Canada's resale housing market recovered lost ground in the second quarter and is poised to stabilize for the remainder of 2009, after a very slow start to the year, according to the Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast and House Price Survey released today. As the economy begins to stabilize and consumer confidence improves, house prices are expected to appreciate slightly in much of eastern and central Canada. Greater than national average price declines are predicted for the western cities that saw the greatest price inflation earlier in the decade, including Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
"Given the grim shape that Canada's real estate market was in this past winter, the turnaround we have witnessed in the second quarter is really quite remarkable. We believe this improvement represents a sustainable change across the country. While seasonally weaker conditions are to be expected in the fall, the plucky Canadian real estate market is stabilizing and a healthy level of activity is forecast for the second half of 2009," said Phil Soper, president and chief executive officer, Royal LePage Real Estate Services.
During the second quarter, average house prices across most Canadian markets began to appreciate, recovering from the lows experienced during the winter months. Average national prices remain slightly behind those posted during the same period in 2008. Of the housing types surveyed, the price of detached bungalows declined to $327,964 (-3.5 per cent), two storey property prices decreased to $392,378 (-3.7 per cent), and standard condominiums price points fell slightly to $237,112 (-3.8 per cent), year-over-year.
Soper observed, "With our industry's busiest quarter behind us, we feel comfortable revising our 2009 forecast to the positive. When the anticipated market decline struck last winter, it was with greater speed and intensity than predicted, but the strength of the rebound was equally surprising. If general economic conditions continue to improve, as we expect they will, 2009 will be characterized as a period of moderate housing market correction after several years of above-average price growth."
The 2009 national average house price is forecast to decline marginally by 2.0 percent, to $297,500 by end of year and unit sales are projected to fall slightly by 1.0 percent to 430,000.
"Improved affordability, driven by flat or lower home prices and inexpensive mortgage financing, has been the principle catalyst in this recovery. Pent up demand is also a factor in the lift we see in the second quarter numbers. For six months straddling the year's beginning, buyers stayed away from the market in an understandable, emotional reaction to very unsettled global economic conditions. Canadians appear to be stepping beyond these fears and are once again moving onto and up the home ownership ladder," stated Soper.
In early 2009, the precipitous drop in unit sales remains the most dramatic indicator of the recession's impact on Canada's real estate market. With spring, consumers appeared ready to believe the worst was behind them and returned to the market in force, driving increased activity across each housing type. Couple this with historically low interest rates and leveling unemployment, Canada's residential real estate market got back on track during the quarter.
Undergoing an inevitable cyclical correction, price adjustments can be seen with marked variances across Canada's provinces. As expected, British Columbia and Alberta posted the most significant price modifications, as home values in those markets retreated in the wake of several mid-decade years of unsustainable price inflation, and have now evolved to a more balanced state. Prices appear to have stabilized and it is expected that these regions will continue to see improvements into 2010. In particular, the impact of lower home prices has improved affordability to the point that people are buying homes again on the West Coast, where sales activity has increased substantially.
Alternatively in Atlantic Canada, homes continue to appreciate due to strong local economies, which have helped to shelter the region somewhat from the turbulence witnessed in other provinces. As well, the region's generally moderate home prices have helped keep demand strong. Newfoundland, in particular, stands out as a region that continues to see significant home price appreciation, as supply cannot keep up with the demand driven by vibrant and growing industries such as those in the province's oil and gas sector.
Meanwhile, home prices in Toronto declined slightly in the second quarter, reflecting the national average trend. In the early spring, it was first-time buyers who triggered the increased activity levels, now those looking to move up are also active in the market. Similar to the situation in other large cities in central Canada, the most desirable neighbourhoods experienced supply shortages, which put upward pressure on prices.
"Looking ahead to the second half of 2009, year-over-year price comparisons will likely appear increasingly more favourable. It is important to remember that the baseline for the latter half of 2008 was unusually low, particularly in the fourth quarter when the full impact of the global financial crisis was felt. Our expectation is that most Canadian regions will experience stable housing prices through into the spring of 2010," concluded Soper.
Regional Market Summaries
In Toronto, the real estate market witnessed significant second quarter gains. The return of consumer confidence and an upswing in spring market activity brought house prices and unit sales down as buyers emerged to take advantage of affordable properties and low lending rates. As the market begins its transition from a buyer's market to a balanced market, with indications of a seller's market arising, it's anticipated that the market will stabilize by the end of year.