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Canada home resales hit record in third quarter

By Ka Yan Ng – Reuters

Cana­dian real estate sales closed out the third quar­ter with their best-ever show­ing thanks to a tight mar­ket and low mort­gage rates, high­light­ing how hous­ing remains a rare bright spot in an oth­er­wise weak economy.

The Cana­dian Real Estate Asso­ci­a­tion (CREA) said on Thurs­day that 42,958 homes changed hands in Sep­tem­ber on a sea­son­ally adjusted basis, up 15.6% from a year ear­lier. Prices also saw double-digit gains.

But ana­lysts said a recent rise in mort­gage rates, and prospect of more to come, should cool the red-hot real estate mar­ket, pre­vent­ing a boom-to-bust cycle that ham­mered the U.S. and other West­ern economies.

I’m not overly con­cerned that we’re cre­at­ing a bub­ble here in the real estate mar­ket. I think it’s just more, in essence, what you would expect given demand/supply con­di­tions right now,” said Adri­enne War­ren, senior econ­o­mist at Sco­tia Economics.

By the time we get into 2010 you’ll see con­tin­u­ing lev­el­ing off in demand, more list­ings, and a more bal­anced mar­ket, which would result in fairly mod­est price increases.”

CREA said for the July-September period, 127,941 homes were sold, up 12% from the pre­vi­ous quarter.

The national aver­age price in Sep­tem­ber rose 13.6% from a year ear­lier to $331,602 ($321,944). For the quar­ter, the aver­age price rose 11% to $327,736.

The indus­try group cau­tioned the aver­age price con­tin­ues to be skewed by sales in pricier mar­kets, par­tic­u­larly Van­cou­ver and Toronto, where year-over-year prices last month soared 14% to $610,576 and 10.3% to $406,877, respectively.

In addi­tion to low rates, the asso­ci­a­tion cred­ited rebound­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence and “an improv­ing over­all sense of eco­nomic secu­rity” for the strength.

UNLIKELY TO FORCE CENTRAL BANK’S HAND

Canada largely avoided the melt­down in real estate prices that helped trig­ger the global finan­cial cri­sis. Ana­lysts credit the country’s famously con­ser­v­a­tive banks for avoid­ing the reck­less lend­ing prac­tices that prompted the mas­sive wave of fore­clo­sures seen in the United States.

But the U.S. cri­sis and eco­nomic down­turn have dis­cour­aged many Cana­di­ans from putting their homes on the mar­kets. A recent report from Royal LeP­age, one of the country’s lead­ing real estate bro­ker­ages, said an under­sup­ply of homes for sale is cre­at­ing the illu­sion of a real estate boom.

Still, at least one Cana­dian bank recently said it is worth watch­ing to see whether the hot real estate mar­ket prompts the Bank of Canada to hike rates sooner or more aggres­sively than forecast.

In Aus­tralia, recent hous­ing and con­struc­tion data helped spur the cen­tral bank to become the first among its West­ern peers to tighten.

Ana­lysts said the Bank of Canada may not have to fol­low suit because Canada’s major banks have already hiked mort­gage rates as a rise in bond yields dri­ves up their fund­ing costs.

A ral­ly­ing Cana­dian dol­lar has also damp­ened spec­u­la­tion the cen­tral bank would break its con­di­tional pledge to keep inter­est rates low until mid-2010.

The real estate data con­trasted sharply with a report on Thurs­day that showed fac­tory sales slumped more than expected, expos­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing as the weak link in an econ­omy try­ing to exit recession.

The relent­less strength of Cana­dian home sales in recent months has washed away the weak start to the year. The deci­sive rebound also puts the Bank of Canada in a quandary — while the hot real estate mar­ket cries out for rate hikes, the run­away loonie screams “No”,” said Doug Porter, deputy chief econ­o­mist at BMO Cap­i­tal Markets.

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Con­tact Lau­rin Jef­frey for more infor­ma­tion  -  416−388−1960

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