The number of homes trading hands via Canadian MLS® Systems rose by 1.5 percent month-over-month to set a new all-time record in March 2016. Though sales edged lower in Greater Vancouver (-0.3%) and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) (-1.8% m-m), both remain near record highs reached the month before. (Chart A)
Sales in March were up from the previous month in about 60 percent of all local markets, including Victoria, Chilliwack, the Okanagan Region, Edmonton, Calgary, Woodstock-Ingersoll, Kingston, Barrie and Montreal.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity was up 12.2 percent from one year ago and set a new record for the month of March. It also stood 14.2 percent above the 10-year average for the month.
It surpassed year-ago levels among nearly two-thirds of all local markets, with B.C.’s Lower Mainland and the GTA contributing most to the year-over-year increase in national activity. Sales in a number of other markets in B.C. and Ontario also posted double-digit gains, with Chilliwack sales double what they were one year ago.
With sales up on the month and new listings down, the national sales-to-new listings ratio rose to 61.7 percent in March 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 within this range in fewer than half of all local housing markets in March and was above the range in a nearly equal number of markets, almost all of which are in British Columbia and Ontario.
The Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI rose by 9.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in March 2016 – the biggest gain since June 2010. For the second consecutive month, year-over-year price growth accelerated for all Benchmark property types tracked by the index. (Chart B)
Two-storey single family home prices posted the biggest year-over-year gain (+10.8 percent), followed by townhouse/row units (+8.6 percent), one-storey single family homes (+8.1 percent), and apartment units (+7.3 percent).
Greater Vancouver (+23.2 percent) and the Fraser Valley (+22.1 percent) posted the largest gains, followed by Greater Toronto (+11.6 percent) and Victoria (+10.8 percent). Meanwhile, year-over-year price growth on Vancouver Island picked up slightly to 7.1 percent.
By contrast, Calgary home prices were down 3.7 percent from where they stood a year ago, while Saskatoon slipped by 2.7 percent. Year-over-year price growth remained in positive territory (+0.5 percent) in Regina and edged higher on a year-over-year basis in Ottawa (+1.2 percent) and Greater Montreal (+1.5 percent). Home prices in Greater Moncton recorded their eighth consecutive year-over-year gain, rising 4.9 percent from where they stood one year earlier.
The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, which are among Canada’s tightest, most active and expensive housing markets. If these two housing markets are excluded from calculations, the average is a more modest $366,950 and the year-over-year gain is reduced to 10.4 percent.
Even then, the gain reflects a tug of war between strong average price gains in housing markets around the GTA and in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia versus flat or declining average prices elsewhere in Canada. The average price for Canada net of sales in British Columbia and Ontario was down one percent year-over-year to $299,591.