A strong housing market in Vancouver makes CREA adjust its sales forecast

July proved to be a another strong month for Canadian home sales with the Canadian Real Estate Association now predicting 2011 will see an increase in sales as opposed to a previous forecast for a drop.

Actual sales last month were up 12.3% from a year ago while year-to-date sales are 1.6% lower than the same period for 2010.

Prices also continue to have some upward movement, albeit some of the increase year over year being attributed to the introduction of the HST in British Columbia and Ontario, and tighter mortgage regulations in 2010.

The national average price for homes sold in July 2011 was $361,181 — the lowest level since January — but represented a 9.3% increase from a year ago.

Greg Klump, chief economist at CREA, cautioned not to read too much into the average price statistics.

“Changes in the national average home price are open to being misinterpreted,” Mr. Klump said. “They often signify changes in the mix of sales activity across and within local markets, rather than a rising or falling price trend for typical homes in a specific market.”

However, the Ottawa-based group, which represents 100 boards across the country, says the scales have now tipped modestly in favour of 2011 outpacing 2010.

CREA is predicting 450,800 sales in 2011, just under a 1% increase from a year ago. The group had been forecasting a decline of 1%. Sales are expected to drop less than 1% in 2012.

Prices in Vancouver continues to affect the country as they helped pushed CREA’s forecast for the average sale price in 2011 to $363,500, a 7.2% increase from a year ago. This was also an increase from a previous forecast. Next year prices are expected to be flat.

The group noted long-talked-about increases in interest rates have failed to materialize in the market.

“While there had been some talk of potential interest-rate increases, that hasn’t happened,” said Gary Morse, president of CREA. “In fact, rates have actually come down, and are now expected to remain low for the remainder of this year and into 2012.”

Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at Bank of Montreal, said the housing market just seems to keep surprising everybody.

“In a world seemingly awash in negative economic surprises in 2011, one positive surprise has been the resiliency of Canada’s housing market,” said Mr. Porter, adding few analysts were predicting the kind of price increases the market has seen.

“Canadian housing remains surprisingly robust, thanks to still low interest rates and solid job growth. While the recent financial market turmoil may temporarily weigh on activity, sales should ultimately find support from continued exceptionally low borrowing costs.”

Phil Soper, chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, said his company’s recent forecast was for a 2% decline in sales and 3% increase in price for 2011. He doesn’t anticipate that changing.

“I think we’re going to start to see it’s not so much the strength of the market but the weakness last year. The market had run out of steam at this point last year,” Mr. Soper said. “I think we are seeing a more normal curve to the market, with the exception of the Vancouver market.”

Source: Garry Marr, Financial Post

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