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House Prices Fall In Most Major Canadian Cities Amid ‘Cooling Demand’

A "soft landing" is still the likeliest scenario, the National Bank of Canada says.
Carlo Allegri / Reuters

We're not out of the woods yet.

Many in the real estate industry have declared that Canada's housing markets have achieved the much-desired "soft landing," and the country is not in for a severe housing correction.

But the latest data from the Teranet/National Bank house price index shows house prices in Canada's largest cities have largely turned negative in the past few months.

House prices fell in October in eight of the 11 cities surveyed in the index, with only Quebec City and Halifax showing any price growth, and prices flat in Victoria.

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"In the most expensive markets, new mortgage qualification rules and the rise in interest rates have cooled demand significantly," National Bank economist Marc Pinsonneault wrote.

"For instance, in Vancouver, November was a fourth month in a row without a rise in home prices, for a cumulative drop of 1.8 per cent. In Toronto, prices declined over the last three months, for a total loss of 0.4 per cent."

However, prices are still higher than they were a year ago in most of the cities surveyed, except Calgary (down 2.6 per cent) and Quebec City (down 0.3 per cent)

Watch: Vancouver's historic Eppich House 2 is for sale. Story continues below.

Markets were also particularly weak in the Prairies, where the recent decline in oil prices has hit the economy.

On top of new mortgage rules that have reduced buying power by about 20 per cent, rising interest rates have also been putting downward pressure on the housing market.

But with weaker-than-expected economic data coming in recently, expectations are growing that the Bank of Canada may delay further rate hikes, providing some relief to homebuyers.

"With interest rates set to rise more slowly than previously thought, hopes for a soft landing of the Canadian home resale market are still warranted," Pinsonneault wrote in a client note.

But even the most optimistic outlooks for the market such as those put out by real estate agencies concede that the days of rapid house price growth are likely over in Canada.

In a report issued this week, realtor Re/Max predicted house prices would rise by a tepid 1.7 per cent in 2019, while in a separate report, realtor Royal LePage predicted prices would rise 1.2 per cent next year nationwide.

That may prove to be below the overall rate of inflation, which has been running at a 2.4-per-cent clip recently.

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