Is Canada's Booming Commercial Real Estate Market Facing a Slowdown?

Is Canada's Booming Commercial Real Estate Market Facing a Slowdown?
May 9, 2024

The commercial real estate (CRE) market in Canada, particularly office spaces, is facing some challenges. This is due to a combination of factors, including rising borrowing costs and a decrease in demand for office space. In major cities, vacancy rates for downtown office buildings have reached as high as 20%.

While this might sound concerning, it's important to understand the bigger picture.  Financial institutions like banks, insurance companies, and pension funds are all involved in the CRE market, either by lending money or owning properties directly. So, how much risk does this pose to the financial system?

Breaking Down the Exposures

Source: BoC

The good news is that the risk isn't concentrated in one place. Large banks have about 10% of their total loans tied up in commercial real estate, while smaller banks have around 20%.  However, it's important to note that this number can vary significantly between smaller lenders. For comparison, in the United States, smaller banks are typically exposed to CRE at more than double the rate of Canadian banks.

When it comes to the office sub-sector, exposure is even lower. Large banks typically only have 1-2% of their loans tied up in office space, with only a few exceptions.

Non-Bank Involvement

While getting a clear picture of non-bank involvement in CRE is a bit trickier, Statistics Canada reports that roughly half of all non-residential mortgages in Canada are held by institutions other than banks and credit unions.

Insurance and Pension Funds

Canada's biggest life insurance companies have about 12% of their total assets invested in global commercial real estate, with 70% of that being in commercial mortgages. Pension funds invest a slightly higher portion (15%) of their assets in CRE, but focus more on owning properties directly rather than lending money.

The good news for these long-term investors is that they are built to weather ups and downs.  Their diverse portfolios help offset losses in any one area, and their long investment horizons allow them to ride out temporary dips in value.  Additionally, Canadian CRE tends to be less leveraged compared to the US market, which provides further stability.

What to Watch For

While things seem stable for now, some pension funds and insurance companies have recently reduced the value of their CRE holdings. This suggests that the market slowdown might be impacting them more than initially thought. It's also important to remember that these adjustments may not fully reflect the recent decline in market value.

Key Takeaways

There are two main takeaways from all this:

  1. Risk is Spread Out: The risk from commercial real estate isn't concentrated in one area of the financial system, thanks to the involvement of various financial institutions.
  2. Large Institutions are Well-Positioned: Canada's biggest financial players generally have limited exposure to CRE due to their diversified holdings.

While the commercial real estate market undergoes adjustments, Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty remains committed to helping you navigate the ever-changing landscape. Our experienced agents possess a deep understanding of the local market and can guide you through informed decisions, whether you're a seasoned investor or a first-time buyer/seller. Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can help you achieve your real estate goals.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for personalized guidance.

Source: BoC

Subscribe to our email newsletter!

Thanks for joining our newsletter
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related posts

Left Arrow
Left Arrow
Right Arrow
Right Arrow