S. greenback, many people are wondering where to find the bargains.
The Consumers' Association of Canada said it has been deluged with hundreds of e-mails from Canadians upset about higher prices. Many people made a run to the U.S. border to shop for deals over the holidays and complain that books cost up to 50 percent more in Canada. Big-ticket items like cars and electronics cost more, too, said association spokesman Bruce Cran.
A lack of competition is blamed for some of the higher prices, while Jean-Francois Vinet of the Montreal-based Option Consommateurs said not much has changed.
Goods cost an average of 22 percent more in Canada even when the dollar reached parity with the U.S. currency three years ago, he said.
News in brief
• Nineteen Bell Canada call center workers in suburban Toronto have to wait for a lottery investigation to be completed before receiving their share of a tax-free cash prize of $50 million. Other co-workers have said they were part of the group and should receive a share of the Lotto Max prize, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. said. If the claim stands up, the 19 would receive $2.63 million each.
• The Canadian government has responded to "protectionist pressure" in the United States by giving money to pulp and paper mills to help compete. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a $278 million fund is helping with upgrades for companies producing black liquor. The chemical byproduct of paper production is used to generate renewable heat and power. U.S. companies receive subsidies for production.
Facts and figures
Canada's dollar remains above parity with the U.S. greenback at $1.0027, while the U.S. currency returns 99.73 cents Canadian before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is unchanged at 1 percent, while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,311 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 2,217 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 1, 3, 8, 12, 32, 47; bonus 19. (Jan. 1) 8, 15, 39, 44, 45, 49; bonus 29. Lotto Max: (Dec. 31) 2, 7, 10, 22, 32, 34, 38; bonus 1.
• Canada remains a favored place to visit by former U.S. politicians, including presidents and governors. The latest visitor will be former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will be in Calgary on Jan. 25. It's his first speaking engagement since leaving office Jan. 3. He will also speak in Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal this month.
• A New York City model/actor is accused of kidnapping a baby from a mother who thought she was at a casting call for a commercial in Toronto. Michelle Marie Gopaul, 24, was remanded to custody on Tuesday. The 1-month-old girl was taken by a woman who fled in a taxi. The infant was returned about 15 hours later "by a member of the public," police said.
• "Deadbeat" parents who refuse to pay child support in Prince Edward Island will face poor credit ratings under changes approved by the provincial government. This will allow officials to receive relevant information from debtors and report offenders to credit agencies. Similar action has been taken in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and the Yukon.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com.