TORONTO (Reuters) - A growing majority of Canadians do not intend to buy a house in the next two years, even with mortgage rates near record lows, according to a Royal Bank of Canada survey released on Thursday.
In RBC's annual poll of Canadian homeowners, 73 percent of respondents said they are unlikely to buy within the next two years, an increase of 2 percent over the previous year's survey.
However, 46 percent of those polled expected mortgage rates to stay at ultra-low levels next year, up sharply from 30 percent in 2011. The poll also found that nearly 60 percent felt this year was a good time to buy a house, compared to 41 percent that felt 2013 would be better.
"Canadians still feel confident about real estate but are a little uncertain about where the market is heading and when it makes sense to buy," said Marcia Moffat, head of home equity financing at RBC.
Moffat added that considerations such as affordability may be keeping potential home buyers on the sidelines.
Canadian policymakers and economists have fretted about rising housing prices as household debt levels have soared. The ratio of debt to personal disposable income hit a record 151.9 percent last year.
The market has been sustained by ultra-low interest rates since the financial crisis began in 2008. The Bank of Canada is widely expected to keep its main policy rate at the current 1 percent until the third quarter of 2013 as global economic growth remains subdued.
Earlier this week, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney warned that household spending relies too much on low borrowing rates and the high value of homes, which prompted traders to increase bets on a rate hike in late 2012.
Recent industry data showed overall home prices rose just 0.1 percent in January from December, but were up 6.5 percent from a year earlier.
In the RBC poll, 68 percent of homeowners said the value of their home had increased in the last two years, but only 47 percent expected prices to be higher a year from now.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid between January 24 and 30.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson