Detached houses in the Vancouver region are nearly twice as expensive as comparable properties in the Toronto area, a report by Royal LePage shows.
In Royal LePage's survey of detached two-storey properties sold in the Vancouver region, the median price was $1.42-million in the first quarter. That compares with $724,901 in the Toronto area for the January-to-March period measured by the real estate firm.
The gap between the two markets widened as Greater Vancouver's two-storey prices climbed 23.6 per cent over the past year while Greater Toronto saw an increase of 9.3 per cent.
Royal LePage produces a "price composite" in a formula that focuses on typical properties and excludes sales of luxury mansions. The firm said its sampling provides a better barometer of trends than average prices, which are skewed upward by sales of high-end properties.
Low interest rates and strong economies in British Columbia and Ontario are helping fuel the real estate boom in Canada's two highest-priced housing markets, said Phil Soper, Royal LePage's president and CEO.
In contrast, the slump in oil prices has depressed the market in Calgary, where the median price of two-storey houses surveyed fell 1 per cent in the last year to $518,478.
"A decade ago, Toronto was the third-most-expensive major market in the country, after Vancouver and Calgary. But really, Vancouver has become the runaway, most expensive place to live," Mr. Soper said in an interview.
While an increasing number of industry observers say buyers from China are the leading force behind escalating prices for detached homes in the City of Vancouver, Mr. Soper said the impact of foreign demand is difficult to measure.
The economies of British Columbia and Ontario are benefiting from strength in many parts of the United States, with the low loonie giving a boost to Canadian exports, he said.
Having double-digit percentage growth in housing prices each year is unsustainable, he said, though he envisages a soft landing for the two priciest markets: "Demand slackens as opposed to a sharp reset where people just exit the market in droves."
Regional real estate boards say prices for detached houses sold in March averaged $910,473 in Greater Toronto and $1.78-million in Greater Vancouver.
Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., said factors such as higher interest rates, more housing supply, an economic slowdown and increased unemployment would cool off housing markets. He didn't see signs in March housing statistics that would point to a slowdown in price hikes, though he issued this cautionary note: "Odds are that if this kind of price growth (especially Vancouver) continues, it will end badly – but that still looks to be sometime down the road," Mr. Kavcic said in a research note.
Royal LePage's survey shows the median price for condos sold in the first quarter hit $487,300 in Greater Vancouver and $366,714 in Greater Toronto, or increases of 9.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent over the past year, respectively.
In the City of Vancouver, the median price for two-storey houses reached $2.37-million in the first quarter, up 30 per cent from a year earlier, according to Royal LePage. That compares with a 6.7-per-cent gain to $912,131 within the City of Toronto, excluding Scarborough.
Nationally, in 53 markets measured, Royal LePage's two-storey price composite rose to $629,177 in the first quarter, up 9.2 per cent from a year earlier. The firm's price composite for all housing types improved 7.9 per cent over the past year to $512,621.