Real estate market expected to remain strong in first half of 2010
By David Paddon (CP) – Jan 7, 2010

TORONTO — Canada's residential real estate market is expected to remain unusually strong through the first half of this year after a strong finish to 2009, according to a survey published Thursday by Royal LePage. The Royal LePage analysis is consistent with other recent reports on the state of the Canadian real estate market, which has rebounded over the past 12 months after sales dried up in late 2008 and hit a multi-year low in January 2009.

The Canadian market's sudden plunge was sparked by a credit crunch that originated in the U.S. housing and lending industries - eventually spreading globally, causing a worldwide recession in the late summer and early fall of 2009. However, the Canadian real estate market has been much quicker to recover than its American counterpart, in part because of a more stable banking industry, historically low interest rates and improving consumer confidence. Royal LePage executive Phil Soper says Canada's real estate market enters 2010 with "considerable momentum from an unusually strong finish to the previous year."

The stimulus effect of low borrowing costs has contributed to a sharp rise in demand that has driven activity to new highs, he said in a statement. Royal LePage says house prices appreciated in late 2009, with fourth-quarter price averages higher than in the fourth quarter of 2008. The average price of detached bungalows rose to $315,055 (up six per cent), the price of a standard two-storey home rose to $353,026 (up 5.2 per cent), and the price of a standard condominium rose to $205,756 (up 6.4 per cent).

Regions that saw the strongest declines during the recession are now showing marked gains. Those regions include Toronto and the Lower Mainland, B.C. Vancouver, which is frequently Canada's most expensive real estate market, experienced a particularly robust quarter, with home prices rising across all housing types surveyed.

"No other sector of the economy has been as highly affected by economic stimulus as housing," said Soper.

"As consumer confidence has improved, Canadians have shown a lingering reluctance to acquire depreciating assets such as consumer durables, but have embraced the opportunity to invest in real property."

In Toronto, the average price of a standard condo rose 2.9 per cent to $309,316, detached bungalows rose 9.9 per cent to $446,214 and standard detached homes increased 3.5 per cent to $564,175.

The group that represents Toronto-area realtors reported Wednesday that there were 87,308 transactions last year through the Multiple Listing Service, a 17 per cent increase over 2008.

In December, there were 5,541 sales in the Greater Toronto Area (average price $411,931), up from 2,577 sales in December 2008 (average price $361,415), according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

The Toronto board also said the number of sales of existing homes rebounded in the latter half of 2009 after a slow start at the beginning of last year.

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