Average house price rises 7.6% to $409,708 in Canada

The average price of a Canadian home moved higher to $409,708 in April, a 7.6 per cent increase in the past year.
Canadian house prices have increased by an average of 7.6 per cent in the past year. (Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg)

The average price of a Canadian home moved higher in April to $409,708, a 7.6 per cent increase in the past year.

The figure continues to be skewed higher by hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver, the Canadian Real Estate Association said in a release Thursday.

When those two cities are stripped out, the average drops to 4.8 per cent, says the association.

Although prices were higher, the actual number of homes sold dropped a little bit, down 0.3 per cent between April 2013 and April 2014. The sales figure is about one per cent below the 10-year average for home sales in April, which is historically a popular month for real estate as nicer weather puts people in a home-buying mood.

"I was surprised that the volume of existing home sales actually fell 0.3 per cent year-over-year," Queen's University professor and housing expert John Andrew said. “[It was] far below what was needed to revive a very slow spring real estate market."

Sales activity is now about halfway between the most recent peak reached in August 2013 and the slowdown in the second half of 2012 that followed changes to mortgage rules and guidelines, CREA said.

For its part, the realtor group put a cautiously optimistic spin on the numbers, saying the market remains in "firmly balanced" territory.

"Tightened mortgage rules and guidelines are working as intended to keep activity in check despite mortgage interest rates remaining extraordinarily low," CREA's chief economist Gregory Klump said in a press release announcing the monthly data.

Growing concern

Policymakers and private-sector economists have been raising alarms recently about the frothy nature of Canadian real estate. 

The government has stepped in multiple times in recent years to let off some steam and slow the increase of prices, which were in double digits annually not that long ago.

Those steps appear to be having the desired effect and recent data points have suggested a soft landing may be in the works.

Bank of Montreal senior economist Sal Guatieri said that "outside a few lingering hot spots, Canada's housing market is stable, if not boring, which is good in the face of dire warnings about a crash."

"Strong population growth and healthy economies are driving markets in Alberta, B.C, Saskatchewan and Greater Toronto, while the opposite appears to be weighing on activity in Quebec and much of Atlantic Canada," Guatieri said.

Earlier this week, Investors Group created stir in the spring mortgage market when it offered a 36-month closed, variable-rate mortgage at 1.99 per cent.