Photo: James Bombales

It was a rough February for the Canadian housing market — in fact, by one measure, it hasn’t been this frigid since the Financial Crisis of the previous decade.

Relentlessly bad weather added to an already challenging environment of higher interest rates and tougher mortgage qualification rules.

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The three factors were all present in the latest reading of the Teranet-National Bank House Price Index, which economists from the country’s sixth-largest bank use to follow changes in home prices each month.

The index was down 0.4 percent from January and 1.9 percent compared to a year ago.

Chart: National Bank

Of the major 11 metro areas the index tracked in February, just one had higher prices than six months prior — Montreal.

Across the 14 secondary markets National Bank keeps an eye on, only London and Windsor saw prices stronger than they were a half year ago.

With only a handful of markets posting six-month gains, it was the weakest performance for a February since the Great Recession walloped North American housing markets in 2009.

However, a National Bank economist suggests this widespread poor performance is not the sign of a national housing market teetering on the verge of crashing.

“[P]rice weakness does not mean collapse,” writes Marc Pinsonneault, a senior economist at National Bank.

He notes that Toronto — which he calls “Canada’s most important real estate market” — condo prices have been climbing for 16 straight months now. The composite index, which also includes house prices, inched 0.2 percent down from January but remained 3.6 percent up from a year ago.

And in Vancouver, another of the country’s major markets, employment grew 3.1 percent last month, and home sales (when adjusted for seasonal factors) have stabilized.

That’s limited the potential for more price declines looking forward, he suggests.

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