The number of homes sold across Canada decreased by almost 16 per cent in February compared to a year ago, even as the average sale price dipped by about one per cent to $368,895.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday that housing sales have been effectively flat since August, when new federal government rules making it harder to get a mortgage came into effect.

CREA said almost 80 per cent of local markets posted year-over-year declines in sales activity in February, the most notable exception being Edmonton.

"A rebound in sales in some of Canada's largest and most expensive markets, similar to those we saw following previous mortgage rule changes, has so far remained elusive," CREA president Wayne Moen said.

CREA repeated its warning that the average price figure is being dragged down by a slowdown in activity in one market — Vancouver. If sales from the Greater Vancouver area aren't included, the national average would have shown an increase of 1.3 per cent during the month.

"Year-over-year comparisons will continue to reflect the long shadow cast by higher sales prior to last summer's policy tightening," CREA's chief economist Gregory Klump said.

But the national slowdown is the continuation of a trend that started some time late last year. The realtor group also downgraded its forecast for what they expect to happen in real estate from here on out.

CREA is expecting 441,500 homes to change hands in 2013, down almost three per cent from 454,573 in 2012.