Residential property sales in Canada are steady with the latest figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) showing that they were 0.1% higher in March than the previous month.
With national sales in each of the first three months of 2011 running close to their five or ten year monthly averages, seasonally adjusted national sales activity in the first quarter of 2011 was up 4.5% from levels recorded in the fourth quarter of last year, and reached the highest quarterly level in a year.
Most of the quarterly increase in seasonally adjusted national sales activity was due to demand in Vancouver and Toronto. Recent changes to mortgage regulations may have caused a number of sales in some of Canada’s more expensive housing markets to be brought forward into the first quarter that would have otherwise occurred later in the year, CREA said.
Sellers looking to trade up before changes to mortgage regulations took effect made their move early, resulting in a significant rise in newly listed homes in January and February of this year. With changes to mortgage regulations looming in March, seasonally adjusted new residential listings for the month dropped 5% month on month.
Steady sales activity combined with fewer new listings tightened the national resale housing market. The national sales to new listings ratio, a measure of the balance between supply and demand, stood at 56.5% in March. This kept the national housing market firmly entrenched in balanced territory, with March marking the firmest reading for national market balance in more than a year, CREA added.
Based on sales to new listings ratios, more than half of local markets in Canada could be considered balanced in March, with two thirds of the remaining markets considered to be as sellers’ markets.
‘The majority of local housing markets across Canada are well balanced, but not all of them are. Within a province or local market, the balance between resale housing supply and demand can vary widely and evolve quickly,’ said Gary Morse, CREA’s president.
The seasonally adjusted number of months of inventory stood at 5.6 months at the end of March on a national basis. This was unchanged from the previous month. Almost half of all local markets saw the number of months of inventory shrink compared to the previous month.
Throughout the first quarter of 2011, the national average price was skewed higher by strong activity in a few pricey areas of Greater Vancouver. March 2011 was no exception, with an increase of 8.9% year on year.
‘A record number of multi million dollar property sales in Richmond and Vancouver West are pushing up average prices for Greater Vancouver, British Columbia and nationally,’ said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.
‘If Vancouver is excluded from the equation, the national average price increase is cut by more than half to 4.3%,’ he explained.
‘Looking ahead, evidence suggests that the potential rush of sales activity in March before recent changes to mortgage regulations took effect was a story that was largely focused in condo sales activity in Greater Vancouver. This confirms that the expected impact on sales activity of recent changes to mortgage regulations will likely be minor over the near term. Interest rates are now widely expected to remain on hold until at least the middle of July, which is supportive for resale housing demand, market balance and prices,’ Klump added.