Average house price in Canada jumps 15% to $508,567 in March

The average price of a Canadian home hit $508,567 in March, a rise of 15.7 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

Prices higher, but volume of homes sold also hit record

The Canadian housing market hit an all-time record for the number of homes sold last month, according to CREA figures released Friday. (Associated Press)

The average price of a Canadian home hit $508,567 in March, a jump of 15.7 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

Realtor group the Canadian Real Estate Association said the volume of homes sold set an all-time record, as some 45,137 houses were sold via the realtor group's Multiple Listings Service.

Sales activity rose 12.2 per cent from one year ago and set a new record for the month. March is typically popular for home sales as the weather warms up, but this year's figure came in 14.2 per cent above the 10-year average for the month.

Toronto and Vancouver lead the way again

As has been the case for several months, the national numbers are skewed by hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver.

"If these two housing markets are excluded from calculations, the average is a more modest $366,950 and the year-over-year gain is reduced to 10.4 per cent," CREA said.

If British Columbia and Ontario are stripped out, the picture changes ever more. The average price for houses everywhere else in Canada was $299,591 in March, a number that has declined by one per cent in the past year.

Economist Warren Kirkland at TD Bank said the two-speed real estate party can't go on forever, but shows no sign of slowing any time soon.

"Overall, we expect Canadian home price growth to slow to below [three per cent] this year, but prices in Toronto and Vancouver should continue to grow well above that pace, though will decelerate for the remainder of the year," he said. "Over the longer term, rising interest rates will gradually weigh on demand."

Kirkland also noted that February sales in Toronto were probably exaggerated as buyers moved to complete purchases before Feb. 15, when larger down payments were required under the new federal rules for properties worth between $500,000 and $1 million.

"We saw a very modest pullback in these markets in March, in line with our expectations, but the rule changes had little effect nationally as they were targeted at a small share of the market."

His compatriot, Robert Kavcic at Bank of Montreal, agrees, saying in a note to clients that the huge regional disparities have made the national average figure essentially meaningless.

"It's the same ol' situation in Canada's housing market, with extreme strength in Toronto and Vancouver, corrections playing out in the oil-exposed markets, while most others fall somewhere in between," Kavcic said.

"With supply in the two hot markets extremely tight, prices are likely to push even higher through the always-important spring selling season."