Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Canadian home sales edge higher in April

According to statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national resale housing activity edged up by less than one per cent in April 2012. Highlights:
  • Home sales up 0.8% from March to April.
  • Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity stood 11.5% above levels in April 2011.
  • The size of the year-over-year increase reflects a slowdown in sales last April following changes to mortgage rules which came into effect on March 18, 2011.
  • The number of newly listed homes edged back 0.2% from March to April.
  • While still well balanced, the combination of stable new listings and slightly higher sales activity resulted in a tighter national housing market.
  • The national average home price edged up 0.9% on a year-over-year basis in April.
Sales over MLS® Systems of real estate Boards and Associations in Canada edged up 0.8 per cent from March to April 2012, putting them on par with levels reported in the same month two years earlier.
Activity was either up or held steady in half of all local markets in April, with Toronto and Calgary posting the biggest monthly increases for the second month in a row. Activity gains in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, as well as London and St. Thomas also made significant contributions to the national sales increase in April. Increased activity in these markets offset monthly declines in Ottawa, Windsor-Essex, Quebec City, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver.
“A number of Canadian housing market trends in April remained intact from the previous month,” said Wayne Moen, CREA President. “Trends in Vancouver and Toronto continue to diverge. These two housing markets have an obvious influence on national statistics and a high profile, but Canada is a big place. Trends in housing markets differ across Canada, and as all housing is local, buyers and sellers should speak to their local REALTOR® to better understand current and prospective trends where they live.”
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity stood 11.5 per cent above levels in April 2011, reflecting the slowdown in sales following changes to mortgage regulations that came into effect in March of last year.
A total of 157,804 homes have traded hands so far this year, up 6.4 per cent from levels reported in the first four months of 2011 and about four per cent above both the five- and 10-year averages for sales during the first third of the year.
The number of newly listed homes was little changed in April compared to March, having edged back 0.2 per cent on a month-over-month basis. The number of markets in which new listings rose (45) ran almost even with those where new listings eased (54).
The national housing market tightened marginally in April due to higher sales and stable new listings, but remains firmly entrenched in balanced market territory. The national sales-to-new listings ratio, a measure of market balance, stood at 55.9 per cent in April, up slightly from its March reading of 55.4 per cent. Based on a sales-to-new listings ratio of between 40 to 60 per cent, the number of local markets that were in balanced market territory in April (59) was up slightly from March (56).
Nationally, the number of months of inventory stood at 5.6 months at the end of April, unchanged from levels reported in March. The number of months of inventory represents the number of months it would take to sell current inventories at the current rate of sales activity, and is a further measure of the balance between housing supply and demand.
The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in April 2012 was $375,810, up 0.9 per cent from the same month last year. While more or less flat compared to last spring on a national basis, average sale prices were up on a year-over-year basis in 80 per cent of all local markets in April.

“It bears repeating that the national average price was skewed higher last spring by record level high-end home sales in Vancouver’s priciest neighbourhoods, and that a replay of this phenomenon was not expected this year,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “Sales data confirm that high-end activity in Vancouver is well off the peak levels reached at this time last year, which is exerting a gravitational pull on the national average price.”
“By contrast, activity in Toronto is stronger this spring than it was last spring. Higher-priced sales activity there is on the rise and buoying average prices. As the most active housing market in Canada, Toronto is the biggest factor supporting national average price.”
“Netting Vancouver out of the national average price calculation yields a 4.9 per cent year-on-year gain. Netting Toronto out of the national average price calculation, while leaving Vancouver in, produces a 2.2 per cent year-on-year decline. Netting out both Vancouver and Toronto results in a 3.1 per cent increase in average price. On balance, this points to modest price growth amid balanced market conditions in much of the rest of Canada.”

Copyright CREA Reprinted with permission

Home Sales Surge in Interior/North

The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that the dollar volume of homes sold through Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC declined 12.5 per cent to $3.8 billion in April compared to the same month last year. A total of 7,058 MLS® residential unit sales were recorded over the same period, down 1.8 per cent from April 2011. The average MLS® residential price was $532,855, 10.9 per cent lower than a year ago.

