02/13/2019 17:09 EST | Updated 02/13/2019 18:10 EST

Teranet House Price Index Shows Western Canada's Big-City Housing Becoming A Rough Investment

Edmonton house prices are lower today than they were 12 years ago.

Bird-Lee via Getty Images
Rowhouses in suburban Calgary, Alta., June 20, 2016. House prices in the city are still below their 2014 peak, according to data from the Teranet house price index.

The latest edition of the Teranet house price index doesn't have much good news for Canadian homeowners wondering what's happening to the value of their homes. Especially if you live in one of Western Canada's large cities.

The index that covers housing markets in 11 major metro areas across Canada fell for the fifth straight month in January, and is down 1 per cent from its peak in September. Still, prices are higher than they were a year ago in all but three of the cities: Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

HuffPost Canada

Vancouver house prices rose until July of last year, and have fallen 3.2 per cent since then. They are back to where they were a year ago. And price declines have accelerated recently in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, noted National Bank of Canada economist Marc Pinsonneault.

"Both Calgary and Edmonton are facing an outsized number of vacant new dwellings and continued price weakness," he wrote in a client note Wednesday.

Alberta's economy has struggled since oil prices dropped sharply starting in 2014, and a seeming recovery was derailed late last year, with Canadian oil selling at record-low prices before the Alberta government mandated an oil production cut.

But Calgary and Edmonton's housing markets have actually been struggling much longer than that, the Teranet data shows. If you bought a house in these markets in the past decade or so, it's unlikely you've seen any significant gains in the value of your home, and possibly a decline.

Both cities experienced what looks like a classic bubble pattern in their house prices a decade ago, before turning down during the Great Recession.

HuffPost Canada

Edmonton's house prices never recovered from that decline, and are today 6.3 per cent lower than their peak in — get this — September of 2007. Calgary's housing market has done only slightly better. Prices there are down 5.8 per cent from a peak in October, 2014.

Vancouver is a different story. After a seeming recovery from the impact of the foreign buyers' tax imposed in 2016, the market turned down in mid-2018. Home sales in the metro area were down nearly 40 per cent in January, from the same month a year earlier. That lack of demand has now translated into the declining prices the city has seen over the past half year.

National Bank Financial

Vancouver's real estate board is putting the blame for the slowing market on the federal mortgage stress test and rising interest rates. A series of provincial and municipal measures to cool runaway price growth — including a foreign buyers' tax and a vacant homes tax — seem to have had an effect as well.

Still, Pinsonneault says "things appear to be stabilizing" in Greater Vancouver's market.

Earlier on HuffPost Canada:

"After seasonal adjustment, Vancouver home sales indeed stabilized when compared to December. Solid labour markets in Greater Vancouver, where a near-record 72,000 jobs were added in the last six months, argue for a more stable listings-to-sales ratio and limited price deflation."

While many reports have forecast some mild growth for Vancouver house prices in 2019, not everyone agrees. Realtor Re/Max predicted in its December report that the city will see a 3-per-cent price decline.

That report predicted a further 5-per-cent decline in prices in Edmonton, and no change in Calgary. Meanwhile, Royal LePage is calling for a 2.3-per-cent drop in Calgary prices and a 1.9-per-cent drop in Edmonton. It sees prices rising a tepid 0.6 per cent in Vancouver this year.