Canada’s MLS® housing market balance stabilizes in third quarter

The number of properties listed via the MLS® systems of Canada’s major markets was down from its peak in the third quarter of 2008, according to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). This caused the balance of sales-to-new-listings in the market for resale homes to tighten on a quarter-over-quarter basis for the first time since the beginning of 2007.

New MLS® residential listings in Canada’s major markets numbered 146,637 units on a seasonally adjusted basis in the third quarter of 2008. This is 3.3 per cent below the highest level on record, set the previous quarter. New listings eased most in Edmonton and Calgary in the third quarter, followed by declines in Vancouver and Montreal.

The balance between sales and new listings has stabilized in many major resale housing markets in recent months. The trend stands out most in Edmonton and Calgary, where a sharp drop in new listings and rising sales activity has firmed up the resale housing market considerably since the beginning of the year.

“Informed buyers and informed sellers look at the facts. And the facts right now indicate the real estate resale market is stabilizing in many markets,” says Calvin Lindberg, the President of The Canadian Real Estate Association.

“There have also been a number of initiatives that will have an impact going forward, including the government’s decision to invest $25 billion in insured mortgage pools, the recent drop in the Bank of Canada rate, and the new rules reducing the maximum amortization to 35 years instead of 40,” the CREA President adds. Those new mortgage rules go into effect October 15th. “The third quarter MLS® statistics and these developments are more factors showing the Canadian market is not following U.S. housing trends.”

Seasonally adjusted MLS® residential home sales in Canada’s major markets edged 1.5 per cent lower on a quarter-over-quarter basis to 76,391 units in the third quarter of 2008. The small decline in activity reflected fewer sales in Vancouver, which more than offset a rebound in activity in Edmonton and Calgary.

Seasonally adjusted transactions rose on a month-over-month basis in the majority of major markets in September 2008. Some 25,680 homes traded hand via the MLS® systems of Canada’s major markets on a seasonally adjusted basis in September, an increase of three per cent from levels recorded in August. The increase may reflect an influx of buyers prior to the elimination of mortgage insurance availability for those with less than a five per cent down payment.

Unadjusted (actual) sales activity was on par with September of last year, but remains below levels one year ago in some of the Canada’s most expensive housing markets. Lower sales activity in higher priced markets pulled the overall major market MLS® residential average price down by 6.2 per cent year-over-year in September, despite year-over-year average price gains in 17 of 25 major markets.

Lower activity in some of Canada’s pricier markets has weighed on the overall average price trend this year due to a decline in their weight in the average price calculation compared to last year. The price trend is similar but less dramatic for the weighted average price, in which the proportion of privately owned housing stock in each market is taken into account.

“Price declines in some of Canada’s more expensive housing markets will outweigh further price gains in other markets and continue pulling the national average price lower over the rest of the year and into 2009,” said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. “Global financial market turmoil and the resulting slowdown in global economic growth will continue weighing on Canadian exports and economic growth.”

“As the Canadian housing market and pricing environment cools, the number of days on market for sales is likely to rise. By and large, Canadian home sellers are under no financial duress to sell, and a number may decide to take their home off the market should it remain unsold when the listing expires. The resulting decline in listings limits the extent to which the balance of sales and new listings will realign. Canadian homebuyers should not expect to see the kind of price correction that’s underway in the U.S., where overly indebted homeowners are selling into a housing market where foreclosures and the number of newly constructed unoccupied homes are increasing. [CREA 15/10/08]

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