"A ten per cent dip in Lower Mainland home sales offset a 14 per cent increase across the rest of the province,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Kamloops, the Okanagan and the North all posted double-digit increases in home sales in April compared to levels one year ago."

"The share of provincial sales garnered by Vancouver and the Fraser Valley declined from 65 per cent in April 2011 to 60 per cent last month,” added Muir. “A larger proportion of homes sold in less expensive regions contributed to the average BC sales price dipping nearly 11 per cent."

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume declined 15.8 per cent to $15 billion, compared to the same period last year. Residential unit sales dipped 9.7 per cent to 23,782 units, while the average MLS® residential price was 6.8 per cent lower at $546,870.

Copyright BCREA reprinted with permission

Monday, May 14, 2012

B.C. to drop HST for 'improved' PST

B.C. will drop the HST and return to an "improved" PST next year with all previous exemptions, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced on Monday in Victoria.
The legislation introduced by Falcon Monday includes some significant changes to the old tax, but only a few basic exemptions — such as those food and fuel — were contained in the bill.
Falcon promised those would be included in regulations to be introduced in the fall.
"As promised, on April 1, 2013 consumers will only pay PST on those goods and services that were subject to PST before the implementation of the HST. All permanent PST exemptions will be re-implemented," said Falcon.
"There will be no PST on purchases like food, restaurant meals, bicycles, gym memberships, movie tickets or for personal services like haircuts, just as it was previously."
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston says the government's message is, "Trust us."
"And I think, frankly on this file, the government doesn't have a big reservoir of trust," Ralston said.

Changes for businesses

For business, there are a number of changes being introduced in the legislation, including an online system that will allow businesses to track their PST information and remit payments.
The online system will cut down on paperwork, allowing the government to reduce the number of staff needed to administer the PST by about one third.
The Liberal government had taken a lot of criticism in recent months for delays in revealing exactly what the PST will look like once it's reinstated along with the GST.
The opposition NDP had suggested the PST might not feature the same exemptions it did before it was removed to make way for the HST.
Prior to the introduction of the 12 per cent Harmonized Sales Tax in July 2010, B.C. residents paid a combination of the federal government's five per cent Goods and Services Tax and B.C.'s seven per cent Provincial Sales Tax on most items.
But the HST eliminated a number of significant exemptions. For example, restaurant meals were previously exempt from PST but were fully taxed under the HST system.
The HST was soundly defeated in a province-wide referendum last summer after a successful campaign to scrap the tax. That tax revolt eventually lead to the resignation of former premier Gordon Campbell and has been equally damaging to current Premier Christy Clark.

CBC News  May 14, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Maintenance Matters: Cladding in Multi-Unit Residential Buildings

Advice from the Homeowner Protection Branch of BC Housing on preventative measures to help ensure the exterior cladding of your building stays in good shape and how to know when to call in professional assistance. Cladding is the first line of defence in an exterior wall assembly. It's critical for the protection of the building's interior and an important part of the building's appearance.

The Corporation of the City of Nelson launches the “ecosave” energy retrofits program

The City of Nelson is pleased to announce the launch of the EcoSave Energy Retrofits Program. This pilot program will be implemented by Nelson Hydro over the course of 2012 and 2013. The program objective is to encourage homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their properties thereby reducing energy dependency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

This program is one of the measures being taken to achieve the goals of the Low Carbon Path to 2040 plan the city recently adopted. Through the EcoSave Program homeowners can access reduced cost home energy assessments, rebates for energy efficiency improvements to their home and may qualify for a Nelson Hydro on-bill financing program. 

Mayor John Dooley states “The Nelson Hydro EcoSave Energy Retrofit Program is another way we can help our citizens to reduce our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, we will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to meet our commitment to a healthy environment in Nelson”

Councillor Donna Macdonald further stated “Nelson is a leader in fighting climate change, and the EcoSave Program will help us reduce emissions and energy. It's an exciting, innovative program, and communities across the country are watching its development."

The public rollout of the program is beginning immediately.

April 2012 Housing Starts

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 244,900 units in April, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This is up from 214,800 units in March.

