Sunday, April 12, 2009

House prices holding up better than expected: Royal LePage

Canada's housing markets were "relatively resilient" in the first quarter, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. reported Wednesday.

The average price of a two-storey home fell 6.5 per cent to $379,636, compared to the first quarter in 2008, the company said. Percentage drops for detached bungalows and condominiums, which are both cheaper than two-storey homes, fell even less.

The drop took the real estate sales company by surprise.

"We expected a sharper decline in house prices across Canadian markets during the first quarter," Phil Soper, president and CEO, said in a news release.

However, the national figure obscures big regional differences, from strong markets in the East and some western cities to small declines in Central Canada and large drops in Alberta and British Columbia.

Even within provinces, prices sometimes moved in different directions. For example, Saskatoon reported drops in all categories of housing, while Regina prices rose. And Ottawa was up, but Toronto fell.

Prices in St. John's rose because corporate investments in Newfoundland and Labrador boosted confidence, LePage said.

"Using house price change as a gauge, Newfoundland is Canada's sole remaining seller's market," Soper said.

And while the West posted the biggest declines — the drops in B.C. and Alberta started before the full weight of the economic crisis hit — those provinces may stabilize first.

But overall, house prices will not begin to move up until the economy does, "likely in the first half of 2010," Soper said.

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