The Canadian housing market finished 2018 in unprecedented territory with both sales and prices simultaneously declining for the first time since 2008.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Canadian Real Estate Association President Barb Sukkau. Official data released by the organization noted MLS home sales finished the year 11% lower than 2017. Despite a 43 year low in unemployment and robust population growth, annual sales across the nation totalled 458,442, the lowest count since 2012. It was the steepest annual decline since home sales fell 17% in 2008 during the financial crisis.
This now marks the second annual decline in home sales since the peak of the housing boom in 2016. As a result, prices are beginning to adjust lower. The average sales price for the year ticked in at $488,699, a 4% decline from last year. The decline marked the first year-over-year drop since 2008, when the national average slipped a mere 0.71%.
The deceleration in home prices comes at a time when household debt growth continues to ease, having decelerated for eighteen consecutive months. The annual percent change in household debt growth sits at a mere 3.24%, the weakest pace of growth since the 1980’s recession. Despite the slump in housing activity, Canadian regulators have not been deterred from their desire to curb household indebtedness. Earlier this past week the Bank of Canada’s Stephen Poloz reiterated he would “argue forcibly against” any attempt to roll back the B-20 mortgage stress test and other measures aimed at improving the “quality” of debt.
Real Estate Developers have also pulled back, with CMHC reporting the national trend in housing starts has declined in five of the past six months with annual housing starts sliding 2.6% from last year.