toronto-home-sales-skyline Photo: Kevin Cabral/Flickr

More homes changed hands in Canada last month than in any other March on record even as activity inched down in Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Across the country, home sales registered through MLS systems increased in March by 1.5 per cent from activity in February, with 60 per cent of local markets recording gains.

Transactions fell 1.8 per cent month-over-month in the GTA and slipped 0.3 per cent from February in Vancouver, although “both remain near record highs reached the month before,” CREA stated this morning.

Cliff Iverson, CREA’s president, highlighted how low supply is putting downward pressure on activity in Canada’s hottest markets.

“Greater Vancouver and the GTA are heading into the spring homebuying season with soaring demand and a shortage of listings,” said Iverson in a statement.

“Meanwhile, other major urban markets in Canada are well balanced or are amply supplied,” he added.

Canadian home sales soared 12.2 per cent from March 2015, on a not-seasonally-adjusted basis. This set a new record and casts a long shadow over the month’s 10-year average of 14.2 per cent.

A dearth of listings in a number of markets — the GTA and nearby Hamilton-Burlington lead the country in this regard — tipped the scales in favour of sellers in March.

The national sales-to-new-listings ratio hit 61.7 per cent, its highest level since October 2009. CREA said listings between 40 and 60 per cent signal a balanced market, with anything above that range suggesting a seller’s market.

Last month, the benchmark price of a Canadian home was $528,200, up 9.1 per cent from March 2015.

Calgary and Saskatoon were the only two markets to see prices lower than they were a year ago. Calgary’s prices dropped 3.69 per cent to $438,700 and Saskatoon’s fell 2.71 per cent coming to rest at $302,300.

Greater Vancouver led all major markets with a benchmark price of $815,000, towering 23.2 per cent over year-ago numbers.

The Lower Mainland’s benchmark followed at $719,500, having soared 22.8 per cent in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, the Greater Toronto Area’s benchmark price of $599,400 positioned it as the third most expensive market after an 11.6 increase over the year ending in March.

In a research note published this morning, Robert Kavcic, BMO’s senior economist, said there’s a good chance Toronto and Vancouver price appreciation will continue to rise with the mercury.

“With supply in the two hot markets extremely tight, prices are likely to push even higher through the always-important spring selling season,” he wrote. “The question is, will policymakers in BC and Ontario do anything to quell the fires?”

Without British Columbia and Ontario, the average Canadian home price in March was $299,591, down 1 per cent compared to the same time the year before.

“It’s the same ol’ situation in Canada’s housing market, with extreme strength in Toronto and Vancouver, corrections playing out in the oil-exposed markets, while most others fall somewhere in between,” said Kavcic reacting to the CREA release.

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