Understanding the Real Estate Conundrum: Rising Rates, Stubborn Prices


In the world of real estate, the dynamics between interest rates and
property prices have long been considered a seesaw – as rates go up,
prices come down, or so the conventional wisdom goes. However, recent
trends have defied this expectation, leaving many perplexed. In this article,
we delve into the intricacies of this apparent anomaly and uncover the
factors that continue to exert upward pressure on real estate prices, even
in the face of increasing borrowing costs.

1. Low Inventory and the Lock-In Effect

One key factor that has defied the traditional rate-price relationship is the
persistently low inventory in the real estate market. This shortage can be
attributed, in part, to the “lock-in effect.” Homeowners who have seen their
property values soar in recent years have amassed substantial equity.
While this might theoretically increase their buying power, a harsh reality
quickly dawns upon them. The homes they aspire to own have also
become considerably more expensive. Moreover, to purchase a new
property, they must relinquish their existing, ultra-low two percent
mortgage rates in favour of significantly higher ones. This harsh financial
trade-off often discourages homeowners from selling their current homes,
further exacerbating the inventory crunch.

2. Construction Lag

Another significant contributor to the persistently high real estate prices is
the construction lag. The news headlines frequently feature stories about a
shortage of new housing units. This scarcity can be attributed to various
factors, including the challenging and protracted approval process
developers face with local governments. Developers often must hold land
for an extended period, ranging from 1.5 to 4 years, before they can even
begin construction. Coupled with the increased cost of borrowing and the
rising overall construction expenses, the financial feasibility of new projects
is jeopardized. Many developers find it impossible to turn a profit, leading
them to shy away from new construction altogether.

3. Increased Immigration and Revenue Property Impact

The recent surge in immigration has had ripple effects on real estate,
particularly in the realm of revenue properties. While the impact of non-
resident buyers has been delayed until 2025 in Quebec, it has already
contributed to upward pressure on rents. Multifamily residential buildings
are experiencing low vacancy rates and increased rental revenues. This, in
turn, has led property owners to be less inclined to adjust their selling
prices. If they manage to sell at their desired price, it’s great! If not, they’re
content to retain their properties, given that they are generating higher
rental incomes than ever before. As a consequence, the volume of sales in
this segment has significantly decreased, and the properties that do sell
command healthy prices.

In conclusion, the relationship between interest rates and real estate prices
is more complex than it may seem at first glance. Various factors, including
the lock-in effect, construction lag, and increased immigration, have
combined to exert continued upward pressure on property prices, defying
the traditional expectations of a rate-driven price correction. Understanding
these factors is crucial for both industry professionals and prospective
buyers and sellers in navigating the ever-evolving real estate landscape.
While the market may not always adhere to conventional wisdom, a
deeper understanding can help individuals make informed decisions in
these challenging times.

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