Reuters - September 15, 2010

Sales of existing homes in Canada in August rose 4.1 percent from July, the first monthly increase since March, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Wednesday.

The industry group said 32,807 homes changed hands in August, with most of the monthly gains concentrated in the two biggest markets, Ontario and British Columbia, a reversal from the previous month. Compared with a year earlier, sales were down 22.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Despite the modest monthly rise in sales, the general trend is still likely to be of further moderation in Canada's housing market, which was a major growth engine as the economy emerged from recession last year.

Sales volume and prices heated up in the first half of this year as buyers sought to avoid stricter mortgage rules and new blended sales tax regimes in Ontario and British Columbia that came into effect at midyear.

Transactions were also packed into the first half of the year to avoid rising interest rates. The Bank of Canada started raising rates in June and has increased its key rate three times, bringing it to 1 percent.

"Rising interest rates and a projected slowdown in job growth mean that the Canadian housing market is expected to continue to cool," said Georges Pahud, the president of Canadian Real Estate Association.

CREA said the national average price in August was $324,928, on par with the same month last year at $324,843.

The number of new listings rose 1.9 percent in August from July.