"Sales activity continues to hold fairly steady at lower levels since mortgage rules were changed earlier in 2012, said CREA President Wayne Moen Tuesday, “but there are still some real differences in trends between and within local housing markets."
More generally, national home sales edged 0.5 per cent lower in December 2012 compared to November, and actual activity was down 17.4 per cent year-over-year.
A large part of the equation is the falling number of listings, said one analyst. They dropped 1.3 per cent from November to December, something that may encourage buyers now in the marketplace to act sooner rather than later. But the decline also points to the growing number of investors now opting to hold onto their current portfolios rather than sell up to access equity.
"While some will focus on the deep dive in sales from a year ago, it looks as though prices are providing a better read on the health of the sector, as homeowners are in no rush sell," write economists at BMO, referring to the new data. "Prices are easing gently, consistent with a soft landing through much of the country."
Fewer listings mean those investors looking to add to their holdings will likely be challenged, especially in terms of small multi-family properties.
Still, the challenge of new mortgage rules introduced in July remain, with many analysts writing off the possibility of a repeat of last winter’s brisk activity as buyers sought to get an jump on the spring competition.
That activity was spurred, in part, by unseasonably warm weather.
In 2012, a total of 453,372 homes traded hands over the Canadian MLS system, which represents a decline of 1.1 per cent from 2011 and 1.4 per cent below the 10-year average.
The downward trend is actually in line with projections for this year, with Jim Flaherty’s new mortgage rules bearing the brunt of any blame.
Still, investors anticipating an even greater shift to the current landlord's market may be disappointed.
The government isn't expected to further tighten rules this year. The Finance minister has suggested the government is satisfied that its move to lower the amortization on insured mortgages, along with other key changes – in addition to OSFI’s new lending guidelines – have already begun to de-accelerate consumer debt.