The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has bumped up its recession prediction. Previously, the bank suggested that the Canadian economy might experience a moderate contraction in 2023. But in a report published on October 12, experts are now saying that Canadians should expect the recession to hit in the first quarter of the new year.
The exact date remains vague as experts have difficulty nailing down when a country enters a recession. Most define it as two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product. A more obvious sign is a surge in unemployment.
But what does a recession mean for cottage owners? According to Claire Fan, an RBC economist and one of the authors of the report, it could make owning a cottage more expensive.
Canada’s inflation rate remains aggressively high, sitting at seven per cent. This means that demand is still outpacing supply. The Bank of Canada is working to lower inflation to two per cent by raising interest rates. On September 7, the bank raised its policy interest rate to 3.25 per cent.
This makes it more expensive for Canadians to borrow money, including cottage mortgages. Whether a cottager’s mortgage payments will be impacted during the recession depends on the type of mortgage they’ve taken out, Fan says.
“A fixed-rate mortgage would see a much smaller impact from rising interest rates than a variable mortgage,” she says. This is because a fixed-rate mortgage is locked in for a certain number of years at a set interest rate, keeping monthly payments consistent. Whereas the monthly payments for a variable mortgage fluctuate with the Bank of Canada’s interest rates. However, a cottager with a fixed-rate mortgage could see a significant jump in their payments if their contract comes up for renewal when interest rates are still high.
Presently, there are no signs of interest rates going down. RBC says it expects the Bank of Canada to raise its policy interest rate to four per cent before the end of the year as it continues to fight inflation.
The rising interest rates are having a cooling effect on Canada’s real estate market, including cottages. After the cottage real estate boom of 2020 and 2021, high mortgage rates are starting to slow sales.
According to RBC, property resale across Canada has dropped by 36 per cent since February. Despite the drop, cottage prices remain similar to their 2021 levels. But RBC says it expects the nationwide benchmark property price to drop 14 per cent by next spring. This could make it a good time to buy a cottage, if you can qualify for a mortgage.
Besides higher mortgage rates and a slower real estate market, a recession could also make day-to-day purchases more expensive for cottagers. Fan says the high inflation rate is putting price pressure on everyday goods, such as food and gas. If it costs $100 in gas to drive to the cottage, owners may reconsider the trip.
Plus, RBC says that between interest and inflation rates, the average household’s purchasing power is expected to decline by $3,000 in 2023. Purchasing power is the amount of goods and services a household can buy based on their income. “If a household buys the same things again next year, how much more would it cost? And if their debt levels stay fixed at where they are today, how much more could they be expected to pay for those liabilities?” Fan says. To calculate this decline in purchasing power, RBC looks at the inflation forecast and the average household’s gross disposable income.
Another recession issue cottage owners need to be aware of is job loss. RBC predicts that the jobless rate will reach seven per cent by the end of 2023. If a cottage owner lost their job, it could make it difficult to afford mortgage payments. However, thanks to an excess of job openings caused by the pandemic, RBC expects job loss to be moderate in 2023 compared to past recessions.
All this to say, the recession won’t be distributed equally, leaving some cottagers unaffected. “This will weigh most heavily on Canadians at the lower end of the wealth spectrum, particularly those whose disposable income has faded alongside pandemic support,” RBC says.