House price index posts first non-recession March fall in 20 years

Canada’s home prices continued their downward trend last month according to a leading measure.

The Teranet-National Composite House Price Index was down 0.3% in March compared to the previous month, marking its first decline for any March in its 20-year history with the exception of the 2009 recession.

The sixth monthly decline meant a cumulative drop of 1.7% across the surveyed markets.

Indexes were down month-over-month in seven of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed – Ottawa-Gatineau (−1.5%), Victoria (−1.1%), Vancouver (−0.5%), Calgary (−0.5%), Toronto (−0.3%), Winnipeg (−0.3%) and Hamilton (−0.1%). Four markets were up: Halifax (0.8%), Quebec City (0.5%), Edmonton (0.4%) and Montreal (0.1%).

Many of these markets have been showing declining prices for many months; including Calgary for nine (-3.7% cumulative), Vancouver for eight (-4.3%), Victoria for six (-3.5%).

Montreal by contrast has only seen one decline in the past 12 months (with a 5.5% cumulative gain) and Halifax has advanced in each of the past five months (+2%).

The index shows a percentage movement in house prices with indices’ base value of 100 in June 2005. For example, an index value of 130 means that home prices have increased 30% since June 2005.

No collapse
The declining trend is not a sign that house prices are in free fall.

“In Toronto, Canada’s largest real estate market, apartment prices have been up for 17 consecutive months, while prices of other types of dwellings declined only 1.4% over the last 6 months. In Vancouver, the most expensive market, employment growing 2.9% in Q1 on a y/y basis should limit further home price declines,” the report says.