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Little change in Canada’s March housing market amid flat sales and prices — is a buyer’s market coming?

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The Canadian housing market showed little change in March 2024, with home sales and prices remaining mostly flat. Sales activity recorded through Canadian MLS systems edged up by 0.5 per cent month-over-month but remained below the average of the last 10 years. 

The national composite MLS Home Price Index (HPI) also remained mostly unchanged, dipping by 0.3 per cent month-over-month. The report suggests that while there are expectations of a market pick-up this year, the current situation could be influenced by high interest rates and the anticipation of rate cuts.

 

Canadian consumers are tapped out but buyer’s market potentially on horizon

 

We’d say it’s more likely this flat market behaviour indicates that the Canadian consumer is tapped out, and with housing at record unaffordability, it’s unlikely we’ll see much growth until affordability returns to the market.

Affordability is a function of price, interest rates and income. According to Bloomberg, to reach pre-COVID affordability in Canada, prices would need to come down 33 per cent, incomes would need to rise 55 per cent or interest rates would need to fall 350 basis points. 

It’s likely that some combination of these three factors will eventually create a recovery in the Canadian real estate market. 

The data suggests buyers might respond positively to the increase in new properties for sale, which would reduce some excess demand and potentially create a buyer’s market, allowing for negative price discovery to take place. The full impact will be clearer with the release of April’s data.

 

Transactions

 

The unadjusted transaction count for March 2023 exhibited a 1.7 per cent increase compared to the previous month. This growth was relatively modest when juxtaposed with the preceding two months’ performances. Apparently, the Easter weekend’s sluggish market conditions can be blamed for this subdued growth.

However, when looking at the inability of monthly home sales to return to their 10-year average, it tells us that unaffordability and economic factors are clearly preventing Canadians from buying homes the way they have in the past:

 

Price

 

Price activity seemed comparably underwhelming, with prices moving sideways (slightly downward) during the spring market of February and March — two months they almost always move up:

The biggest increases in price were observed in the following locations.

  1. Greater Moncton: +5 per cent
  2. Estrie, Quebec: +3.5 per cent
  3. Prince Edward Island: +2.7 per cent
  4. Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario: +2 per cent
  5. Chilliwack, British Columbia: +1.9 per cent

The biggest decreases in price were observed in these locations.

  1. Simcoe & District, Ont.: -2.3 per cent
  2. Mauricie, Que.: -3 per cent
  3. Halifax: -1.7 per cent 
  4. B.C.’s Interior region: -1.6 per cent
  5. Owen Sound, Ont.: -1.2 per cent

 

CREA’s 2024 forecast

 

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released its quarterly forecast, which indicates a return to the 10-year average sales volume growth trajectory by 2025.

CREA expects interest rates to remain a key factor influencing Canadian housing markets through 2024 and 2025. The market has been noticeably quiet since the Bank of Canada’s rate hikes in 2023, with prices in many markets still well below their historic peaks seen in 2021 and 2022.

Source: CREA

 

Expectations suggest the first rate cut in 2024 may occur in the second half of the year, with financial markets predicting around 50 basis points of cuts by the end of 2024. Most economists seem to believe that Canada won’t cut until the United States Federal Reserve cuts, which we may not see this year if it doesn’t happen at the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting. 

CREA’s statistics show a bounce in new supply, sales and listings, suggesting the market may be gearing up for a recovery. Around 492,083 residential properties are projected to trade in 2024, a 10.5 per cent increase from 2023. The national average home price is forecast to increase by 4.9 per cent to $710,468 in 2024.

In 2025, national home sales are expected to climb by 7.8 per cent to 530,494 units, while the national average home price is projected to rise by 7 per cent to $760,120.

 

Increases in volume

 

CREA’s 2024 forecast shows the biggest increase in number of homes sold to take place in:

  • Alberta, by 13.6 per cent
  • Nova Scotia, by 12.7 per cent
  • Ontario, by 12.6 per cent 
  • Quebec, by 11 per cent

Source: CREA

 

Increases in price

 

CREA’s 2024 forecast expects the biggest increase in home prices to be seen in:

  • Alberta, by 7 per cent to $479,765
  • British Columbia, by 6.9 per cent to $1,037,382
  • Nova Scotia, by 6.7 per cent to $451,114
  • Quebec, by 5.9 per cent to $515,877

Source: CREA

 


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