Home sales plunged as interest rates continued to rise in May
On a seasonally adjusted basis, home sales slumped 8.6% from April to May, bringing the level of sales slightly below its 10-year average for the first time in 24 months. This decline also represents a third consecutive decrease, with sales down a cumulative 23.0% between February and May. The downward trend is now well established in the country as 75% of the markets have seen their number of transactions decrease during the month. We believe this market moderation should continue in the coming months as the tightening of monetary policy should push variable rates higher and make the stress test even more biting for buyers. Indeed, the stress test uses the higher of 5.25% or the contractual interest rate +2%. Until now, only customers opting for a fixed rate had to qualify with a rate of more than 5.25%. With the Bank of Canada policy rate increase expected in July, the qualification for a variable rate will also exceed 5.25%, a development that should cool the market further since over half of new mortgages are at variable rates.
According to CREA, new listings rose 4.5% in May, the first increase in three months. With the reduction in sales and the increase in new properties for sale, the number of months of inventory rose from 2.3 to 2.7 months in May, its highest level since July 2020. Based on the active-listings-to-sales ratio, market conditions loosened in almost every province during the month, but the housing market continued to be tight in the country as a whole. There are now 3 provinces out of 10 in balanced territory; B.C., Saskatchewan, and Alberta (the latter switched this month). The others continued to indicate market conditions favourable to sellers mainly due to lack of supply.
On a year-over-year basis, home sales fell 21.7% compared to the strongest month of May recorded in 2021. For the first five months of 2022, cumulative sales were down 17.8% compared to the same period in 2021.
Housing starts in Canada increased for a second month in a row by 21.SK in May to 287.3K (seasonally adjusted and annualized), the strongest print since November 2021 (at 305.9K). Starts were well above consensus calling for a 255K print in May while building permits remained high on a historical basis and housing supply continues to be tight. As interest rates rise and demand in the resale market declines, we expect housing starts to also moderate in the coming year.
The Teranet-National Bank Composite National House Price Index increased 2.0% in April compared to March and after seasonal adjustment. On a year-over-year basis, home price increased by 18.8% in April. Ten of the 11 markets in the composite index were up during the month, with Edmonton being the exception.