Investor stampede panics fence-sitters

While prices for new homes in Canada rose 0.3 per cent in February, according to StatsCan, the single biggest increase was in Regina, where prices rose 2.4 per cent from the previous month. Halifax and St. Catharines–Niagara, Ont., weren't far behind, up 1.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectfully.

All three of those cities have benefited from the growing interest of property investors increasingly shut out of their own pricier markets. As a group, they've helped to drive up those prices as they move in to acquire both single- and multi-family properties.

The expanding economies of Halifax, recipient of that $33 billion federal shipbuilding contract, and resource-rich Regina and Saskatchewan have also driven buyers.

The new numbers are likely to encourage investors to jump into the market, afraid that waiting any longer will challenge affordability.

That's already happened in their home markets.,

Prices in the Toronto and Oshawa region were up 0.4 per cent in February from the month before.

On Wednesday, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said housing starts jumped by five per cent in March from the previous month, to 215,600 units.

“The upward movement in March was largely due to an increase in multiple starts, particularly in Ontario and the Prairies,” said Mathieu Laberge, CMHC’s deputy chief economist. “This was partly offset by a decrease in multiple starts in British Columbia and Quebec, while single-detached starts decreased marginally countrywide.”

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