Canada’s existing-home sales via the Multiple Listing Service reached their highest quarterly level on record in the first quarter of 2006, according to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association.

A seasonally adjusted total of 125,142 homes were sold through MLS in the first quarter of 2006, up 2.4 percent from levels recorded in the fourth quarter of last year, and two-tenths of a percentage point above its previous quarterly record set in the third quarter of last year. New quarterly records were set in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.

“MLS home sales are running strong, reaching the highest level of any quarter on record for both the number of units sold and total dollar volume in the first quarter of 2006,” said Alan Tennant, president of The Canadian Real Estate Association. “Housing markets are in good shape overall, and there continues to be high consumer demand for resale housing right across the country.”

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, some 41,552 homes traded hands via the MLS in March 2006, representing the sixth-highest monthly level for sales activity on record. It was a decline of 1.4 percent from the second-highest level for monthly activity recorded in February 2006.

The monthly decrease in sales was largely the result of declines in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. By contrast, sales activity in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was up from February levels. In fact, monthly sales in Nova Scotia set a new record in March.

Seasonally adjusted new residential listings on MLS numbered 195,341 units in the first quarter of 2006 – an increase of 3.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005, and just 0.5 percent below its highest quarterly level ever, posted 15 years ago. New listings reached their highest quarterly level on record in the first quarter of 2006 in Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Seasonally adjusted new listings numbered 65,378 in March, virtually unchanged from the 65,252 units listed in February. With sales activity having dipped by a little more than new listings this month, the resale housing market in Canada became slightly more balanced in March compared to February.

The national MLS residential average price rose by 12.4 percent year-over-year to $274,163 in March – its largest year-over-year gain since May 2004. Average price in the first quarter of 2006 climbed 12.1 percent compared to the same quarter in 2005 to $267,744, representing its biggest year-over-year growth in quarterly average price since the 1980s.

Average price reached its highest monthly level on record in March on a national basis, and in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island. Average price also reached its highest quarterly level on a national basis, and in all provinces except Quebec.

“Rising household incomes and upbeat consumer confidence are keeping resale housing activity on a tear, even with rising home prices and interest rates,” said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. “Alberta continues to lead the way, with sales activity having accounted for almost three-quarters of the national increase.”

“Interest rates are widely expected to near their peak,” added Klump. “The continued ability to negotiate a discount off advertised mortgage rates is also helping keep sales activity high by keeping monthly payments down and affordability reasonable.”

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