Tepid spring marks start of home-buying season

April 28, 2014

The Globe's new Real Estate Beat offers news and analysis on the Canadian housing market from real estate reporter, Tara Perkins, and others. Read more on The Globe's housing page and follow Tara on Twitter @TaraPerkins.

Spring is crucial to the real estate business because it's the time of year when a disproportionately large number of homes change hands.

So far, this one has been tepid at best. The number of existing homes that sold in Canada in March was more than eight per cent below the average of the past 10 years, and 30 per cent below the peak sales level that was reached in May 2012.

But David Stafford, managing director of real-estate secured lending at the Bank of Nova Scotia, suggests that when it comes to real estate, spring is finally on the way.

"We're seeing now what we saw last year in March," he tells me. "I'm a believer that weather has a lot to do with this business. I was caught in a blizzard April 1 in Newfoundland. Nobody's buying houses in a foot of snow. There's flooding in various places across the country as the melt starts. But Vancouver came to life first in terms of the resale business in February. Calgary's now hopping. Ontario's starting. We've seen the volumes start to climb, but we're probably a month behind last year in terms of timing."

Some economists similarly suspect that unusually cold weather was responsible for sluggish winter sales, and that there will be a burst of life in the housing market as temperatures heat up.

Local real estate boards will start releasing some April sales data in the next week. But this year, we might have to wait until the May numbers are available to really determine how the all-important spring selling season is shaping up.

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