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Vancouver market cools slightly as Toronto condo boom fuels prices

Canadian home prices fell in March from year-ago levels even as existing home-sales activity picked up, with a cooling of the once-hot Vancouver market offsetting big price gains in Toronto and steady increases elsewhere.

A report Monday from the Canadian Real Estate Association showed the average residential home price in March was $369,677, down 0.5 per cent from the same period last year. The figures aren't seasonally adjusted.

But the broad number masked big differences between cities and regions.

The average selling price in Vancouver, Canada's most expensive major market, fell 3.1 per cent from a year earlier to $761,742. Prices in the nearby Fraser Valley area tumbled nearly 10 per cent.

But prices in Toronto, which has seen a boom in condo construction, jumped 10.5 per cent in March from a year earlier.

"The slight decline in the national average price points to a tug of war between Toronto and Vancouver," Gregory Klump, the industry group's chief economist, said.

Klump added that national prices in 2011 had been pushed higher by "record-level, high-end home sales in some of Vancouver's priciest neighbourhoods."

The report also showed existing home sales climbed 2½ per cent in March from February on a season-ally adjusted basis. But the increase, unadjusted, was up just 1.6 per cent from year-earlier levels. This rep-resented the lowest yearly growth rate since April 2011.

"There is a sense that the housing market is gradually slowing," said David Tulk, chief Canada macro strategist at TD Securities.

"The dynamics of this report show a maturation of the housing market cycle in Vancouver, which is likely to be repeated in Toronto over the coming year."


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