Canada home resales cool in April, listings climb

Mon May 17, 2010 12:54pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian home resales slowed in April from the previous month while new listings climbed, suggesting the country's real estate market could soon start to cool after a year of surging prices.

Even so, sales of existing homes still showed a big jump from the same month last year, according data on Monday from the Canadian Real Estate Association, with prices rising at a double-digit pace year over year.

Residential housing has become an important driver of the Canadian economy, even during the recession, spurred partly by low interest rates. It also gave rise to a fiery debate on whether the housing sector was forming a bubble, a charge that policymakers swiftly downplay.

All told, 42,078 homes changed hands in April, up 20.1 percent from the same month last year. But sales slipped 2.6 percent from March, the third decline in four months, and have fallen 6.8 percent from the peak reached in December.

The cooler pace of activity is in line with a long-held view by many economists, who see the market slowing after the spring as more homes are put up for sale and interest rates begin to rise.

Some homeowners may also move sooner in order to avoid extra costs associated with new, harmonized sales tax (HST) regimes, set to begin July 1 in Ontario and British Columbia, and this could add to a front-loaded year of sales and pricing activity.

"Prices may see one last uptick in the next few months, but are expected to simmer down notably in the second half," said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

"Indeed, outright price declines are certainly a very real possibility in Ontario and B.C. amid much more moderate activity after the HST kicks in."

CREA said a slowing market in British Columbia was responsible for more than half the decline for the year. Ontario and Quebec, two of the country's larger markets, remained close to record levels in April.   Continued...

<p>A home is put up for sale in downtown Montreal in this July 14, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>