Sellers Housing Market Now in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Statistics released today by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show that national existing-home sales dipped between November and December owing to a dearth of new listings, especially in the GTA.
National home sales edged down 0.9% in the final month of 2019, ending a streak of monthly gains that began last March. Activity is now about 18% above the six-year low reached in February 2019 but ends the year about 7% below the peak recorded in 2016 and 2017 (see chart below).
There was an almost even split between the number of local markets where activity rose and those where it declined, with higher sales in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Calgary and Montreal offsetting declines in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Ottawa.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was up 22.7% compared to the quiet month of December in 2018. Transactions surpassed year-ago levels across most of Canada, including all of the largest urban markets.
The December decline in home sales is not a sign of weakness but is instead the result of diminishing supply. Excess demand continues to push up prices in most regions of Canada. Demand has been boosted by low interest rates, strong population growth and strong labour markets that have triggered significant gains in household incomes. Mitigating this, in part, is the mortgage stress-test, which continues to sideline some potential buyers.
According to Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist, “The momentum for home price gains picked up as last year came to a close. If the recent past is prelude, then price trends in British Columbia, the GTA, Ottawa and Montreal look set to lift the national result this year, despite the continuation of a weak pricing environment among housing markets across the Prairie region.”