Home sales cool last month after record March

OTTAWA — Home sales cooled in April after setting a record the previous month as the pace of transactions in the Greater Toronto Area slowed, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday.

There was a 1.7 per cent decrease in sales over the MLS system last month compared with March, said the association, which represents more than 100,000 real estate brokers, agents and salespeople in the country.

In nearly two-thirds of all local markets across Canada, sales fell. The decline was led by a 6.7 per cent drop in the Greater Toronto Area, where concerns have grown about housing affordability.

Last month, the Ontario government announced more than a dozen measures in an effort to stabilize the market and ease worries about a bubble, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign homebuyers.

“It’s quite clear that Ontario’s serving of policy changes had a cooling effect late in April through tempered demand and a big increase in listings (perhaps as sellers sensed a looming correction),” Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, said in a research note.

“While that might put peak price growth behind us, the question is how much the market will cool from the unsustainable 30 per cent-plus pace, and how long the adjustment will persist. If Vancouver is any guide, the answers appear to be somewhat and not too long, at least while interest rates are pegged at current levels.”

Sales picked up in Greater Vancouver and the nearby Fraser Valley region, with Vancouver gaining 15.6 per cent compared with March and the Fraser Valley increasing 18.3 per cent.

“Sales in Vancouver are down from record levels in the first half of last year but the gap has started to close,” CREA president Andrew Peck said in a statement.

Sales in Greater Vancouver were down 26.2 per cent compared with April 2016. Over the same period, the Greater Toronto Area saw sales fall 3.8 per cent.

Nationwide, sales were down 7.5 per cent over the last year.

The actual average price for a home sold last month was $559,317, up 10.4 per cent from a year ago, boosted by the Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto markets. The aggregate composite MLS home price index rose 19.8 per cent.

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