Canada Home Sales Hit Record Ahead of Tougher Mortgage Rules

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian home sales rose to a record in December just before tougher mortgage rules took effect, helping make 2017 the second strongest market ever.

Transactions climbed 4.5 percent from November to 45,976, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Monday from Ottawa, and are up 9 percent over the past two months. That’s the biggest two-month gain since 2009. The national benchmark price index was little changed on the month and was up 9.1 percent from 12 months earlier.

Home buyers are racing to get ahead of more stringent mortgage eligibility rules that took effect on Jan. 1, potentially distorting year-end sales figures. Still, 2017 was the second strongest year for sales on record, and included strong gains in prices, even with the efforts to slow down the market.

Canada Home Sales Hit Record Ahead of Tougher Mortgage Rules

“National home sales in December were likely boosted by seasonal adjustment factors and a potential pull-forward of demand before new mortgage regulations came into effect this year," Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, said in the statement. “It will be interesting to see if monthly sales activity continues to rise despite tighter mortgage regulations that took effect on January 1st.”

It was a tumultuous year for realtors, starting with sharp price gains in the Toronto market that prompted regulators to impose new measures, including taxes on foreign buyers, in order to rein it in. The measures helped to cool Toronto prices, but nationally the market remains robust. Sales in December rose in about 60 percent of markets led by Toronto, Calgary and the Vancouver area.

The December surge brings the streak of gains to five months. Sales for all of 2017 fell by 4 percent from 2016’s record. The Canadian Real Estate Association forecasts that sales will have another down year in 2018 as demand gets weighed down by rising mortgage rates and a new federal rule requiring borrowers show they can afford payments that are much higher than current market rates.

While national home prices have come down since peaking in May, 2017 was still a strong year. The 9.1 percent year-over-year price gain in December is the second largest appreciation for that month in the past decade.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.