Seasonally adjusted home sales via the Multiple Listing Service in Canada’s major markets reached the highest quarterly level on record in first-quarter 2006, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported today.

Seasonally adjusted MLS home sales totaled 86,861 units in the first quarter, a gain of 2.3 percent over the previous quarter and 0.1 percent above the previous record set in third-quarter 2005. Transactions in the first quarter were driven up by a record level of activity in Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto, the association reported.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, 28,949 homes traded hands via the MLS in March, down 0.2 percent from February. The seasonally adjusted rate projects a monthly total over a 12-month period, accounting for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity.

Seasonally adjusted new residential listings on the MLS reached 137,493 units in first-quarter 2006, up 1 percent from fourth-quarter 2005 and reaching the highest quarterly level since second-quarter 1991. New listings broke all previous quarterly records in the first quarter in Victoria, Toronto, Ottawa, St. Catharines, and Saint John, the association reported.

By contrast, seasonally adjusted new listings in the first quarter of 2006 fell to their lowest level in three years in Calgary, reflecting a sharp decline in new listings in January 2006 that has since rebounded.

Seasonally adjusted new listings in March 2006 reached their highest monthly level since May 1991. The 46,265 homes that were listed on MLS in March 2006 represented an increase of 0.6 percent compared to levels recorded in February.

The average residential MLS price for major markets set a new monthly record in March, climbing 11.5 percent on a year-over-year basis to $289,639. Average price reached its highest level ever in a number of major markets, including Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Kitchener, London and Ottawa. Prices increased 30 percent in Calgary from March 2006, the association also noted.

“The market balance for MLS homes sales as measured by sales as a percentage of new listings is tightest in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Hamilton, suggesting that average home prices will continue to rise strongly in those markets,” according to the report.

Gregory Klump, chief economist for the association, said in a statement, “The strength of the housing market this year continues to surprise, despite rising home prices and slightly higher interest rates.

“Home buyers’ ability to extend the amortization of mortgages insured against default and the continued ability to negotiate a discount off advertised mortgage rates are helping keep monthly payments down despite rising home prices. Rising incomes are also helping to keep housing affordability reasonable.”

The Canadian Real Estate Association represents about 82,000 Realtors working through 99 real estate boards, 10 provincial associations and one territorial association.

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