OTTAWA - Canada's housing industry showed signs of life in February after several months of declines, with resales rising 8.6 per cent from January thanks to lower mortgage rates and prices, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Monday.
Despite February's gains, sales are still down 31 per cent year over year, as are prices, which have fallen 9.2 per cent in the past 12 months, CREA said.
Still, a total of 28,669 homes changed hands in February on a seasonally adjusted basis via the industry group's Multiple Listing Service. It is the first month-to-month uptick in home-resale activity since September 2008.
"Typically, the spring market we're moving into generates more activity, and this year there are the benefits from historically low mortgage rates and improved affordability in most markets," said CREA president Calvin Lindberg.
CREA cautioned that listings remain high, although the number is trending lower, with 65,060 units listed for sale in February, down 10.9 per cent from the same month a year ago.
"The housing supply is expected to continue easing, but it will take time before it realigns with lower demand," said CREA chief economist Gregory Klump.
"Economic uncertainty is keeping home buyers in a cautious mood, so homes are taking longer to sell than in recent years. Lower sales activity at the higher end of the price spectrum will keep the national MLS residential average price under downward pressure."
The national average price for home sales via the MLS was $281,972. Mortgage rates, meanwhile, are near historic lows. On Friday, for instance, TD Canada Trust lowered its seven-year fixed mortgage rate by 0.2 points to 6.8 per cent.
CREA said February's 9.2 per cent annualized price decline is smaller than year-over-year drops posted in the past four months and is the first time the pace of decline decelerated since turning negative in July 2008.
"The report does offer some hope that the decline in Canadian home prices may have stabilized somewhat in February after appearing to have accelerated in the latter months of 2008," said TD Securities economics strategist Millan Mulraine.
"Not surprisingly, the biggest decline in prices were in Calgary (down 10.8 per cent year over year), Greater Vancouver (down 13 per cent), and Windsor (down 15.7 per cent). However, prices in Toronto (down 5.4 per cent) were also lower, while prices in Montreal (up 2.2 per cent) and Quebec City (up 9.3 per cent) continue to rise, albeit at a more modest clip," Mulraine said.
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