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BMO Unveils Canadian Housing Outlook for 2013

Experts from BMO, RE/MAX, Canadian Homebuilders' Association Offer Insights on National, Regional Trends and Advice for Buyers and Sellers

TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 01/11/13 -- Experts on the Canadian housing market from BMO Financial Group and the industry participated in the inaugural BMO Housing Panel for 2013 to discuss the past year and provide their outlook over the next 12 months.

The first BMO Housing Panel of the New Year kicks off a series of national and regional updates from BMO throughout the coming year.

According to Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets, after a decade-long boom, the so-called soft landing appears to be underway in most regions; the expectation is that this trend will continue into 2013.

"Home sales and housing starts will continue to moderate and prices will generally stabilize in most regions in 2013," noted Mr. Guatieri. "In the year ahead, the housing market will be supported by moderate job growth, steady immigration, growing demand from echo boomers entering their prime first-time home buying years, and a gradual shift toward more single-person households."

He added that the real estate market will benefit from continued low interest rates with the Bank of Canada likely on hold for another year and the U.S. Federal Reserve's quantitative easing keeping a lid on longer-term mortgage rates.

Mr. Guatieri also noted that Alberta - particularly Calgary - and Saskatchewan could buck the national trend and see higher prices due to continued healthy economic growth and wage increases. Meanwhile, pricier Toronto and Vancouver are likely to have a bumpier landing than most other regions, with prices declining moderately.

Alberta Leads the Way

Charron Ungar, President, Canadian Homebuilders' Association - Calgary Region, further underscored the strength of the Alberta market.

"Calgary and the Alberta market are looking quite positive, with the region leading the country in economic growth over the next year and continuing into the future," noted Mr. Ungar. "And despite the continuing strength, we still have a high level of affordability in Calgary, although that may begin to change over time."

However, Mr. Ungar added that Calgary continues to attract workers from all over Canada and the rest of the world.

"We're looking at an expected net migration numbers of 18,000 people coming into Calgary this year. By 2017, just under 120,000 people will have chosen to call Calgary home," said Mr. Ungar. "Those numbers are staggering for our marketplace, and we are going to face some challenges in housing supply."

Affordability and Consumer Preference

Conrad Zurini, Broker of Record, RE/MAX Escarpment Realty, said affordability is in question in major cities including Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, with first-time buyers likely staying out of the market for the first half of the year.

Mr. Zurini added that those looking to upgrade will still dominate, given lower interest rates. "People who are into walking, lifestyle and entertainment, the farm-to-table trend and buying local are going to fuel that market for the first half of the year.

"These consumers are all about amenities and lifestyle - they're very established economically," said Mr. Zurini.

According to Mr. Zurini, consumers buying for the first time will likely look to other cities in search of greater value.

"These buyers move with opportunity, following employment, and searching out homes with their desired space, ultimately single-family residential homes," said Zurini. "In 2013, consumers will be paying close attention to the investment side of their buying decision."

Mortgage and Financing Advice

John Turner, National Director, Specialized Lending, BMO Bank of Montreal, outlined a number of factors buyers should keep in mind for financing the purchase of a home.

"The pre-approved process remains a very important keystone in the home buying process, whether you're a first time homebuyer or a move-up buyer," noted Mr. Turner. "Generally speaking, most folks will need to borrow most of the purchase price of the home, so getting a pre-approved mortgage is a smart thing to do even before the home search starts."

Mr. Turner added that the down payment buyers are able to afford is another important aspect, and that there are strategies buyers should put in place to ensure they can maximize that amount - ultimately lowering their overall housing costs.

"There are a number of different strategies to save for a down payment. With RRSPs, for instance, customers can withdraw up to $25,000 for the purchase of a home," said Mr. Turner.

Mr. Turner also mentioned that consumers that pay off their debt quicker pay less interest, and that most mortgages have options embedded in them that help to save money in this way.

"At BMO, we've been encouraging customers to take a shorter amortization for some time," said Mr. Turner. "In addition, rates are as low as they've ever been, so it's certainly a good time to take advantage of this to pay off your debt sooner so you can retire comfortably and with as little debt as possible."

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 $525 billion as at October 31, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

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