Home sales dropped off a cliff in markets across Canada to what TD Senior Economist Brian DePratto called “historically depressed levels” in April.
It was enough to give most market observers whiplash as the year started on such an upbeat note that some commentators were even worrying that areas of the market were at risk of overheating during what was expected to be a blazing hot spring homebuying season.
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But as the COVID-19 pandemic bore down on Canada, buyers began stepping to the sidelines before eventually being forced to do so by strict physical distancing measures introduced to curb the virus’ spread and the economic turbulence that came with it.
The result was a countrywide drop in sales activity last month that blew past any decline recorded during the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis for the worst for volume since 1984.
The enormity of the declines thankfully did not blindside housing market experts who had been predicting a huge, but temporary, hit to activity. And with April behind us, the market will now begin the steep, long climb back to some version of normalcy.
“With April in the rear-view, we can start talking about ever so tentative improvements in sales activity as provinces begin to gradually re-open their economies,” wrote TD’s DePratto in a research note late last week.
“We do expect sales to remain depressed for a few months longer as job markets slowly improve and buyers remain cautious, but a normalization process is likely already underway,” he continued.
DePratto’s counterpart on RBC’s economics team, Robert Hogue, issued a similar prediction that April’s activity levels would be as bad as things get for Canada’s resale housing market.
“Provinces are beginning to relax some restrictions—including Quebec earlier this week lifting its lockdown orders on the real estate industry—which will help house hunting function a little more normally going forward in parts of the country,” wrote Hogue in a note published Friday.
“Exceptionally low interest rates will also contribute to a gradual recovery taking hold in most markets across Canada,” he added.
Hogue went on to point out that the Canadian Real Estate Association, which released its grim April sales and pricing data on Friday, noted that it had already observed an uptick in sales and listings in its preliminary data for May.