Existing-home sales in Canada’s major markets in the first six months of 2006 surpassed all previous records for the first half of any year, as for-sale inventory hit an all-time high, according to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association.

Actual (unadjusted) home sales via the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in Canada’s major markets numbered 186,177 units in the first half of 2006, up 3.6 percent from the previous record for first-half activity set in 2005.

Surging activity in Calgary and Edmonton remains the driving force behind the continuing strength of national residential sales activity, the association reported. New records for resale housing activity for the first half of the year were set in a number of major markets, including Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, London, Sudbury, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.

“With interest rates having peaked, strong employment and rising after-tax incomes will no doubt keep resale housing activity strong over the second half of the year,” said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. “The housing market is tightest in Alberta, where a sizzling job market is stoking buyer demand and fueling remarkable price increases.”

Actual (unadjusted) MLS residential new listings totaled 308,923 units in the first half of 2006 — a record for the first six months of the year, and the highest level on record for any six-month period. New listings were up by 4.6 percent from the first half of last year and were 2.3 percent higher than the previous record set in the first half of 1990, which is the only other six-month period on record in which new listings topped 300,000 units.

“The rise in new listings in Montreal and Toronto gives buyers in those centers a wider selection of homes to choose from, and will keep price increases in those markets below those for major markets in British Columbia and Alberta,” Klump said.

The major-market MLS residential average price at mid-year was up by 12.7 percent compared to the same point last year, rising from $246,093 to $277,380. For the month of June, the average price reached $304,328, up 11.8 percent from the same month last year.

Average price has posted double-digit year-over-year gains in every month during the first half of 2006, and reached the highest monthly level on record in June in Calgary, Edmonton, London, Montreal and Quebec City. Average price edged down slightly from the record levels reached in May 2006 in a number of other markets, the association reported.

Seasonally adjusted home sales activity eased by less than 1 percent from the previous month to 28,185 units in June. Monthly sales activity ebbed in Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, and a number of other markets, which more than more than offset monthly gains in Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, and London.

Sales activity remains on track to set an annual record in 2006 even though further expected price increases and recent mortgage rate hikes will cause transactions to soften marginally in the second half of the year.

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