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According to statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales dropped in May 2016 after having set an all-time monthly record in April.

Highlights:

  • National home sales dropped 2.8% from April to May.
  • Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was up 9.6% compared to May 2015.
  • The number of newly listed homes fell 3.2% from April to May.
  • The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) rose 12.5% year-over-year in May.
  • The national average sale price climbed 13.2% in May from one year ago; net of Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver, it advanced 9.1% year-over-year.
The number of homes trading hands via Canadian MLS® Systems fell by 2.8 percent month-over-month in May 2016 after having broken all previous monthly sales records in April.

Sales activity dropped in May from the previous month in about 70 percent of all markets, led by those in British Columbia and Ontario where the number of homes listed for sale has fallen to multi-year or all-time lows.

“National sales activity is still strong, even after coming off the record levels of the past couple of months,” said CREA President Cliff Iverson. “But, there are housing markets where sales continue to reflect a cautious mood among homebuyers and uncertainty about the local economy,” he added. “All real estate is local, and REALTORS® remain your best source for information about sales and listings where you live or might like to in the future.”

“Many of the housing markets in BC and Ontario that led the monthly decline in national sales are also places where months of inventory have fallen to all-time lows,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “This suggests a lack of supply may be starting to rein in sales amid a continuation of strong housing demand.”

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity was up 9.6 percent year-over-year in May 2016 and stood 15.1 percent above the 10-year average for the month of May.

The number of newly listed homes fell by 3.2 percent in May 2016 compared to April. New supply was down in about two-thirds of all local markets, led by the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Edmonton, Montreal and Quebec City.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio edged up to 64.8 percent in May 2016 – the ratio’s tightest reading since October 2009. A sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 percent is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings below and above this range indicating buyers’ and sellers’ markets respectively.

The ratio was above 60 percent in about half of all local housing markets in May, virtually all of which are located in British Columbia, in addition to housing markets in and around Toronto and across Southwestern Ontario.

The number of months of inventory is another important measure of the balance between housing supply and demand. It represents the number of months it would take to completely liquidate current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

There were 4.7 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of May 2016, which is unchanged from April’s reading and the lowest level in more than six years. Months of inventory have been trending lower since early 2015, reflecting increasingly tighter housing markets in B.C. and Ontario. It currently sits at or below two months in a growing number of local markets in British Columbia, the GTA and environs and in Southwestern Ontario.

Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI rose by 12.5 percent on a year-over-year basis in May 2016, the biggest gain since February 2007.

For the fourth consecutive month, year-over-year price growth accelerated for all Benchmark property types tracked by the index.

Two-storey single family home prices continued to post the biggest year-over-year gain (+14.7 percent), followed by one storey single family homes (+12.7 percent), townhouse/row units (+11.6 percent), and apartment units (+8.6 percent).

While 9 of the 11 markets tracked by the MLS® HPI posted year-over-year price gains in May, price growth among housing markets continues to vary widely.

Greater Vancouver (+29.7 percent) and the Fraser Valley (+31.7 percent) posted the largest gains, followed by Greater Toronto (+15.0 percent), Victoria (+13.9 percent), and Vancouver Island (+9.5 percent). By contrast, prices fell by -3.9 percent and -2.3 percent in Calgary and Saskatoon respectively.

Year-over-year price growth advanced further into positive territory in Regina (+3.4 percent) and strengthened further in Ottawa (+1.3 percent) and Greater Montreal (+1.9 percent). Home prices in Greater Moncton recorded their tenth consecutive year-over-year gain, rising 8.2 percent from where they stood one year earlier.

The MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) provides a better gauge of price trends than is possible using averages because average price is prone to being distorted by changes in the mix of sales activity.

The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, which remain two of Canada’s tightest, most active and expensive housing markets. The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in May 2016 was $509,460, up 13.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.

If these two housing markets are excluded from calculations, the average price is a more modest $375,532 and the year-over-year gain is trimmed to 9.1 percent.

Even then, this reflects a tug of war between strong average price gains in housing markets around the GTA and in British Columbia versus flat or declining average prices elsewhere in Canada. The average price for Canada net of sales in British Columbia and Ontario in May 2016 was down 0.7 percent year-over-year to $310,007.

Simon Fraser
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