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Canadian Housing Market Showing Clear Signs of Cooling-BMO Economics

- Prices still rising in most markets, but softer sales will likely persist

- New mortgage rules will chill market further



TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 16, 2012) - Canadian home sales numbers for June, released today by the Canadian Real Estate Association, show the first annual decline since April 2011, suggesting the housing market is beginning to show clear signs of cooling, according to BMO Economics.

Canadian home sales fell a seasonally adjusted 1.3 per cent in June from May and 4.4 per cent below year-ago levels. Similarly, average prices fell 0.8 per cent, year-over-year, in June, although they continue to be skewed down by the sales mix (i.e., sharply lower sales in pricey Vancouver). In fact, about 70 per cent of Canada's cities are still reporting price increases despite the headline decline, with a median 1.9 per cent year-over-year rise among the 26 largest markets.

"Reports of the demise of price increases in Canadian housing have been greatly exaggerated, at least up to this point," said Doug Porter, Deputy Chief Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "What hasn't been exaggerated are softer sales; the June swoon compares with an average 7 per cent year-over-year rise in the first five months of 2012. The new, tighter mortgage insurance rules, which kicked in last week, will chill a market that had already seen 16 of 26 markets post June sales drops.

"Even before the new mortgage rules kicked in, all signs suggested that the Canadian housing market was already cooling - the new rules will simply pull hard on a closing door," stated Mr. Porter.

Big regional divergences persist, according to Mr. Porter. "Toronto prices are up 6.8 per cent year-over-year, while a 13.3 per cent slide in Vancouver is the only double-digit drop in Canada - the latter due to the sales mix; weighted prices are still up a touch in that city. More broadly, B.C. has become a buyers' market with the sales-to-new listings ratio well below normal levels. Calgary is arguably the strongest market, with sales up 16.7 per cent in the past year, one of only three markets reporting double-digit sales gains."

Laura Parsons, Mortgage Expert, BMO Bank of Montreal, noted that even in a period of softening prices, Canadian homebuyers need to continue to ensure they are not over-stretching themselves when they finance the purchase of a home.

"If you plan to purchase a home, continue to look at ways to effectively manage your mortgage debt over the long term," said Ms. Parsons. "Stress-test your mortgage against a higher interest rate to be sure you can handle any increases in interest rates down the road."

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $525 billion as at April 30, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

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