March 2, 2017 / 7:30 PM / 2 years ago

Vancouver home sales rise in February, but below year-ago record

File Photo: A real estate for sale sign is pictured in front of a home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ben Nelms/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Home sales in the Vancouver region’s once-boiling housing market surged in February from January and prices edged higher, but activity was sharply lower than a year ago, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said on Wednesday.

February sales rose 59.2 percent from a month earlier but were down 41.9 percent from the record-setting pace a year ago and 7.7 percent below the 10-year average, as snowy weather and limited supply hampered activity, the real estate group said.

Vancouver’s housing market, the most expensive in Canada, has come off the boil since the provincial government imposed a 15 percent foreign buyers tax in August 2016 amid concern that speculation by global investors, mostly from mainland China, was fueling a bubble.

Sales and prices have declined unevenly since the tax was imposed, with the volatile monthly numbers reflecting seller reluctance to accept the slowdown and uncertainty about whether the impact of the tax will wear off.

“While home sales are not happening at the pace we experienced last year, home seller supply is still struggling to keep up with today’s demand,” Dan Morrison, the group’s president, said in a statement.

“This is why we’ve seen little downward pressure on home prices, particularly in the condominium and townhome markets.”

The federal government has repeatedly tightened mortgage lending rules to cool the nation’s housing markets, but Toronto remains red hot and even mainstream Canadian economists have said a bubble is developing in that city.

The benchmark price for homes in Vancouver rose 1.2 percent from January to C$906,700, down 2.8 percent over the past six months, the report showed.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Vancouver fell 11.4 percent from January and were down 36.9 percent from a year earlier, the group said.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Leslie Adler

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