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Toronto house sales offset B.C. declines – nearly


March 15, 2010
By Andy Bateman

March 15, 2010 – According to statistics released by The Canadian Real
Estate Association, seasonally adjusted national home sales totalled 42,799
units in February 2010, edging down 1.5 per cent from January. 

Activity declined mostly in Vancouver,
but this was offset by an equally large gain in Toronto. Sales were also down in a number of
other British Columbia
housing markets. Since there were no significant gains in sales activity
elsewhere in Canada,
the national figure for sales activity was pulled slightly lower.

“The Olympic Winter Games may have impacted February sales activity in British Columbia, so
activity for the province in March will be closely watched,” said CREA
President Dale Ripplinger. “Activity is expected to remain elevated in Ontario and British
Columbia over the first half of the year, with buyers
looking to beat the introduction of the HST and expected interest rate hikes.”

Across the country, actual (not seasonally adjusted) residential sales
activity numbered 36,275 units in February, up 44 per cent from the same month
last year. New records for February activity were set in Ontario
and Quebec.
The year-over-year gain in national activity was smaller than those of the
previous three months. Since a year will soon have elapsed following the
recessionary decline and subsequent rebound for the Canadian resale market,
year-over-year comparisons are expected to continue shrinking.

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The average price of all homes sold through Boards’ MLS® Systems in
February 2010 was $335,655, up 18.2 per cent from one year ago. As with sales
activity, this gain was smaller than in the past four months, and
year-over-year gains are expected to become further subdued going forward.

The price trend is similar but less dramatic for the national weighted
average price, which compensates for changes in provincial sales activity by
taking into account provincial proportions of privately owned housing stock. It
climbed 15.6 per cent on a year-over-year basis in February 2010.

The residential average price in Canada’s major markets was up 18.7
per cent year-over-year in February. As with the national counterpart, the
price trend is similar but less dramatic for the major market weighted average
price, which rose 14.7 per cent from levels reported in February 2009.

The seasonally adjusted number of new listings on Boards’ MLS® Systems
across Canada
climbed another 2.4 per cent on a month-over-month basis in February to reach
73,849 units, the highest level since October 2008. Five consecutive monthly
increases have lifted new listings 16.3 per cent above where they stood last
September, when they had fallen to the lowest level since late 2005. As with
sales activity, new listings in February 2010 were up most in Ontario
and down most in British Columbia.
The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of new residential listings was
71,197 in February, up 10.8 per cent from one year ago.

Strong resale housing demand continues to draw down inventories, but
supply is shrinking at a decreasing rate because of slightly softer sales
activity and an increase in new listings in recent months. There were 188,334
homes listed for sale on Boards’ MLS® Systems in Canada at the end of February 2010,
a decline of 15.4 per cent compared to levels one year ago. This is the
smallest year-over-year decline in active listings since last August.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of months of inventory in
February 2010 stood at 5.2 months. This is well below where it stood one year
ago (8.8 months), but on par with February 2008 and slightly higher than it was
in the month of February in the years 2004 through 2007. The number of months
of inventory is the number of months it would take to sell current inventories
at the current rate of sales activity.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, months of inventory rose nationally for
the third consecutive month. There were 4.7 months of inventory in February
2010; up slightly from 4.5 months from the previous month, and 4.3 months in
December 2009.

“Housing markets are becoming more balanced,” said CREA Chief Economist
Gregory Klump. “There are still a number of major markets where sales
negotiations favour the seller due to a shortage of inventory, but supply has
begun rising. Further expected supply increases will continue to take the steam
out of housing markets as the year progresses.”