Photo: James Bombales

This week, the Canadian Real Estate Association released the January sales numbers the whole industry had been waiting for — and things didn’t look so great.

National home sales fell 14.5 per cent from December, making it the worst January for home sales in three years.

While the stat may seem like bad news for the Canadian housing market, economists have different takes on where the market could be headed in the coming months, and why.

For a big-picture look at what 2018 has in store for Canada’s real estate market, BuzzBuzzNews has rounded up the best of this week’s commentary on what comes next.

Forget sales numbers — listings are the real story

At least according to the RBC economics team. “It would be natural to focus on the sharp 14.5 per cent monthly drop in home resales in January…But perhaps even more noteworthy was the fact that new listings plummeted by 21.6 per cent in January to an eight-year low,” writes the team, in a recent note.

According to the team, the listings drop suggests that a lack of supply could have had a big part to play in the sales slowdown last month.

“Fewer homes being put out for sale limit the kind of activity that can take place,” they write.

Different markets have different stories to tell

“Demand and price trends continue to show considerable divergence across local markets and housing segments,” writes Scotiabank economist Adrienne Warren, in a recent note.

While prices have jumped in markets like Vancouver and Fraser Valley, they were considerably cooler in ones like Toronto.

“Prices are accelerating in Ottawa and Montreal amid historically strong demand, though with somewhat less severe supply pressures,” she writes. “Conditions are relatively balanced in Toronto, with cooler sales and stable prices, while Calgary shows signs of sales and price stability.”

Too soon to place any big bets

Of course, data gathered in the first month of the year is not always the best indicator of where activity is headed in coming months — at least, not according to BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic.

“One has to be cautious reading too much into the January results, as the big sales decline largely reverses the run of activity pulled forward into late-2017, ahead of the new [mortgage] rules,” writes Kavcic, in a recent note.

Kavcic points out that the national housing market remains fairly balanced, with local markets responding to policy changes in a moderate fashion. As for the GTA, well, he says it’s still coming to terms with the Fair Housing Plan implemented last spring.

“In the GTA, the detached market is still absorbing additional measures taken at the provincial level, while condo markets in…Toronto are still heated,” he writes.

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