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Toronto’s housing market slowdown decelerated in January, with home prices flattening, after months of steady declines.

The Home Price Index, which excludes the highest valued properties, was $1,078,900 last month, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, or TRREB. That was essentially the same as December. Compared with peak pricing in March of last year, the Home Price Index is down 19 per cent.

Last month marked a return to the tepid resale activity typically found during the winter. The volume of resales was 1-per-cent below December after adjusting for seasonal influences and 44-per-cent lower than the year-earlier January when the pandemic’s real estate boom was peaking.

Since the Bank of Canada launched its plan to slow inflation by reducing access to cheap loans, the country’s housing market has cooled significantly. Home resales are down and prices have dropped, in particular in the suburbs, smaller cities and semi-rural areas.

For example, in the Toronto suburbs of Halton and Durham, the Home Price Index is down 24 per cent from last year’s peak. In other nearby areas of Peel and Simcoe, the Home Price Index has declined 22 per cent from the top of the market. But in the city, the typical home price has dropped 16 per cent over the same period.

Last month, across the Toronto region, home prices were relatively flat compared to December, according to TRREB. One reason could be because prospective home sellers have postponed putting their properties on the market. That has reduced the number of new properties for sale, increasing the competition for the few homes that are available.

Another reason could be that some buyers have been able to make a purchase because the prices are lower than the previous year. TRREB’s market analyst Jason Mercer said: “More buyers are finding a balance between higher borrowing costs and the mitigating impact of substantially lower selling prices compared to this time last year.”

Economists point out that the low listings is a sign that mortgage holders have been able to handle the jump in interest rates. The most recent data show that borrowers are continuing to make their mortgage payments. The mortgage arrears rate across the nation was 0.15 per cent in November, according to bank lobby group Canadian Bankers Association.

With the Bank of Canada saying it will likely pause interest-rate hikes, that could encourage more buyers and sellers back in the market. TRREB said it expects the central bank’s pause “will prompt some buyers to move off the sidelines in the coming months.” Mortgage brokers have said that more borrowers are starting to inquire about getting approved for a loan.