Half of sidelined homebuyers waiting for interest rate cuts to resume their purchase plans

Realtor and young couple flipping through booklet in modern kitchen

The increased cost of borrowing over the last two years has forced millions of Canadians to reconsider or readjust their plans to purchase a home. Since the Bank of Canada began raising its key lending rate in March of 2022, more than a quarter of the country’s adult population (27%) has been active in the market, and more than half of them (56%) say they’ve been forced to postpone their property search as a result of rising interest rates, according to a recent Royal LePage survey, conducted by Leger.1

With the rate of inflation having come down over the past year, close to the desired 2% target, it is expected that the Bank of Canada will make its first cut to the overnight lending rate later this year – a welcome relief for variable-rate mortgage holders and those who have been forced to put off their home buying plans. Among those who have had to postpone their purchase, 51% say they will resume their search if interest rates reverse – 10% say a mere 25-basis-point-drop will prompt them to jump back in, 18% say they are waiting for a cut of 50 to 100 basis points, and 23% say they need to see a cut of more than 100 basis points before they will consider resuming their search.

“Following the first rate hold by the Bank of Canada in March of last year, we saw an immediate surge of activity in the market as consumer confidence strengthened. I expect a similar wave of buyer demand at the first indication that highly-anticipated cuts by the central bank are on the horizon,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO, Royal LePage. “Buyer behaviour is strongly linked to their confidence that the home they want to buy today will not be less expensive tomorrow. We expect the spring will mark that pivotal moment.”

One fifth (20%) of sidelined buyers say they no longer plan to purchase a home, while another 12% say they are prepared to jump back in if the BoC’s key lending rate remains unchanged.

Among those who plan to re-enter the market once rates come down, 44% intend to obtain a four-year or five-year fixed-rate mortgage, the most popular mortgage type and term in Canada. That’s double the number of respondents who say they will choose a variable-rate mortgage (22%). Another 12% say they will obtain a short-term fixed-rate mortgage.

“In the first few weeks of the year, we have seen activity pick up in markets large and small, right across the country. Appointment bookings, property showings and requests for mortgage pre-approval through our lending partners are all up sharply. Our people on the front lines report that today’s real estate consumers are well informed, watching trends and fully prepared to engage when they perceive conditions are improved,” added Soper.

Of those who have postponed their home buying plans due to rising interest rates, 65% remain engaged in the home buying process. This includes those who are casually browsing listings (39%), continuing to save for a down payment (19%), have applied for a mortgage pre-approval (12%) or have obtained a mortgage pre-approval (7%). However, some have disengaged from the home shopping process entirely – 26% of respondents say that they have abandoned their home buying plans for the time being. 

The Bank of Canada’s overnight lending rate currently sits at 5.0%. The next interest rate announcement is scheduled for March 6th.2


1Royal LePage commissioned Leger to conduct an online survey among 1579 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, via Leger’s online panel, LEO. The data was collected from January 26 to 28, 2024. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (i.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 1579 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

2Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues quantitative tightening, January 24, 2024

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