BMO Financial Group

BMO Financial Group

April 24, 2012 11:26 ET

BMO U.S. Housing Report: Time to Buy?

- Latest figures show the waiting game could be over in regions with low foreclosure rates as improving conditions poised to put a floor under prices in some states this year

- Demand being driven by firmer job growth and good affordability

- BMO survey shows 16 per cent of Canadians would consider purchasing a home or property south of the border

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 24, 2012) - While the jury remains out on whether house prices will stop falling this year despite the improved economic backdrop, the waiting game for those interested in buying U.S. real estate in select regions could be at an end, according to a new report from BMO Economics.

"While there's little urgency, now is likely a good time to buy U.S. real estate in regions with relatively low foreclosure rates, as conditions should improve enough to put a floor under prices this year," said Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "The inventory overhang has ebbed, prices are low, and some pent-up demand exists. However, patience is a virtue for bargain hunters in areas saddled with distressed properties."

According to the report:

  • The U.S. housing market remains soft, but prices are likely to stabilize in 2013
  • Single-family home sales - while up six per cent in the past year to Q1 - remain eight per cent below their two-decade average
  • Demand should improve on firmer job growth, improved affordability and easier lending standards

"With mortgage rates at record lows and resale prices down 34 per cent from the peak, only 12 per cent of gross median family income is needed to finance the purchase of a typical house - nearly half the long-term norm," noted Mr. Guatieri. "In fact, it's cheaper to own than rent in many regions."

Furthermore, the report notes that first-time buyers account for just one-third of home sales, compared with the 40 per cent-plus norm, implying pent-up demand from this important cohort.

According to a BMO survey:

  • Nearly two-in-ten (16 per cent) Canadians would consider purchasing a home south of the border
  • Half (56 per cent) would do so to gain a vacation or secondary property, while 44 per cent cite affordability and one-third its attractiveness as a long-term investment (29 per cent)

"Canadians looking to buy U.S. property should consider partnering with a U.S. financial institution, preferably a Canadian-based bank with branches south of the border, to finance the new purchase," said Laura Parsons, BMO Mortgage Expert. "For real estate, having expertise at the local level is always the best approach, as conditions and trends can vary drastically from one location to the next."

Ms. Parsons noted that BMO customers can visit a BMO Harris Bank branch in the U.S., which has locations in Illinois, Indiana, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin. "Having a Canadian partner can provide a clear understanding of the differences between Canadian and U.S. financing, which can save a lot of time and headache during the home buying process," added Ms. Parsons.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $538 billion as at January 31, 2012, and more than 47,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

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