Existing home sales fall in first quarter

Thu Apr 17, 2008 2:48pm EDT
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By Renato Andrade

TORONTO (Reuters) - Wild winter weather cooled Canada's housing market in the first quarter, with sales of existing homes falling 7.1 percent, the Canadian Real Estate Association said on Thursday.

But the residential resale market did eke out a 0.9 percent rise in March, to 26,799 units, after three straight months of declines, according to CREA, an industry trade organization representing over 90,000 realtors.

For the first quarter, seasonally adjusted sales in Canada declined to 81,747 units.

The association said the decline largely reflected fewer sales in Toronto in February and March. Canada's biggest city accounts for about one-quarter of all existing home sales in Canada's major markets.

"Canada's six-year housing market boom is officially over," Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets said in a note to clients, noting that year-to-date home resales dropped by 13 percent.

"No doubt these results were lashed by this year's never-say-die winter weather, but the broad-based nature of the double-digit sales declines suggests that there was more than just a few feet of snow weighing on the market."

Residential listings surged 4.8 percent in the first three months of 2008, to 154,217 units, the highest quarterly level the association had ever recorded.

"The quarterly jump in new listings and decline in sales activity made the resale housing market more balanced in the first quarter of 2008 than during any other quarter in the past nine years," the association said in a statement.   Continued...

<p>A newly built home sits vacant with a "for sale" sign in front, in the Courtland Ridge development in Alpine, Utah, March 26, 2008. REUTERS/George Frey</p>