â€œSales activity may heat up further as we get closer to the date on which tighter mortgage regulations come into effect, especially in some of Canadaâ€™s priciest markets,â€ said Georges Pahud, CREAâ€™s president.
Vancouver has already seen bidding wars on some of its neighbourhoods for homes this month, for example, while Toronto has seen activity jump.
â€œThe sharp rise in sales activity in Toronto following the announcement provides early evidence confirming this (effect of the latest mortgage regulations),â€ said Gregory Klump, CREAâ€™s chief economist.
Seasonally adjusted national home sales activity rose 4.5% in January compared to a month earlier. While the January figure was 25% higher than a low in July 2010, actual sales activity was still down 6.6% from January 2010.
In terms of average price, most provinces saw 12-month gains in January, although New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland recorded losses.
The biggest average residential price gains were in British Columbia, near 12%, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba, both near 8%.
The national average price for homes sold in January 2011 was $343,675, which was 4.5% higher than January 2010. But CREA downplayed those gains in its release.
â€œMuch of the year-over-year gain in January 2011 resulted from a jump in the number of multi-million dollar home sales in a couple of areas of Greater Vancouver, the effects of which were amplified at the local, provincial, and national levels by the fact that actual monthly volumes for sales activity are low in January compared to other months,â€ said the report.
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The governmentâ€™s move, which makes it more expensive to own a home, has pushed buyers to buy now to avoid those regulations.