Canadian home sales edge up 0.3% in August, prices steady in most markets

OTTAWA – The boom in Canada’s housing market continued in August with sales of existing homes edging up 0.3 per cent month over month and holding at levels not far off the five-year high reached in May, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

In its latest survey released Tuesday, CREA says sales of existing homes were little changed from July in all local markets, with an even split between those posting increases and those showing declines.

On a full-year basis, actual sales were up four per cent compared with August 2014 and were 6.6 per cent above the 10-year average for the month of the month.

“August marked the fourth month in a row for strong and stable national sales activity,” CREA president Pauline Aunger said in the report.

Prices continued to rise in Ontario and B.C. “where listings are either in short supply or heading in that direction,” said CREA chief economist Gregory Klump, who noted that the month also provided “early evidence that modest price growth is re-emerging in some markets in Quebec and New Brunswick.”

Klump added that enduring low interest rates continued to boost home sales and were “likely to keep doing so for some time.”

CREA said actual sales were up from levels in the same period last year in more than 60 per cent of all local markets, led by B.C.’s Lower Mainland region and the Greater Toronto Area, while those in Calgary continued to post the largest year-over-year declines.

Nationally, the number of newly listed homes edged up by 0.5 per cent in August from July, led by gains in Edmonton and the GTA, while the national sales-to-new listings ratio was 56.7 per cent in August, down from 56.9 per cent in July.

CREA says a sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 per cent is generally consistent with a balanced housing market.

Meanwhile, the association said two-storey single family homes continued to post the biggest year-over-year price gains, up 8.85 per cent; followed by one-storey single family homes, up 6.09 per cent; townhouse/row units, up 4.29 per cent, and apartment units, up 3.08 per cent.

Great Vancouver continues to show the highest year-over-year price growth, up 11.96; followed by Greater Toronto, up 9.99 per cent.

Prices in Calgary were flat on a year-over-year basis in August, marking the first month since September 2011 of no year-over-year price growth. Those in Saskatoon also ran roughly even with last August’s levels.

Elsewhere, home prices were up about 1.5 per cent in Greater Montreal, about one per cent in Greater Moncton and by about half of one per cent in Ottawa. Prices fell by about 3.5 per cent in Regina, extending year-over-year price declines that began in 2013.

The national average price for homes sold in August was $433,367, up 8.7 per cent on a year-over-year basis.

Meanwhile, CREA is revising upward its national housing forecast for the year despite the dampening effect in some provinces of low prices for oil and other commodities.

CREA says that is because low interest rates and supportive demographics have resulted in stronger than expected home sales activity in British Columbia and Ontario, which account for about 60 per cent of Canadian housing activity.

National sales now are projected to rise by 3.3 per cent to 495,800 units in 2015, marking the second-strongest year on record for home sales in Canada.

By Brian McKenna in Toronto