First National Financial LP

Residential Market Commentary - March limps away

  • First National Financial LP

As the old saying goes, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  For Canada’s housing market, that is all too true this year.  And the country’s two biggest markets make it abundantly clear.

The Canadian Real Estate Association reported strong year-over-year sales gains of 26% coming out of February.  The Toronto Region Real Estate Board clocked-in with a 49% y/y increase for the first 14 days of March.  But then COVID-9 entrenched itself as a bitter reality and things slumped. 

Government imposed shutdowns and the implementation of social distancing have pretty much ended open houses and any face-to-face meetings with clients for both realtors and mortgage brokers.  Real estate boards across the country have banned such interactions or are strongly recommending against them.

The Toronto-area market plunged in the second half of March, with sales falling to 16% below year ago levels.  The month ended with a 12% gain over March of 2019.  By comparison, February ended with a 44% increase over a year ago.  A rough calculation by one of the big banks puts March activity at 23% below February.

The country’s other hot market, Vancouver, experienced a similar second half collapse in March, but came out of the month with a 46% increase in sales activity.  That number is tempered, though, by a particularly weak March, last year.

Market watchers expect a continuing slowdown as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens and anti-virus measures intensify.  They caution that property values will likely come under increasing downward pressure and that extremely light activity will make the market vulnerable to erratic price moves.