The average price of a Canadian home increased by 12 per cent in the year up to December and is now worth $454,342, the Canadian Real Estate Association says.

As it has done for a while, the realtor group says Toronto and Vancouver are skewing the national average higher. But if those two cities are stripped out, the national average drops to $336,994 while the annual gain is still 5.4 per cent.

"Leading the charge was Vancouver, where we have run out of superlatives to describe just how wild its market is," BMO economist Sal Guatieri said. "[Vancouver] sales were up 33.7 per cent in December and benchmark prices vaulted 18.9 per cent."

'We have run out of superlatives to describe just how wild [Vancouver's] market is' - Sal Guatieri, BMO

Indeed, those two cities are masking a housing market that is now getting cheaper on a national level. If the entire provinces of British Columbia and Ontario are stripped out, the average Canadian home was worth $294,363 in December — a decrease of 2.2 per cent during the past year.

Prices weren't the only part of the housing market that rose during the month. The actual number of sales was up by 10 per cent in December compared to the same month a year ago. December is not typically a strong month for home sales as demand goes away during cold winter months.

"December mirrored the main themes of 2015, with strong sales activity and price growth across much of British Columbia and Ontario offsetting declines in activity among oil producing regions," said Gregory Klump, CREA's chief economist.

"The recent decline and uncertain outlook for oil prices means that housing market prospects are unlikely to improve in the near term in regions where job market prospects are tied to oil production," he said.