Canadian home sales in March up 4.9 per cent from year ago, CREA says


TORONTO – The Canadian Real Estate Association says the number of homes sold last month was up 4.9 per cent compared with the same month last year, but remained below the 10-year average.

The industry association also says sales in March were up 1.0 per cent compared with February, but below a recent peak set last August.

CREA says more than half the local markets it tracks saw more sales in March, led by Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto but the number of new listings rose only half a percentage point and the supply of homes for sale remains low.

CREA chief economist Gregory Klump says March was an improvement over the previous two months but “there was little evidence of a flood of pent-up demand being released.”

Klump also said that some markets, such as Toronto and Calgary, are seeing multiple offers per listing.

“This means national sales are being constrained by a lack of supply despite strong demand in some markets, since Greater Toronto and Calgary combined account for a one-quarter of national activity,” Klump said.

Nationally, there were 6.3 months of unsold listings at the end of March — down from 6.4 months at the end of March and 6.5 months at the end of January.

The national average price for homes sold in March through CREA members was $401,419, up six per cent from the same month last year.

The association’s MLS home price index — which adjusts to compensate for the mix of properties sold — also rose 5.19 per cent year-over-year, up slightly from 5.05 per cent in February.

In Toronto, the country’s largest city, economists and public officials have kept a wary eye on the condo segment of the market. There have been fears, so far unrealized, that a years-long building boom and high-prices may result in a lower prices if new supply outstrips demand for condominium units.

However, the Toronto Real Estate Board — a member of CREA — announced separately Tuesday that 4,454 condominium apartments were sold through its system in the first quarter, up nine per cent from 4,085 a year earlier, while the average selling price also rose, gaining 5.6 per cent to $351,213.

Jason Mercer, TREB’s senior manager of market analysis, said that the number of condo apartment completions was up substantially in the first three months of 2014 and that could result in more listings in the second half of the year as some investors choose to list their units for sale.

“If this occurs, buyers would benefit from more choice in the marketplace and thus could have more negotiating power with regard to price,” Mercer said in a statement.

In a separate report, however, the Re/Max real estate franchising group says demand for Toronto condos is being supported by a lack of available rental apartments — the vacancy rate is about two per cent — and the high price for detached homes.

Overall, Re/Max says it expects Toronto housing prices will will continue to rise about eight per cent this year — in line with the pace set in March.

It also says Vancouver’s prices are anticipated to rise by two per cent this year, a slower pace than in March when prices were up 5.4 per cent year-year. In Calgary, Re/Max says the average home price was $484,91 at the end of March, up five per cent from a year earlier. In Saskatoon, Re/Max estimates a six per cent increase for the rest of the year, up from the five per cent pace set in March.

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