01/15/2013 09:12 EST | Updated 03/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Canadian home prices inch higher as sales dip 17%

Canadian home prices ticked a little bit higher in December, with the average value of a resale home rising 1.6 per cent to $352,800, according to figures released today.

Prices ticked higher even after a large pullback in sales, as the number of homes sold declined by 17 per cent from last year's level, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday.

Four out of five local housing markets saw sales fall.

"National sales activity continues to hold fairly steady at lower levels since mortgage rules were changed earlier in 2012, but there are still some real differences in trends between and within local housing markets,” CREA president Wayne Moen said.

December's number continue a trend that has held up for several months now, of double-digit sales declines coupled with prices remaining essentially flat or sometimes adding a few percentage points.

One new wrinkle in the story of Canada's housing market is a decrease in the number of listings. The supply of new homes for sale has now declined for three straight months, bringing the national number of listings to its lowest point since March 2011.

"The decline in new supply may reflect purchase offers below asking price that are made to sellers who are under no pressure to sell. Instead, they choose to take their homes off the market once their listing expires," CREA's chief economist Gregory Klump said.

As has been the case for much of the year, a slowdown in Canada's two largest housing markets, Toronto and Vancouver, is dragging the national average lower than where it would have been otherwise.

Stripping those two cities out of the equation, the national average price would have increased by 3.3 per cent, CREA said.