“Most of the increase was in the multiples segment. The increase in this segment is partly a reflection of the high level of pre-sales in large multi-unit projects since 2011, which is in line with job gains over the last year,” said Mathieu Laberge, Deputy Chief Economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “Looking at single-detached homes, 67,700 such units were started across Canada in April, a rate which is consistent with that of the recent past,” added Laberge.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased by 18.0 per cent to 226,200 units in April. Urban single starts increased modestly by 0.6 per cent in April to 67,700 units. Meanwhile, multiple urban starts increased by 27.4 per cent to 158,500 units.

April’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased by 56.5 per cent in Québec, by 12.2 per cent in Ontario, by 6.3 per cent in the Prairies and British Columbia, and by 2.6 per cent in Atlantic Canada. In each region, the increase was mainly due to multiple starts, particularly in Québec and Ontario. Meanwhile, single-detached starts decreased in April in all regions, with the exception of Ontario (+7.9 per cent).

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 18,700 units in April.


Home prices up in March, but gains continue to moderate

The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI)1, the leading measure of Canadian home prices, stayed above year-ago levels in March 2012 according to statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Year-over-year gains have been moderating. The increase in March was the smallest since last June.

·         The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index in March 2012 was up 5.1% yearover-year – on par with the gain in February and the smallest increase since June 2011.
·         Toronto posted the largest year-over-year increase (7.3%), followed by Vancouver (5.3%), the Fraser Valley (3.3%), Calgary (2.6%), and Montreal (2.2%).
·         Year-over-year gains were largest for one-and two-storey single family homes, which rose 5.4% and 6.8% respectively. Apartment prices climbed 3%, and townhouse prices were up 2.6%.

The MLS® Home Price Index rose 5.1 per cent in March 2012 compared to the same month last year. The increase was on par with February’s gain, which was the smallest since last June.

“Overall price trends show that Canada’s housing market continues to moderate,” said Wayne Moen, CREA President. “Price increases have been shrinking since last fall. While that trend paused in March, it may in part reflect an early spring in many parts of the country, resulting in increased competition among buyers. That said, headline numbers mask some important differences in price trends among local housing markets and housing types. Since all real estate is local, buyers and sellers should talk to their local REALTOR® to best understand how home price trends are shaping up where they live.”
The MLS® HPI remained above its year-ago level in all five of the markets tracked, led by Toronto (7.3%). It also held above year-ago levels in all housing “The index typically experiences these types of month-over-month gains in the spring, which coincides with when the balance of supply to demand is tightest,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “With that in mind, it’s important to look at month-to-month movements in the context of how they compare to the same period in previous years. While the overall monthly price increase was on par with last year’s figure, it masks slowing price momentum in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia. Slower price gains there were offset in March by a modest acceleration of price gains Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.”

In focus: Some of the trends underlying the overall MLS® HPI
Momentum in the overall MLS® HPI held steady between February and March 2012, with equal yearover-year gains of 5.1 per cent. However, because the MLS® HPI is composed of four Benchmark housing types and more than 1,600 sub-areas spread among five housing markets, the overall index can mask price trend variations among Benchmark housing categories within a single housing market and between different parts of the country.

Price gains for two-storey single family homes have surpassed this in other housing categories since the beginning of the economic recovery. Despite a recent deceleration in gains, two-storey single family homes posted the strongest year-over-year price gains in March. By contrast, price gains for one-storey single family homes picked up in March, which was driven mainly by increases in Montreal and Toronto.

Price growth remains much stronger for one-and two-storey single family homes compared to multi-family units, with price gains for single family homes (6.4%) running roughly double that for townhouse units (2.6%) or apartment units (3.0%). Even so, there are significant differences between housing markets.
In Montreal, townhouse unit prices are rising faster than prices for other housing types. This likely reflects the desirability of their location, since townhouse units are predominantly centrally located while single family homes are often located further from Montreal’s city centre.

Price gains have remained strongest in Toronto since mid-2011. The rise in Toronto’s Composite MLS® HPI was a full two per cent above the year-over-year increase in Vancouver’s composite index. This represents the largest spread for price growth between these two markets in more than a year. This gap may widen further, since the Vancouver market is showing signs of coming off the boil while a lack of available supply relative to demand keeps Toronto’s housing market in seller’s market territory.
Copyright CREA reprinted with permission