A real estate sold sign is shown outside a house in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Home sales in Canada dip to lowest level in 3 years: CREA

Canadian Real Estate Association says January activity was down in 75% of local markets

Canadian home sales fell 14.5 per cent between December and January, marking the lowest sales level in three years as the housing market was hit last month by a double whammy of tighter mortgage rules and lending rate hikes.

Data released by the Canadian Real Estate Association Thursday suggested that January activity was down in three-quarters of all local markets and virtually all major urban areas, especially in Ontario’s hot spot in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The decline was less significant on an annual basis, with sales falling 2.4 per cent.

Sales climbed to a record monthly high in December, according to CREA’s figures, ahead of the stress test that requires all potential buyers qualifying for a mortgage to show that they can manage interest rate increases.

“The decline in January sales provides clear evidence that the strength in activity late last year reflected a pull-forward of transactions, as rational homebuyers hurried to purchase before mortgage rules changed in 2018,” said Gregory Klump, the association’s chief economist.

The federal banking regulator introduced tougher rules for uninsured mortgages beginning Jan. 1 and require a stress test for borrowers with a more than 20 per cent down payment. They now have to prove that they can service mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage point or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

The January market also dampened due to the Bank of Canada’s decision to raise interest rates to 1.25 per cent, up from one per cent. It was the bank’s third increase since last summer, following hikes in July and September.

The central bank’s interest rate increase impacts variable rate mortgage holders, but those who opt for fixed mortgages also saw a rise in the five-year fixed rate amid rising bond yields and a stronger economy.

CREA noted that January home sales are on par with the 10-year monthly average and that a large decline in new listings prevented the market balance from shifting in favour of homebuyers. The average price of a home rose by 2.3 per cent when compared with last year at just over $481,500.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 63.6 per cent in January. A ratio reading above 60 per cent generally indicates a sellers’ market.

The number of newly-listed homes plunged 21.6 per cent from December 2017 to January 2018 — the lowest level since spring 2009. About 85 per cent of all markets had fewer listings. The Greater Toronto Area led the decline, with large percentage drops also in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan region, as well as parts of Ontario.

“The piling on of yet more mortgage rule changes that took effect starting New Year’s Day has created homebuyer uncertainty and confusion,” said CREA President Andrew Peck in a statement.

“At the same time, the changes do nothing to address government concerns about home prices that stem from an ongoing supply shortage in major markets like Vancouver and Toronto. Unless these supply shortages are addressed, concerns will persist.”

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks cheese linked to 5 E. coli cases in B.C.

People are asked to throw out or return ‘Qualicum Spice’ cheese

Jim’s Clothes Closet celebrates 50th anniversary

Store began in Port Alberni, expanded on Vancouver Island and beyond

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

Recent CVGSAR rescues see varying degrees of success

Teams searched for a dog swept downstream and helped an 80-year-old hiker

Comox Valley Nature invites the public to learn about nature photography

Comox Valley Nature is hosting a public lecture on photography. Join Terry… Continue reading

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Comox Valley Nature invites the public to learn about nature photography

Comox Valley Nature is hosting a public lecture on photography. Join Terry… Continue reading

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

Most Read