Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Stability returning to real estate market

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The Canadian real estate market is still sinking, but the rate of decline is slowing, indicating stability is at least returning, the country’s real estate board said Wednesday.

The number of transactio­ns on existing homes on a seasonally adjusted basis rose seven per cent month-to-month in March to 31,135, the Canadian Real Estate Associatio­n (CREA) said. It was the second consecutiv­e month of a seasonally adjusted rise after several months of declines.

Actual transactio­ns — not adjusted to remove seasonal variance — came in at 35,225 last month, still more than 13 per cent lower than the number of deals a year ago.Thatfigure­represents­thesmalles­tyearover-year decline in the last six months.

The average price for homes sold through the multiple listing service (MLS) also remains depressed, but like transactio­n activity, the year-over-year decline is shrinking,CREAsaidin­newsarelea­se.The average residentia­l price was $288,641, or 7.7 per cent lower than the average national price recorded in March 2008.

“Housing markets are starting to show signs of buyer interest because of lower prices and interest rates,” said Dale Ripplinger, CREA’s president.

In Saskatoon, the average price of a home remains up 0.9 per cent to the end of March, at $274,748, CREA reported. That’s despite a 33 per cent drop in the number of first-quarter sales, to 707 units, and a 16.4 per cent increase in listings to 1,742.

But the month of March marked the first time house prices have fallen in many years. The price dropped 7.8 per cent to $266,720, as the Saskatoon market continued to see a large number of listings.

Saskatoon unit sales fell 27.6 per cent to 283 for the month, said CREA.

Regina remains on a roll, with prices up 13.6 per cent year over year.

Saskatoon’s housing market has lagged Canada’s, since the city and province went through a boom just as other markets began to sag. Regina’s market, in turn, has lagged Saskatoon’s.

Ripplinger said the associatio­n expects the market to show further stabilizat­ion in the current month as incentives from Ottawa begin taking hold, including increases to allowable withdrawal­s in the home buyers’ plan and the first-time buyer tax credit.

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