Repeated warnings of an overheated market failed to deter home buyers in Canada’s largest cities in 2013, with the number of Toronto home sales up two per cent over the previous year, Vancouver sales were up 14 per cent and Calgary sales rose 11 per cent.  

Homes in the Greater Toronto Area continued their robust rise in price, up 5.2 per cent to an average price of $523,036 in December, compared to $497,130 in 2012, the Toronto Real Estate Board reports.

After a slow start to 2013, GTA housing sales picked up in the second half of the year. Total sales for 2013 were 87,111, compared to 85,496 transactions in 2012.

Even the condo market showed gains, with the average price in Toronto rising 7.6 per cent to $367,376 compared to December 2012, while detached homes prices rose by nearly 19 per cent to $864,351.

Although December sales tend to be slow, new listings were down almost four per cent in December, which helped fuel frantic bidding wars in some Toronto neighbourhoods close to the downtown and transit lines.

Pickup in Vancouver sales

For Metro Vancouver, total sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in 2013 reached 28,524, a 14 per cent increase from the 25,032 sales recorded in 2012.

But the number of residential properties listed for sale on the MLS declined 6.2 per cent in 2013 to 54,742, part of a trend in major cities as baby boomers hold onto their properties.

The average house price in the Greater Vancouver area was $603,400.

The price of a detached single family home rose 2.5 per cent to $927,000, while condo prices were up 1.8 per cent for the year to $367,800.

“It was a year of stability for the Greater Vancouver housing market,” said Sandra Wyant, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver president. “Balanced conditions allowed home prices in the region to remain steady, with just a modest increase over the last 12 months.”

Calgary sales powered by economy

In Calgary, 16,302 single family homes changed hands, an eight per cent increase, and 4,007 condos were sold, a 14 per cent rise.

The benchmark price for a single-family home was $472,200 in December, an 8.6 per cent increase from the previous year.  

“Two consecutive years of elevated levels of net migration, combined with an improving job outlook and confidence surrounding long-term economic prospects, supported the demand growth,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist for the Calgary Real Estate Board.

How strong the housing market remains in 2014 depends on interest rates.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warned in an interview Sunday that Canada will face global pressure to raise rates in 2014 as the U.S. Federal Reserve pulls back on its stimulus efforts and the U.S. economy rebounds.

Toronto and Calgary prices to continue upward

The Toronto Real Estate Board predicts price growth will continue to exceed inflation in 2014, largely because demand for low-rise houses continues to far outstrip supply.

“The seller’s market conditions that drove price growth in the second half of 2013 will remain in place in many parts of the GTA,” said TREB senior manager of market analysis Jason Mercer.

“Some neighbourhoods, especially those characterized by low-rise house types like singles, semis and townhomes, will continue to have less than two months of inventory.”

In Calgary, both prices and numbers of sales are expected to rise in 2014, the Calgary real estate board said, but the increases are not likely to be as steep as in 2013.