Invest in real estate and in your kids

Posted on 09. May, 2010 by in General

Garry Marr, Financial Post Published: Friday, May 07, 2010

Here’s one way to tackle the red-hot Canadian housing market: Get someone to buy you a home.

That someone would be your parents. According to a new survey from TD Canada Trust, 10% of Canadians are considering buying a condominium for their adult children. A year ago, only 5% of parents thought about buying the kids a condo.

“It could be something that the parents are looking at as a long-term source of income, letting their children live it in for now,” says Chris Wisniewski, associate vice-president of real estate and secured lending with TD.

It could also be that parents know condominium prices, like detached homes, have climbed to unprecedented levels, making it difficult for adult children to come up with a minimum 5% down payment, let alone the 20% needed to avoid costly mortgage default insurance.

Toronto condo research firm Urbanation Inc. says the average existing condominium in the city sold for $331,000 in the first quarter of 2010. Based on an average $369-per-square-foot price, that’s a 900-square-foot unit.

For a new one, prices averaged $443 per square foot in the first quarter, so about $400,000 for that same-sized condo.

Ms. Wisniewski says low interest rates are convincing parents to step up and buy their children homes. The condominium represents an attractive alternative to those parents because the costs are stable.

“They know what the maintenance costs will be,” she says. “[Parents] are thinking, ‘I’m not worried my children are too young to accept the responsibilities of home ownership if I set them up in an apartment. They don’t have to recognize the responsibilities of maintenance in an apartment.’ ”

Parents might also see a condominium as a way to get their kids to start a family. The survey found 36% of Canadians are willing to raise families in a condo.

“One of the reasons for that is affordability,” says Ms. Wisniewski. “Where are the new condominiums being built? They are being integrated in really nice existing neighbourhoods with all the infrastructure and all the schools and amenities.”

Brian Johnston, president of developer Monarch Corp.’s Canadian division, says he doubts families will ever be integrated into the condominium stock, but does agrees with the premise that parents are helping to buy housing for their children. He says parents often want to keep children close to them so they’ll chip in for a condominium in a nearby neighbourhood.

“How do we know they’re helping out? They tell us when they are writing the cheques for the deposit,” Mr. Johnston says.

Mr. Johnston said when it comes to recent immigrants to Canada, there is “lots of help” from family members to get that first home. “Condominiums are not inexpensive and they’re going to need that help, particularly if the younger ones have not had time to build up their finances.”

The builder has his own children and, based on today’s prices, he figures he’s going to have to lend a helping hand. “I don’t expect them to be able to buy a condo … before they are 30. That is just part of the deal [for parents],” says Mr. Johnston.

It’s not like Baby Boomers don’t have the cash. There have been endless studies that suggest the Boomers are set to inherit billions of dollars in the coming years from their parents.

Craig Alexander, deputy chief economist with TD Bank Financial Group, says there is no hard data to suggest how much parents are helping children, but they certainly have the financial capacity to lend a hand.

Canadians have $1.5-trillion invested in stocks and mutual funds with $500-billion of that figure in capital gains.

“The generation before the Baby Boomers were big savers and, as a consequence, there is a very large income transfer going to take place over time,” says Mr. Alexander, adding it makes sense that some of that money is going to end up in housing and real estate.

For first-time buyers facing rising rates and increasing prices, the helping hand couldn’t come at a better time – just ahead of tighter mortgage financing rules. Most of them probably hope their folks go from “considering” buying a condo to actually doing it.

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