Canada housing market Photo: David Wise/Flickr

An unusually harsh winter delayed the start of the spring home buying season in many Canadian markets east of British Columbia, while low inventory led to significant price increases, according to a new report from Re/Max. But despite the slow start, the real estate firm predicts things will continue to pick up for the remainder of the spring and summer.

Ontario and Eastern Canada

After a long winter, Re/Max says Ontario and Atlantic Canada are now seeing “significant housing market activity.”

“We expect an extended spring market this year as sellers who waited for warmer temperatures are now listing their properties in greater numbers, which will help meet the pent up demand of those who have been looking to buy since early 2014,” said Re/Max executive vice president Gurinder Sandhu.

The report says potential homebuyers in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton and Burlington continue to face low inventory and increasing prices. In Toronto, the average residential sale prices jumped almost eight per cent year-over-year in March, as the city saw inventory continue to decline. As of the end of March, the average price for a detached home in the GTA was $718,400, while the average condo was a more affordable $347,200.

Toronto is also experiencing low rental vacancies, Re/Max says, adding to frustrations of those debating whether to buy or rent. With a vacancy rate below two per cent, desirable rental properties in the city’s downtown core are now attracting multiple offers.

Western Canada and the Prairies

There was robust market activity across much of Western Canada during the first three months of the year. In what was a tale of two winters, Vancouver and Victoria saw year-over-year price gains during an unusually mild January and February.

At the same time, below average temperatures in cities such as Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon were not enough to cool local market sales, where house prices also continued to climb. And while Winnipeg and Regina did experience market slowdowns, Re/Max says both regions show signs of increased activity as warmer temperatures spur activity.

At the end of March, Vancouver’s market had posted a 5.4 per cent year-over-year average price increase, but with the cost of a typical single family house reaching $1.36 million, many younger buyers have found themselves priced out of the market.

Meanwhile, many potential homebuyers in Alberta have been be frustrated by low inventory. This is particularly true in Calgary, Re/Max says, where a typical home spent less than 35 days on the market. Those looking to rent while waiting for the Calgary housing market to balance out have also struggled with a rental vacancy rate of one per cent. In a situation similar to Toronto, desirable rental properties in Calgary’s core are now attracting multiple offers, creating additional frustrations for those waiting to buy.

But despite all that, Re/Max says Western Canada is poised for strong housing market activity during the all-important spring and summer sales season.

“With Winnipeg’s healthy agricultural and manufacturing sectors, sturdy job markets in Regina, Saskatoon and across Alberta, as well as the cultural and economic draw of Victoria and the Greater Vancouver Area, our RE/MAX agents across the West expect to be busy in the months ahead,” said Re/Max’s Elton Ash.

If you’d like another look at our national housing market, the Canadian Real Estate Association also released their March data on Tuesday.

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