And those ugly housing market numbers are out

Vancouver is now a buyers' market

To recap:

  • Sales of existing homes tumbled 15.8 per cent in February compared to the same month last year, the Canadian Real Estate Association said today.
  • The national average sales price edged down one per cent from year-ago levels.
  • On a monthly basis, sales slipped  2.1 per cent from January, the eleventh month of declines since the market started cooling in April 2012.
  • As much as 80 per cent of local markets saw lower sales activity in February 2013 than in February 2012.
  • Nationally, prices held up: single-family homes gained 4.2 per cent in annual terms, townhouses climbed 2.4 per cent and condos edged up 0.8 per cent.
  • Vancouver saw the largest declines in both sales (-29.4 per cent on annual basis) and prices (-5.6 per cent on an annual basis).
  • Despite a drop in sales, Toronto and Montreal saw home prices gain a modest 1.6 per cent from year-ago levels. That compares to average price gains of nearly seven per cent in 2012, according to TD Bank.
  • Edmonton bucked the trend with homes sales and prices up 18.2 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively from January.
  • The ratio of home sales to homes newly up for sale held steady around 50 per cent in February, as both sales and new listings declined.
  • The MLS Home Price Index, which adjusts for the quality of homes sold, rose 2.7 per cent on an annual basis, the smallest gain since March 2011.

What the analysts say:

  • TD’s Diana Petramala attributes much of the current weakness to tighter mortgage rules introduced in July 2012, which, she calculates, had the equivalent impact of a one per cent hike in interest rates. The effect of changes to mortgage insurance rules, though, tends to wear off after about nine months, she notes. After the February slide, sale activity is now down to levels supported by employment and population growth, meaning the market might have hit bottom. Prices, which adjust with a lag, will likely continue to weaken.
  • Vancouver is now a buyers’ market, writes BMO’s Robert Kavcic. Weakness in B.C., though, masks softer adjustments and even gains elsewhere after July’s round of rules-tightening.


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