Resale market sees nearly 100,000 homes listed for sale in March


Homebuyers have more choice heading into the busy spring buying season, with new supply in Canada's resale housing market setting a record for the month of March. While resale housing demand remains strong, rising numbers of new listings are resulting in a more balanced national resale housing market.

According to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), some 97,663 residential properties were listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate Boards in March 2010. This is an increase of 20 per cent from the previous March record set in 2008. A total of 233,402 new listings have come on stream since the beginning of the year, more than in any other first quarter period on record.

"Negotiations still favour sellers during the home buying process in a number of major Canadian housing markets," said CREA President Georges Pahud. "The rise in new listings means that buyers may shop around more before making an offer."

Demand remains very strong, but has edged lower compared to the record levels posted at the end of 2009. Seasonally adjusted national home sales totalled 130,072 units in the first three months of 2010. This represents the fourth highest quarterly level on record, down 3.4 per cent from the quarterly peak in the fourth quarter of last year. Sales activity in Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland & Labrador rose to new records in the first quarter. Higher activity in these provinces was offset by a decline in activity in British Columbia (-17.8 per cent) and Alberta (-9.7 per cent).

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales numbered 111,110 units in the first quarter of 2010. This is the third highest level ever for the first quarter period.

A total of 43,621 homes traded hands through Boards' MLS® Systems on a seasonally adjusted basis in March 2010. This is an increase of 1.4 per cent from February, as further gains in Toronto more than offset a decline in activity in Vancouver. Seasonally adjusted sales scaled new heights in Toronto and Ottawa in March.

Unadjusted national sales activity numbered 49,256 units in March. This marks the second highest level on record for the month of March. On a year-over-year basis, sales were up 40.8 per cent, smaller than those of the previous five months. Since a year will soon have elapsed following the recessionary decline and subsequent rebound for the Canadian resale market, year-over-year comparisons are expected to continue shrinking in the months ahead.

The national average price of homes sold via Canadian MLS® Systems in March was $340,920. This is the second highest national average price on record, just $300 below the peak reached last October. Compared to March 2009, the national average home price was up 17.6 per cent. As with sales activity, the increase was smaller than those recorded over the past five months, and year-over-year gains are expected to become further subdued as the year progresses.

The price trend is similar but less dramatic for the national weighted average price, which compensates for changes in provincial sales activity by taking into account provincial proportions of privately owned housing stock. It climbed 16 per cent on a year-over-year basis in March 2010.

The residential average price in Canada's major markets climbed 19 per cent year-over-year to $373,835 in March. As with the national counterpart, the price trend is similar but less dramatic for the major market weighted average price, which rose 17 per cent from levels reported in March 2009.

There were 214,312 homes listed for sale on Boards' MLS® Systems in Canada at the end of March 2010, a decline of nine per cent compared to the elevated levels of one year ago. This is the smallest year-over-year decline in active listings since June 2009.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of months of inventory in March 2010 stood at 4.4 months. While well below where it stood one year ago (6.7 months), and down slightly from March 2008 (five months), months of inventory are higher compared to March from 2004 through 2007. The number of months of inventory is the number of months it would take to sell current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, months of inventory stood at 4.6 months in March. This was little changed from February, but stands above levels reported in the previous four months.

"The erosion of housing affordability is crimping activity in some of Canada's priciest markets in the lower mainland of British Columbia," said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. "Higher mortgage interest rates and the rise in new listings may also soon reduce some of the urgency to purchase in Toronto. Sales activity in British Columbia and Ontario is expected to ease over the second half of 2010 once the HST comes into effect, pulling national activity lower. Rising supply and lower activity will take the steam out of the pricing environment following upbeat home sales this spring."

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