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HomeFinanceHousing market will see 'staggered' return of buyers: RBC

Housing market will see ‘staggered’ return of buyers: RBC

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Homebuyers are unlikely to flood back into the housing market this spring; rather their return will be “staggered” over the second half of the year, says one economist.

Some observers have forecast a busy spring season, as buyers, heartened by the prospect of Bank of Canada interest rate cuts, rush back to the market.

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Robert Hogue, assistant chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada, however, believes it will take a series of rate cuts before many are ready to take the plunge.

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Mortgage rates will need to come down substantially before they get the “green signal,” Hogue said in a recent interview with the Financial Post’s Larysa Harapyn.

“We’re likely to see a bit more activity going forward, but more of a gradual ramp-up as opposed to a sharp snap-back this spring,” he said.

Hogue expects more sellers, who exited the market in the fall because of lower prices, to return in the spring.

In Vancouver new listings were up 31 per cent in February from the year before, and total listings climbed 16 per cent, according to data from Greater Vancouver Realtors.

“A key dynamic we’ve been watching this year has been the reluctance of some homeowners to list their homes given that mortgage rates are the highest they’ve been in over 10 years,” Andrew Lis, GVR’s director of economics and data analytics, said in an interview with the Financial Post’s Shantaé Campbell.

After declining for five months, Canadian home prices have started to stabilize. The benchmark home price of $719,400 in February remained unchanged from the previous month, according to the latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association.

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Hogue believes this could signal the cyclical bottom for home prices, but he doesn’t think they will ramp up rapidly from here on. Instead of a sharp climb, he sees prices drifting higher gradually, along with market activity.

“The correction phase may be over, and the next phase of it will depend on the perceptions and confidence or anticipation that things could get hotter,” he said.

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Hogue added that he doesn’t foresee mortgage renewals bringing on a wave of distressed sellers.

“Most sellers are in a good position to get the price that they want. They’re not forced into selling,” he said.

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