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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian home prices dropped by single digits during the first quarter from a year earlier and are unlikely begin rising again until next year, Royal LePage Real Estate Services said on Wednesday.
The firm, one of Canada's biggest realtors, said the average price of a two-storey home fell 6.5 percent in the quarter to C$379,636 ($306,158) from a year earlier .
The average price for a detached bungalow fell 6.1 percent to C$319,865, while prices for a standard condominium dropped 4 percent to C$232,877, it said.
The price declines were less severe than those seen in the United States, where the housing market is in the throes of a deep recession.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller report out last month showed prices of U.S. single-family homes plunged a record 19 percent in January from a year earlier.
Housing prices in Canada did not rise as much during the boom years earlier this decade. The country's banking system is also in much better shape than it is in the United States or Europe.
Royal LePage Chief Executive Phil Soper said in a statement the Canadian market was helped by record low lending rates and new government initiatives aimed at encouraging first-time buyers.
Canadians in most regions should not expect the prices of their homes to begin appreciating again until the overall economy begins to stabilize, he said, predicting this would most likely be in the first half of 2010.
Royal LePage said home prices in Atlantic Canada outperformed other areas of the country. Prices in Ontario and Quebec held steady while Western provinces, with the exception of Manitoba, posted the biggest declines, it said.
Earlier, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said domestic housing starts rose an unexpectedly strong 13.7 percent in March, breaking a six-month losing streak.
Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson