UPDATE 1-Canada March home sales edge up from February, down on year

Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:39am EDT
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* Home sales up 2.4 pct in March from February

* Down 15.3 percent from a year earlier

* Price index up 2.2 pct, smallest gain in more than 2 yrs

By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO, April 15 (Reuters) - Sales of existing homes in Canada rose in March from February even though year-over year sales fell sharply, data on Monday showed, offering more signs that the post-recession housing boom may have turned into a stable slowdown.

Prices were up 2.2 percent from a year earlier, the smallest increase in more than two years, the report from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), the umbrella group for real estate agents, said.

Sales were up 2.4 percent in March from the month before. Actual sales for March, not seasonally adjusted, were down 15.3 percent from a year earlier, the report said.

The March month-on-month uptick in sales, after a 1.1 percent drop in February, and the modest rise in prices raised hopes Canada's housing market may be on track for a soft landing rather than a U.S.-style crash.

The market was sizzling a year ago, but has cooled sharply since the federal government tightened mortgage rules in July 2012 to prevent a U.S.-style real estate bubble. The changes shortened the maximum mortgage length, making it harder for Canadians to take on too much debt to get into the expensive real estate market.   Continued...