Canadian Home Sales Revive in March

Vancouver, Toronto the only hot spots
April 15, 2015 Updated: April 15, 2015

OTTAWA—Low mortgage rates helped boost the number of Canadian home sales in March by 4.1 percent compared with February, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

The association said Wednesday, April 15, that sales through its Multiple Listing Service (MLS) last month were up in nearly two-thirds of the markets it tracks, led by gains in Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.

However, Calgary and Edmonton came in below the 10-year average for the month.

“Low mortgage interest rates are good news for affordability as we head into the spring home-buying season,” CREA president Pauline Aunger said in a statement.

“This spring should see buyers coming off the sidelines in places where winter was anything but mild.”

The country’s big banks and other lenders have been cutting mortgage rates heading into the busy spring real estate season.

Advertised fixed rates for a five-year term have dropped well below the 3 percent mark, with some smaller lenders offering rates under 2.5 percent.

“Never underestimate the power of lower interest rates,” TD Bank economist Diana Petramala said Wednesday.

“Due to the drop in mortgage interest rates since January, the Canadian housing market continued to outperform other areas of the economy in the first quarter of 2015.”

Petramala added that while the Bank of Canada’s rate announcement Wednesday suggested further rate cuts are unlikely, the already low rate environment would likely continue to bolster demand.

However, she cautioned that the full impact of the drop in oil prices has yet to be seen and home sales in Alberta and Saskatchewan would likely be affected.

The health of the Canadian housing market has been closely watched for signs of a bubble.

Compared with a year ago, CREA said home sales were up 9.5 percent, while the average price was up 9.4 percent at $439,144. Excluding Vancouver and Toronto, the average price was $332,711, up 2.4 percent from a year ago.

Meanwhile, the MLS Home Price Index was up 4.95 percent from a year ago.

CREA noted that the number of newly listed homes rose 1.8 percent in March compared with February, while the national sales-to-new listings ratio was 53.9 per cent in March, up from 52.7 percent in February.