Canadian existing-home sales via the Multiple Listing Service rose to their fifth-highest seasonally adjusted monthly level on record in February, and average prices hit new highs, according to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association.

According to CREA’s statistics, seasonally adjusted MLS home sales in February rose by two-tenths of a percentage point to 41,555 units compared to the previous month. A monthly increase in sales activity in Ontario and Quebec more than offset a decline in transactions in British Columbia. The number of MLS home sales in the first two months of 2006 are running 10.7 percent ahead of levels posted during the same period last year, CREA reported.

Sales activity reached its highest monthly level on record in Alberta, and set new records for the month of February on a national basis and in Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.

Seasonally adjusted MLS residential new listings declined by one half of a percentage point to 64,382 units in February compared to January. The small decline in new listings and small increase in sales caused the national resale housing market to tighten slightly in February compared to the previous month.

The minor tightening of market conditions does not explain the large gains in national MLS residential average price, which shot up to $268,215 in February compared with $258,274 in January, CREA reported. The monthly average price increase of 3.8 percent was the second-largest gain posted in the last 15 years, and is attributed to large monthly price gains in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Average price was also up 12.3 percent compared to levels recorded in February 2005.

MLS residential average price reached its highest monthly level on record nationally, and in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Average prices set new records for the month of February in all other provinces.

“The resale housing market remains tightest in Western Canada,” said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. “A shortage of homes available for sale and the continuation of strong resale housing demand in Western Canada are resulting in substantial price increases there.”

“Although the national resale housing market has so far shown few signs of slowing, rising interest rates and home prices are expected to gradually slow resale housing market activity this year,” Klump added.

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