Canada’s largest housing markets exert opposite effects on national average

The Canadian housing market gained momentum in April as strong sales in the Toronto offset weakness in Vancouver, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday. April seasonally-adjusted home sales on CREA’s Multiple Listing Service gained 0.8 per cent compared with March.

TORONTO — The Canadian housing market gained momentum in April as strong sales in the Toronto offset weakness in Vancouver, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday.

April seasonally-adjusted home sales on CREA’s Multiple Listing Service gained 0.8 per cent compared with March.

On a year-over-year basis, the association said there were 49,480 homes sold in April, up 11.5 per cent from 44,370 a year ago, when sales slowed following a tightening of mortgage lending rules including the elimination of 35-year amortizations came into effect in March 2011.

Two of Canada’s largest markets are having opposite effects on the national average, with slowing sales and falling prices in Vancouver dragging, and soaring sales and prices in Toronto exerting upward pressure.

The average home price in Canada in April was up 0.9 per cent from a year ago at $375,810.

“It bears repeating that the national average price was skewed higher last spring by record level high-end home sales in Vancouver’s priciest neighbourhoods, and that a replay of this phenomenon was not expected this year,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

The average selling price in Vancouver was down 9.8 per cent compared with a year ago at $735,315, while the average price in Toronto was up 8.4 per cent at $517,556. April sales in Vancouver slid 13.2 per cent while Toronto sales picked up 14.5 per cent compared to a year ago.

“Trends in Vancouver and Toronto continue to diverge. These two housing markets have an obvious influence on national statistics and a high profile, but Canada is a big place,” said Wayne Moen, CREA President.

Excluding Toronto and Vancouver, the average price in Canada was up 3.1 per cent from a year ago.

Gains in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, as well as London and St. Thomas, Ont., also contributed to the increased sales, offsetting declines in Ottawa, Windsor-Essex, Quebec City, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver.

Continued strength in the housing market, largely due to the staying power of low interest rates, has led some economists to warn the market is overvalued.