Columnist image
Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg

|Archive

Canada’s largest real estate market halted a slide in home prices in August after a bear market-like collapse over the preceding months.  

The average price for homes sold in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) last month was $1,079,500, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reported Friday. That was little changed from July, when the average selling price was $1,074,754. 

August's price level represented some stabilization after a five-month skid that saw prices sink almost 20 per cent (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis) from February's record of $1,334,544 through July as the Bank of Canada's aggressive rate hikes put a chill on activity. 

And although home sales in the GTA fell substantially in August compared to a year earlier, the 5,627 properties that traded hands represented an increase of about 15 per cent compared to July. On a seasonally adjusted basis, TRREB said sales rose 11 per cent sequentially. 

Nonetheless, the real estate board continued pounding the table for regulatory changes to take some pressure off buyers.

In a release, TRREB chief executive officer John DiMichele called for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) to "weigh in" on whether the current stress test — which requires buyers to show they could carry a mortgage at the higher of 5.25 per cent or the contract rate plus two per cent — "remains applicable." 

"In addition, OSFI should consider removing the stress test for existing mortgage holders who want to shop for the best possible rate at renewal rather than forcing them to stay with their existing lender to avoid the stress test," he said.

In a June interview, the head of OSFI pledged that the regulator would be taking a look at the stress test to ensure it's still achieving its purpose. 

"We look at it at the end of every year in December, and we'll do that per the normal course this December and if we think more rapid change is required, we can always do that. And we'll try and be as transparent with that as possible ... We'll give it a clear-eyed look and make sure it adds to the resilience of the Canadian housing system," said superintendent Peter Routledge in that interview.