Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More signals that our real estate market is cooling a little

Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) Average Prices and Graph

The Canadian Home Sales are not as strong as they were in January of 2007l

The Canadian housing market continues to gradually lose steam after a prolonged show of strength. Today's January existing home sales data from the Canadian Real Estate Association show that resale activity faded 0.4% from the prior monthwhich was already somewhat on the softer side of recent trendsand sales were down 8% from a year ago as well. That's a massive turnaround from last year's 7.6% rise in overall sales.

The lousy weather may have played a small role in restraining sales last month, although it's not as if January is typically a treat on that front. As Canadian sales have lost a bit of momentum recently, we may finally be seeing some signs of cooler price gains as well: Average home prices were up 8.6% from year-ago levels in January, compared with an average increase of 11% for all of last year.

The yearly price rise is somewhat skewed by the mammoth 69% and 37% jumps in Regina and Saskatoon (respectively), although at least 12 cities reported double-digit gains last month.

The previously steaming hot Alberta markets continue to cool considerably, and are now acting as a significant drag on the overall sales figures. Sales in Calgary (-30.9% y/y) and Edmonton (-21.0% y/y) fell steeply from a year ago, while new listings continue to rise sharply. That's not a favourable backdrop for prices, and both have seen price increases dip into single-digit terrain.

The Bottom Line: With the further dip in January, Canadian home sales are now well below year-ago levels, adding further evidence that the great boom is winding down. Sagging affordability appears to have finally dug into activity, most notably in Alberta.

Still, prices across most of the country remain well above year-ago levels and most markets are well balanced, so we're not looking at serious strains in the housing market. Modest interest rate relief will also provide a helping hand.

see Graph of Average GTA prices

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A. Mark Argentino
P. Eng. Broker
Specializing in Residential & Investment Real Estate

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