Th Canada's housing market is cooling for the rest of the year, according to data released by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) Monday.
Although home sales increased by 2.5 percent from August to September, last month's activity was down by 15.1 percent from September 2011, with more than half of all local markets posting declines of at least 10 percent.
"National activity is likely to remain down from year-ago levels over the fourth quarter of 2012," said Gregory Klump, chief economist with CREA.
The association, which represents more than 100,000 real estate brokers, agents and salespeople, attributes the drop to new and tighter rules for government-backed insured mortgages introduced in July that reduce the amortization period from 30 to 25 years and which lowers the maximum amount Canadians can borrow when refinancing from 85 to 80 percent of their home's value.
"While some first-time homebuyers may no longer qualify for mortgage financing under the new rules, it is likely that many others are stepping back and reassessing how much house they can realistically afford, which is one of the things new mortgage rules were designed to do," said Klump.
During the third quarter of 2012, 110,376 homes were sold - a 6. 5 percent decrease from the previous quarter. However, 366,353 homes have traded ownership over CREA's Multiple Listing Service so far this year, representing a 1 percent rise from levels reported during the first nine months of 2011.
The national average price for homes sold in September 2012 was 355,777 Canadian dollars (about 363,148 U.S. dollars), a 1.1 percent increase from September 2011.
In its third-quarter 2012 Housing Market Outlook, Canada Mortgage and HousingCorp. (CMHC), the country's government-owned national housing agency forecasted that the average price of a home in 2012 would be 368,000 Canadian dollars and slightly increase to 377,300 Canadian dollars in 2013.
However, CMHC also predicted that total housing starts would drop from 207,200 units this year to 193,100 units next year.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada reported Monday that household credit market debt during the second quarter of 2012 represented 163.4 percent of disposable income, up from 161.8 percent in the previous quarter.
In its World Economic Outlook released earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund warned Canada that "risks from the housing sector and increases in household debt remain well contained and do not create financial-sector vulnerabilities." (One U.S. dollar equals 0.9797 Canadian dollar)