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

WATCH: Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 in Chilliwack trying to flee police

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Drugs and guns seized by Chilliwack Mounties in complex case

Drug trafficking investigations led to five arrests in three different locations across Chilliwack

Chilliwack RCMP trying to catch robbery suspect

Police hope someone will identify the person who appears in security camera footage

LETTER: Why is Jati Sidhu ashamed of his riding?

Lytton’s Christopher di Armani shares his dismay at the potential name change of the MP’s riding

Chilliwack churns out new generation of wildfire fighters

School district partners with B.C. Wildfire Service to prep Grade 12s for careers

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

VIDEO: Vancouver fall to Seattle in Game 2 of the playoffs

Thunderbirds topple the Giants 4-1 in Langley, evening the Western Conference series one game each

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vancouver-bound transit bus involved in fatal crash near Seattle

One man was killed and a woman injured in crash with bus purchased by TransLink

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Most Read