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CMHC publishes the Canadian Housing Observer, as a detailed annual report on the state of the Canada’s residential real estate market.  The most recent edition has been released.  This free report gathers information from many sources and, while the information mostly confirms stories in the media, the more obscure bits of information may interest people in real estate.  They reveal the aspects of the story that the media either do not have time to report or do not understand the significance of.

For example, there is the usual stuff on demand and supply drivers, plus the state of the market.  There is also

  • a whole chapter on condominiums (Ch. 2)
  • an interesting discussion of “manufactured housing” (Ch. 7; most people think they exist only in the US and only in Tornado Alley.  It is also part of Canadian history, [1]  [2])
  • a section on “covered bonds” (Ch. 3; they are giving head-aches to policy makers)

Many facts represent either important trivia or facts that you can drop into a job interview (if timed appropriately) to show that you know more than is shown on your resume.  For example,

  • only 0.33 percent of Canadian mortgages are in arrears for 90 days or more (which is below the average for last 23 years (p. 1-4, figures 1-8, 3-3);
  • housing expenditure was 17.3% of GDP (p. 1-7; if there is a slowdown in housing, could you use this number to estimate the macroeconomic impact);
  • 35% of owner-occupied housing stock in Vancouver was condominiums in 2011; the highest of any city in Canada (p. 2-1);
  • the ratio of home equity to net worth (i.e. assets minus liabilities) bottomed in about 2000 and is now about 10 percentage points higher at about 35 percent (Figure 4-4);
  • if you hear that the “average price of a house in Canada has risen”, you should question the concept of an average (Figure 4-12);
  • the average discount negotiated by mortgage brokers on a five year fixed rate mortgage was 2.2 percentage points (p. 1-4) and is higher than last year;
  • a stunning decrease in household size from 3.5 in 1971 to about 2.5 now (Figure 5-5).

plus lots of tables in the Appendix.

The discussion in the Canadian Housing Observer should also raise lots of little puzzles: for example,

  • when distinguishing a “buyers market” vs. a “sellers market” why is it based on the sales-to-new-listing ratio (<40% vs. >55%) (Figure 4-10, p. 1-7)?  Notice that, in both cases, the ratio is way below 100 percent.  If you have any ideas, then we should talk since there is very little research on this topic;
  • the turnover of individuals in a state of “core housing need” may or may not be high, depending on what you think it should be: 64% remain from one year to the next (Figure 6-6, p. 1-11).  Most individuals remain in that state for only one year but not all; Figure 6-4 shows the persistence.