BC and Ontario housing markets feel effects of HST in July
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) says national home sales activity continued to trend down in July 2010. The decline was almost entirely the result of fewer sales in British Columbia and Ontario. A slowdown in demand in these two provinces had been widely expected in July, as many purchases were brought forward into the first half of the year in advance of the introduction of the HST.
Seasonally adjusted national home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate Boards was down 6.8 per cent on a month-over-month basis in July. The national decline was smaller than the previous two months, as July sales in the Prairies and Quebec came in on par with June levels. Declines in British Columbia (-14.1 per cent) and Ontario (-8 per cent) accounted for 85 per cent of the change in national activity in July.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) national sales activity was 30 per cent lower in July 2010 compared to last year’s record July. Year-to-date transactions are still up 5.6 per cent compared to the first seven months of last year, although this gap is expected to continue to shrink as the year progresses, since activity rose sharply over the second half of last year, reaching levels that are unlikely to be matched in the final five months of 2010.
New supply continues to adjust to lower demand. The seasonally adjusted number of new residential listings on Canadian MLS® Systems declined by 7.2 per cent in July 2010 compared to the previous month. This is the third consecutive month-over-month decrease, and the steepest in more than a decade. Since reaching their most recent peak in April, new listings have fallen 17.5 per cent.
The declining trend in new listings will help maintain the balance between supply and demand, and temper home price volatility. The national sales-to-new listings ratio, a measure of market balance, has held steady between 48 and 49 per cent for the past three months, which is characteristic of a balanced market.
The average price of homes sold via Canadian MLS® Systems in July was $330,351, edging up one per cent from the same month last year. While year-over-year comparisons have been shrinking as prices stabilize, the national average home price is likely somewhat understated this month, since the majority of activity declines occurred in British Columbia and Ontario, which include many of Canada’s most expensive markets.
The same phenomenon is widely known to have caused much of the downward skewing in the national average price during the recession. This is most evident when looking at a breakdown of average prices by province. Average home prices eased slightly in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in July, but gains in every other province exceeded the national increase.
The national weighted average price compensates for changes in provincial sales activity by taking into account provincial proportions of privately owned housing stock. It climbed four per cent on a year-over-year basis in July 2010. Similarly, the residential average price in Canada’s major markets was up 2.9 per cent year-over-year in July, while the weighted major market average price rose 7.4 per cent.
The number of months of inventory represents the number of months it would take to sell current inventories at the current rate of sales activity, and measures the balance between housing supply and demand. It stood at seven months at the end of July 2010 on a national basis. This is up from 4.4 months one year ago, which was one of the lowest levels in the past three years.
The seasonally adjusted number of months of inventory stood at 7.3 months at the end of July on a national basis. This is the highest level since March 2009, but the pace of monthly gains is slowing as new listings continue to adjust to lower demand.
“The soft sales figures we’re seeing right now can be attributed in part to accelerated home purchases earlier in the year,” said CREA President Georges Pahud. “Activity may remain at lower levels for some time, but ultimately we expect a more stable market to emerge, with demand coming back into line with economic fundamentals.”
“While the outlook for economic and job growth remains generally positive nationally and in all provinces, the pace of the recovery will vary by region,” he added. “Buyers and sellers should consult with a REALTOR® to find out about conditions in their local market.”