Calgary real estate sales growth leads country

Calgary is poised to regain its place as Canada’s hottest housing market after new data showed the city last month had the country’s highest year over year MLS sales growth.

The Canadian Real Estate Association, in a report released Tuesday, said the city’s 2,720 MLS sales in April were up 30 per cent from a year ago. Nationally, sales grew 11.5 per cent from April 2011.

“Calgary is quietly becoming a market to watch,” said BMO Capital Markets economist Robert Kavcic, noting sales are above the 10-year average for the first time in about three years.

While sales are soaring, prices have shown more modest gains, however. CREA’s April survey showed the average MLS sale price in Calgary rose 0.7 per cent to $414,932, compared with 0.9 per cent across Canada.

“Prices have yet to gain much momentum, but supply conditions are tightening rapidly across Alberta,” Kavcic said.

“If oil prices remain high enough to continue supporting strong economic growth and migration flows, Calgary could again become Canada’s real estate hot spot in short order.”

Robert Hogue, senior economist with RBC Economics, said April was the third consecutive “outsized” increase in Calgary, a “clear indication that this market is finally taking flight.”

New listings in Calgary increased by 4.4 per cent from last year, to 4,370. Throughout Canada, new listings rose by 4.9 per cent to 89,739.

In Alberta, sales rose by 23.5 per cent to 6,191, new listings increased by 2.4 per cent to 10,718 units and the average sale price was up 1.9 per cent to $365,830.

“A number of Canadian housing market trends in April remained intact from the previous month,” said Wayne Moen, president of CREA.

“Trends in Vancouver and Toronto continue to diverge. These two housing markets have an obvious influence on national statistics.”

In Toronto, sales of 10,350 in April were up 14.5 per cent from last year and the average sale price rose by 8.4 per cent to $517,556. Sales in Vancouver declined 13 per cent and the average price dropped by almost 10 per cent to $735,315.

“It bears repeating that the national average price was skewed higher last spring by record level high-end home sales in Vancouver’s priciest neighbourhoods, and that a replay of this phenomenon was not expected this year,” said Gregory Klump, chief economist of CREA.

Klump cautioned against reading too much into the national sales price numbers.

“Netting Vancouver out of the national average price calculation yields a 4.9 per cent year-on-year gain,” he said.

“Netting Toronto out . . . while leaving Vancouver in, produces a 2.2 per cent year-on-year decline. Netting out both Vancouver and Toronto results in a 3.1 per cent increase . . . on balance, this points to modest price growth amid balanced market conditions in much of the rest of Canada.”

Diana Petramala, economist with TD Economics, said Canadian housing demand is likely to remain supported by a continued low interest rate environment through 2012.

“Still, growth in home prices and sales will likely be limited as the overvaluation has led to a deterioration in affordability,” Petramala said.

“We anticipate the Canadian housing market to remain relatively flat in the coming year with home prices to rise just another two per cent this year, following gains of seven per cent in each of the last two years.”

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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