(Adds comment, detail on prices and inventory)
By Andrea Hopkins
OTTAWA, April 18 (Reuters) - Resales of Canadian homes rose 1.1 percent in March from February and prices were up 18.6 percent from a year earlier as strong demand in Toronto offset cooling elsewhere, a report from the Canadian Real Estate Association showed on Tuesday.
The report added to evidence of booming sales in Toronto, the nation’s largest market, where bidding wars and soaring prices have sparked concern about a bubble.
CREA said actual sales, not seasonally adjusted, were up 6.6 percent from March 2016, with gains in nearly 75 percent of local markets. Sales in Toronto posted the biggest increase, offsetting a decline in Vancouver.
While Vancouver’s once-boiling market has cooled since a 15 percent foreign buyers tax was imposed in August, Toronto has continued to boil and the heat has spilled over into neighboring cities in southern Ontario.
Officials from Canada and its most populous province will meet later on Tuesday, under pressure from voters angry that speculators or foreigners are fueling unsustainable price gains.
CREA, an industry group representing realtors, reiterated its concern that further moves by the government to rein in the market could have a negative impact on other cities, which are more moderate than Toronto.
“Because housing market balance varies by location, federal or provincial policy measures aimed at cooling demand in Toronto risk destabilizing housing markets elsewhere,” CREA chief economist Gregory Klump said in a statement.
The government has already moved several times in the last five years to tighten mortgage lending rules to prevent homebuyers from taking on too much debt to get into the housing market, but the measures have not stopped fears of a bubble.
The report showed the number of newly listed homes rose 2.5 percent in March, taking the national sales-to-new listings ratio to 67.4 percent from 68.3 percent in February. A ratio between 40 and 60 is considered a balanced market, and Canada’s ratio shows a seller’s market is in place.
CREA said there were 4.1 months of inventory at the end of March 2017, down from 4.2 months in February and the lowest level in almost a decade.
The national average home price rose 8.2 percent to C$548,517 ($410,444) in March from a year earlier, while prices in Toronto and nearby Oakville-Milton rose by about 30 percent, the report showed. ($1 = 1.3364 Canadian dollars) (Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)