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Vancouver housing pulls prices higher

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Sales of resale homes in Canada were basically flat in May, compared to April, falling by less than 1 percent, though they gained on the year by 2.7 percent.

Prices climbed 8.6 percent from a year earlier, but the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said the national average of $376,817 was skewed by strong sales in “selected pricey” areas of Vancouver and broad price increases in Toronto, where supply is still tight given demand.

The housing market in Vancouver continues to be hot. Prices there were up a stunning 25.7 percent from May, 2010, and sit at an average of $831,555, the CREA stats show, still by a long shot the highest in the country.

According to the Vancouver Real Estate Board, sales in upmarket neighbourhoods are also skewing prices in the city. The board noted that prices for a “typical home” have increased 6.2 percent from last year and averaged $627,000.

“Even so, the frantic activity for high-end houses may itself be a signal of an overheated market,” said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns. “This latest spike in prices suggests that Bank of Canada Governor [Mark] Carney’s speech later today on housing and in Vancouver could be almost as dramatic as Game 7 later on…almost.”

Remove Vancouver, CREA said, and the year-over-year price increase was 5.6 percent. Take out Toronto as well, and it was 3.7 percent.

“Quite simply, no other city in the country is seeing anything remotely close to what’s unfolding in Vancouver,” Mr. Porter said.

“In fact, many large cities have posted price declines over the past year, notably Calgary, Edmonton and Halifax ... Among the other largest cities, only Toronto is showing anything close to overheating, and its 8.7-percent year-over-year price gain seems to fall well shy of bubble territory.”

Mr. Porter said the market seems to have had a healthy spring, despite poor weather and the new stricter mortgage rules that came into play mid-March.

“The Canadian housing market has seen some big ups and downs in recent years, making national sales activity so far this year look like something of a Goldilocks story by comparison,” affirmed CREA’s president Gary Morse, “not too hot, not too cold.”

Of course, Goldilocks wasn’t eating breakfast in Vancouver.
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