Canadian house prices

I’m looking for February or March numbers, but according to Teranet and the National Bank of Canada, as of January 2009, house prices across Canada had dropped only 2.35% since January 2008 (that’s using CHPI, which is the more negative of the two major indices). Here’s a breakdown by major cities:

(West to east)
CHPI change
(Jan 08-Jan 09)
Vancouver -4.16%
Calgary -8.2%
Toronto -2.44%
Ottawa +2.11%
Montreal +4.11%
Halifax +1.24%

Why the disparity? Calgary is an oil city. When the recession hit and resource prices tanked, Calgary was the centre of a huge housing bubble because of high oil prices, and Vancouver was in a major real-estate bubble of its own because of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics, so both had further to fall — they’re just adjusting back to realistic market prices.

Toronto is the financial centre of Canada, and we all know what happened to the finance industry, but it has a very wide employment base outside of finance, and vibrant immigrant community, and a lot of pent-up housing demand, so I’m not surprised to see a more moderate fall there.

Ottawa is the capital, so it has government jobs as a cushion, but it’s also one of Canada’s leading tech centres. While big companies like Nortel and Corel are in terminal decline, small tech companies around Ottawa are doing very well. I live here, and as far as I can tell, for-sale signs on lawns still don’t stay up too long.

Montreal. Montreal? It was the awkward poor sibling of big Canadian cities for a couple decades after the whole separatism thing started (and people and head offices fled to Ottawa and Toronto), but it’s been coming back recently — the streets aren’t as dirty, the heroin addicts are panhandling more politely, and after all, it’s still Montreal. Just like Manhattan in the 1970s at its dirtiest and most dysfunctional was still more fun than any other U.S. city, Montreal will always be the coolest Canadian city to visit. The suburban (and English-speaking) west end of the island is a huge centre for pharmaceutical companies, and perhaps they’re doing well in the recession (I haven’t checked).

Not much to say about Halifax, which is a much smaller city than the others, except that it’s a nice place, and I’m glad to see they’re doing well.

Perhaps when I find February or March figures, the news will be worse; then again, as a measurement tool, CHPI can make things look a lot worse than RSPI, so it’s just as likely that things are better than these number suggest.

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