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Should You Buy a Home in 2011?

Attractive mortgage rates lured more home buyers into the market in 2010. Doom and gloom predictions brought on by the HST, tighter mortgage rules and projected interest rate increases failed to materialize. 

While not all housing markets experienced the best of times, overall, real estate investors didn’t experience the free fall that many had feared.

What are forecasters predicting in 2011?

Real Estate Organizations

The very nature of real estate organizations tends to favour more optimistic housing forecasts. According to a report by a national real estate sales brand and reported by the Globe and Mail, mid-size cities will see positive housing sales activity in 2011, led by Winnipeg.

The Canadian Real Estate Organization (CREA) predicted in June, 2010 that this year’s home sales activity will decline slightly – dragged down by Ontario and B.C.  However, it also predicts modest housing price increases for all except these provinces. The downside of rising prices, says CREA, is that many potential buyers will be priced out of the market.

Home sellers in smaller markets may benefit from the migration of buyers from expensive urban centres to more affordable neighborhoods.

Financial Institutions

TD Bank changed its forecast mid-way through last year from predicting a 1.7 percent gain in home prices to a 2.7 percent decline. Its report concurred with that of CREA, suggesting Ontario and B.C. prices would see the greatest declines.  In late December, TD adjusted its forecast again – issuing a more rosy outlook for 2011 and a decline in resale home prices of less than 1 percent.

Last month, Scotiabank Global Real Estate Trends listed Canada as one of the best-performing real estate markets in its study of twelve advanced nations in 2010. The report also suggests that global economies are showing signs of stabilizing.

The report predicts a flattening of Canadian home prices in the coming year; attempts by public sector agencies at fiscal restraint, combined with the burden of consumer debt, will dampen employment and discretional spending among Canadians.

Beyond 2011

While forecasters agree that borrowing rates are likely to remain low – at least until mid 2011, rate hikes are inevitable as the global economy wakes up – and it’s already twitching.

This isn’t a good scenario for the amateur investor; the days of making huge short-term gains in real estate investments are over, for now. However, if you’re in the market for a long-term investment, buying in at a low interest rate can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your mortgage.

From all economic indicators, it appears that higher interest rates are on the way in 2012.

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