Strong sales in Calgary and Vancouver led to a Canadian housing market boom in August as MLS transactions across the country were up 11.1 per cent compared with a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
In releasing its national data on Monday, CREA said sales in Vancouver were up 53.1 per cent from last year to 2,557 while Calgary transactions rose by 28.8 per cent to 2,830.
In Canada, total MLS sales in August were 40,350.
“The year 2013 has been a very strong year for the Calgary real estate market,” said Crystal Tost, a realtor with RE/MAX Realty Professionals in Calgary. “Earlier in the year we saw the market pick up as we transitioned into a sellers’ market as a direct result of low inventory levels. The market maintained strong with low inventory right through to spring. The summer months are traditionally a bit slower than spring months, but not for 2013. The market continued on with record sales without rest as inventory levels continued a downward motion into summer months.
“There is no doubt that the flood has greatly affected the housing market in Calgary not just for sales. Workers that have flocked to the city to aid in Calgary’s rebuilding and displaced people looking for temporary housing have exhausted the inventory in the rental market and in turn we are seeing rising rental prices. The raised rental market is making it sense for some first-time buyers to enter into the market. Bank interest rates are also on the rise. We are seeing many buyers out there with great interest rate holds nearing expiration so some of those buyers will be on a time crunch to save some money in interest.”
In August, Calgary had the highest growth year-over-year in the MLS Home Price Index, which tracks typical sales in nine major Canadian centres. Calgary prices rose by 7.39 per cent compared to the national aggregate of 2.92 per cent.
As for average prices, Calgary was once again a leader with an 8.1 per cent annual hike to $432,576, while Canada saw an 8.1 per cent hike as well to $378,369.
Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist with the Calgary Real Estate Board, said the past two months have seen sales activity in the city shoot up higher than long-term trends.
“Both in July and August, those numbers were a little stronger. Part of that I think is due to the fact of the floods (in June),” said Lurie. “Because of that if you look at June we were running really in line with long-term trends — just above it. And then floods hit and in July and August we saw that activity increase. And some of that is from that demand being pulled forward.”
But other factors have also come into play in the local residential real estate market, she said, with stronger than expected migration this year.
“We still continue to have employment growth. The overall economic situation has done fairly well,” said Lurie. “That’s all the backdrop behind it as well. And wages have been increasing.”
There’s also the added possibility of increasing mortgage rates causing people to get into home ownership sooner.
In August, Alberta saw MLS sales increase by 17.8 per cent from last year to 6,124 while the average price rose by 7.1 per cent to $381,642.
On Monday, CREA also released its forecast for the rest of this year and 2014. It said Alberta MLS sales would grow by 6.2 per cent this year, the best in the country, to 64,100 and by another 2.3 per cent in 2014 to 65,600.
In Canada, sales are expected to drop by 1.0 per cent this year to 449,900 but expand by 3.5 per cent next year to $465,600.
The average sale price in Alberta is expected to rise by 4.8 per cent this year to $380,500, the second best growth rate in the country behind Newfoundland’s 6.1 per cent. Alberta is then forecast to lead the country in 2014 with 3.4 per cent growth to $393,300.
Canadian average sale prices are forecast to grow by 3.6 per cent this year to $376,300 and by another 1.7 per cent in 2014 to $382,800.
“Sales activity dropped sharply around this time last year in the wake of tightened mortgage rules and has improved since then, so a sizeable year-over-year increase this August was expected,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, about the national August sales data.
“Buyers who put off purchase decisions or who were otherwise sidelined by tighter mortgage rules and lending guidelines implemented last year were anticipated to return to the housing market. That said, the upward trend and levels for activity in recent months has been steeper than expected, but that may not last.
“Recent increases to fixed mortgage rates caused sales to be pulled forward as buyers with pre-approved financing at lower rates jumped into the market sooner than they might have otherwise. That pool of homebuyers has largely evaporated so demand may soften over the fourth quarter. The outsized year-over-year gains may persist, however, due to weak sales toward the end of last year.”
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald