Hamilton has led the way in Canada in home price increases in the past year, shows a new report from BMO.

Canadian housing prices stayed relatively balanced over the last year but Hamilton, Winnipeg and Regina bucked that trend, shows this year's BMO Home Buying Report.

"By and large, prices are holding up," said Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets. "The market remains relatively balanced overall, leaning slightly in favour of buyers in some select markets."

The average sale price for all property types in March was 10.8 per cent higher than March of last year, however there was a 14.3 per cent decrease in actual sales. 1170 property sales were listed through the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington last year.

The report advises that people looking to buy a home or condo this spring need to stick to their budgets. Total housing costs shouldn't exceed more than one-third of household income, said Laura Parsons, a BMO mortgage expert.

Canadians should also choose shorter amortization to save thousands in interest costs.

Other advice:

  • Stress test your budget by using a mortgage payment based on a higher interest rate. If rates increase even by 1 per cent, you'll need another $126 per month on a $200,000 mortgage.
  • Live within your means. Stick to the one-third rule, including mortgage payments, property taxes and heating costs.
  • Think carefully about fixed vs. variable mortgage rates.
  • Consider choosing a shorter amortization. The shorter the life of the mortgage, the less you pay in interest. Choosing a maximum 25-year amortization helps households build equity in their home faster and save thousands in interest costs.

The average home sale price in Canada is $378,532.