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Toronto home prices up, sales down

Saturday, May 10, 2008
Toronto home prices up, sales down
GTA resales in decline as inventory levels surge
The spring rebound anticipated by realtors in the Toronto area market hasn't happened – at least not yet. Existing-home sales in April were down from the record highs of last year, with 8,762 homes sold, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board in figures released yesterday.
This is the fourth-consecutive month of declining home sales. April was considered a bellwether since it was the first month of good weather after one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent years. Most analysts had expected pent- up demand to emerge in the spring market as potential homebuyers were hampered by slush and snow in the first quarter of the year. "With affordability the lowest in 17 years, the housing market should continue to cool, despite recent declines in mortgage rates," said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, in a note yesterday.
Inventory, in the form of new listings, was also up significantly in April.It advanced by 18 per cent to 18,691 as sellers hoped the better weather would bring buyers out. "We're going to have to watch May very closely as well to see if there is a trend," said housing analyst Will Dunning.
However, Dunning said the market was fundamentally healthy and noted it is coming off record highs of 2007. Prices are still appreciating because sales still remain at historically lofty levels, even though they may be sliding. The average Toronto-area price in April almost hit the watershed $400,000 mark at $398,687, up 5 per cent from the same period a year ago. The housing market is coasting on strong job numbers and the wealth generated on the Toronto Stock Exchange over the last few years, said Dunning. "You would need a pretty big shock to consumer confidence to totally derail the market," said Dunning. "Most Canadians so far have reason to feel good about their earnings and employment."
Toronto prices, however, are holding up, with a consensus of analysts forecasting 3 per cent appreciation this year. "We continue to experience a supply and demand situation and to date, it remains a sellers' market," said Toronto Real Estate Board president Maureen O'Neill.
Sales activity was markedly different in the city of Toronto compared with the 905 region, added O'Neill. While Toronto experienced a 10 per cent drop in sales, the 905 market experienced only a 5 per cent fall by comparison. The real estate board is tracking sales in both areas because of a controversial new city of Toronto land transfer tax that took effect this year.

Sources: Toronto Real Estate Board and the Toronto Star