Canadian home prices inch higher, but tepid gain signals cooling market

TORONTO — Canadian home prices edged higher in October from the month before but the gain was lower than average, suggesting the market is cooler than usual, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index showed on Wednesday.

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The index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed overall prices rose 0.1% last month from September. The average October monthly gain over 15 years of data has been 0.2%, Teranet said.

The index was up 3.1% on an annual basis, an acceleration from September’s 2.7% price appreciation and well above the trough of 1.8% in June.

The report echoes data on both sales activity and prices that suggest Canada’s housing market has cooled after a strong spring and summer.

Economists are divided over whether the market has achieved a soft landing after years of roaring ahead, or if it will still undergo a sharp price correction similar to the U.S. housing crash. Mortgage rates remain near historic lows and are not expected to rise much as long as official interest rates are held low to stimulate the economy.

“For as long as the Bank of Canada remains on the sidelines – which we now expect until H2-2015 – the risk of an adverse development in Canadian housing is limited,” Mazen Issa, a Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a research note.

“Taken in tandem with the fading impact of tighter mortgage regulations, the outlook for housing over the near-term is expected to remain benign.”

Canada sidestepped the worst of the financial crisis of the last decade because it avoided the real estate excesses of its U.S. neighbor, and a post-recession housing boom helped it recover more quickly than its Group of Seven peers.

The housing market began to cool last year after the country’s Conservative government, worried about a potential property bubble, tightened mortgage rules. Housing has since rebounded in most markets but has started to ebb again as the summer selling season fades.

The Teranet data showed prices rose in October from September in just 3 of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed, with a 1.1% rise in Vancouver, a 1.0% rise in Halifax and a 0.9% rise in Calgary.

Prices were down 0.8% in Hamilton, 0.6% in Victoria, 0.5% in Ottawa, 0.4% in Quebec City, 0.3% in Edmonton, 0.2% in Toronto and 0.1% in Montreal and Winnipeg.

Year-on-year prices dropped in two cities – Victoria, where they were down 0.5% from October 2012, and Halifax, where they fell 0.7%.

Compared with October 2012, prices were 6.7% higher in Calgary, 4.6% higher in Hamilton, 4.1% higher in Toronto, 3.8% higher in Quebec City, 2.7% higher in Vancouver, 2.2% higher in Edmonton, 2.0% higher in Winnipeg, and 0.9% higher in Montreal and Ottawa.

Reuters | 13/11/13 9:35 AM ET

© Thomson Reuters 2013

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