Sales increase in Canada ahead of tougher mortgage rules in January 2018

Housing sales in Canada edged upwards month on month in Canada between September and October while prices also increased, the latest index shows.

While sales increased by 0.9% and it was the third monthly rise in a row, transactions are still almost 11% below the record level set in March 2017, according to the figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

The national average price for homes sold in October 2017 was just under $506,000, up 5% from one year earlier. The index report points out that the national average price is heavily skewed by sales in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, two of Canada’s most active and expensive markets. Excluding these two markets from the calculations takes more than $120,000 from the national average price to just above $383,000.

The number of homes coming onto the market eased by 0.8% month on month following a jump of more than 5% in September. The national result was influenced most by declines in new supply in London-St. Thomas, Calgary and Greater Vancouver.

Activity in October was up from the previous month in about half of all local markets, led by the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the Fraser Valley, together with a number of housing markets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.

Actual activity was down 4.3% in October 2017, extending year on year declines to seven consecutive months. Sales were down from year ago levels in slightly more than half of all local markets, led overwhelmingly by the GTA and nearby cities.

Sales could rise again before the end of the year, according to CREA president Andrew Peck. ‘Newly introduced mortgage regulations mean that starting 01 January all home buyers applying for a new mortgage will need to pass a stress test to qualify for mortgage financing,’ he explained.

‘This will likely influence some home buyers to purchase before the stress test comes into effect, especially in Canada’s pricier housing markets,’ he added.

Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, pointed out that the stress test is designed to curtail growth in mortgage debt. ‘If it works as intended, Canadian economic growth may slow by more than currently expected,’ he said.

Apartments recorded the largest year on year growth with prices up 19.7%, followed by townhouses up 13.2%, one storey single family homes up 6.3% and two storey single family homes up 5.8%.

Benchmark home prices were up from year ago levels in 11 of the 13 markets tracked by the index. After having dipped in the second half of last year, prices in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia have recovered and now stand at new highs with Greater Vancouver: up 12.4% and Fraser Valley up 17.3%.

The index also shows that price increases have slowed to about 14% in Victoria, while still running at about 19% elsewhere on Vancouver Island and they slowed further in Greater Toronto, Oakville-Milton and Guelph. But pries in these three markets remain well above year ago levels, up 9.7%, 8.3% and 13.2% respectively.

In Calgary prices were up year on year by just 0.3% while prices in Regina were down by 1.7% and in Saskatoon down 4.1%.

Price growth accelerated in Ottawa with an overall rise of 6.6%, led by a 7.2% increase in two storey single family home prices, were up 5.7% in Greater Montreal and by 5.9% in Greater Moncton. Ottawa and Greater Montreal recorded their biggest year on year price gains since October 2010 and April 2011, respectively.