March 13, 2015 / 1:43 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Canadian existing homes sales rose in February -CREA

(Adds regional data, economist comment)

By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO, March 13 (Reuters) - Sales of existing homes in Canada rose in February from January as gains in the biggest markets of Toronto and Vancouver offset a faltering market everywhere else, the Canadian Real Estate Association said on Friday.

The industry group for Canadian real estate agents said sales activity was up 1.0 percent last month from January, the first monthly increase since October. Actual sales for February, not seasonally adjusted, were up 2.7 percent from February 2014.

CREA’s home price index rose 5.01 percent from February 2014.

“Sales came in below the ten-year average for the month of February in two-thirds of all local markets,” CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump said.

“That said, the opposite was true in a few large urban markets in British Columbia and Ontario despite a shortage of listings there, which is fuelling prices higher.”

Canada escaped the housing crisis that devastated financial markets and the economy of the United States in 2009, and average prices have doubled in the past decade. While some analysts have said the market is poised for a crash, most predict a more gradual “soft landing.”

The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 52.2 percent in February as the number of newly listed homes fell 2.5 percent. New listings in oil-dependent Calgary have retreated in recent months as buyers take to the sidelines, hoping the steep decline in oil prices will soften housing prices as well.

There were 6.4 months of inventory nationally at the end of February, down from 6.5 months in January, CREA said.

The national average price, not seasonally adjusted, for homes sold in February 2015 was C$431,812 ($338,889), up 6.3 percent from a year earlier.

But CREA said the price remains skewed by robust sales in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada’s two most expensive markets.

Excluding those two markets, the average price is a more modest C$326,910 and the year-over-year price gain shrinks to just 1.5 percent.

$1 = 1.27 Canadian dollars Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bernadette Baum

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