Vancouver and Toronto continued to see significant price appreciation in the first quarter of the year. Greater Vancouver’s average residential sale price in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015 rose 24 per cent, while single-family homes in the city of Vancouver crossed the $2 million threshold. In the Greater Toronto Area, the average residential sale price during the first quarter rose 14 per cent to $675,492.

The competition in both Vancouver and Toronto among buyers has discouraged sellers from listing their properties, thus further reducing inventory. While sellers know their homes would be quick to sell, many are reluctant to become buyers themselves and enter the highly competitive market. Also, some potential sellers are hesitant to list their homes believing that home prices could appreciate further. However, not all Canadians can wait out the housing market as many are relying on their homes as a source of retirement income.

According to a recent RE/MAX poll conducted by Leger, 56 per cent of Canadians 55-64 who are considering selling their homes are doing so to release equity for retirement. Outside of Vancouver and Toronto, surrounding regions continue to experience a spillover effect as buyers move farther out in search of affordable single-family homes. This has led to significant price appreciation in regions such as Victoria (+10%), Hamilton-Burlington (+10%) and Barrie (+14%). The population growth in these regions, driven by housing demand, is growing local economies as restaurants, shops and services expand.

In Canadian cities that have experienced an economic slowdown due to the low price of oil, two factors have been mitigating the short-term economic effects. Calgary, for example, has a diversified economy after years of population growth, while Edmonton and St. John’s are benefiting from numerous capital projects in the region including infrastructure investments and continued investments from the oil industry.

Other areas of the country have benefited from the return of workers who had left for employment opportunities in the West. Regions that for years have seen many of their young working population look to Alberta for employment have started to see that trend reverse. In Atlantic Canada, young people from outside the urban centres who would have moved west several years ago are now going to cities such as Halifax, which is having a positive effect on those economies.

This trend is notable in Southern Ontario, where manufacturing cities are able to provide good employment opportunities as a result of the low Canadian dollar. Windsor, which once had one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, is now trending below the national average.

In Canadian housing markets where prices have softened, construction has also slowed to align with decreased demand. This is expected to stabilize prices as population growth catches up to inventory levels. Canada is on track to welcome approximately 300,000 new permanent residents this year: the highest number since 1913.