Warmer weather sparks real estate pickup

Parts of the country that are thawing out after a brutal winter are seeing an uptick in listings of houses for sale, Royal LePage said in its quarterly survey Tuesday.

Most regions see strong price gains of between 2.5 per cent and 5.4 per cent

Improving weather is sparking a spring pickup in Canada's residential real estate market, according to one of the country's leading real estate companies.

Royal LePage says that after a "remarkably drab winter" for real estate activity, the final month of the first quarter saw inventory increase noticeably as the industry saw what had been an underperforming spring market turn a corner in the final few weeks.

The company's latest House Price Survey, released Tuesday, found that most regions showed healthy year-over-year price growth, with the average price of a home in Canada rising between 2.5 per cent and 5.4 per cent.

For example, the average price of a two-storey home increased 5.4 per cent to $428,943 in the quarter, while detached bungalows rose 4.4 per cent year-over-year to $380,765. Standard condominiums posted lower gains of 2.5 per cent to $252,174.

Regionally, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton saw the highest price increases, while parts of Atlantic Canada, with much of its inventory still under snow, posted the lowest gains overall.

In Montreal, year-over-year prices increased between 3.6 per cent for detached homes and 3.3 per cent for semi-detached, while prices for standard condominiums remained relatively flat.

"It appears that it took only the slightest hint of spring to bring home sellers out of hibernation," said Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage.

"We are finally seeing the arrival of housing inventory in seasonally appropriate quantities across the nation. When combined with pent up demand following a particularly long and harsh winter, the stage is set for a robust 2014 spring market. This is particularly good news for buyers, as the home price spikes we have seen in a number of cities should be alleviated by this additional supply."

Meanwhile, with a series of supportive economic factors at play "we expect the country's real estate market to continue the strong showing it posted in the second half of 2013," Soper said, noting among other things favourable interest rates and an improving U.S. economy fuelling demand for Canadian exports.

"Suggestions of an overheated real estate market and bubble continue within the mainstream dialogue, but are becoming less frequent," he added. "Of the core housing types, the condominium segment remains the most vulnerable to short-term price softness in light of increased inventory, but the situation is limited to only a few cities. The medium- to longer-term prognosis for this housing sector remains very positive."