The Canadian Real Estate Association says the number of homes changing hands in April fell from the previous month despite an influx of new listings hitting the market.

On a month-over-month basis, CREA said home sales in April were down 1.7 per cent, while newly listed properties available for sale rose 2.8 per cent to kick off the spring market.

The average price of a home sold last month amounted to $703,446, down 1.8 per cent from April 2023, according to data released Wednesday by the association.

Home sales rose 10.1 per cent compared with a year ago, but CREA attributed the gain primarily to the early Easter long weekend. Good Friday and Easter landed on March 29 and March 31 this year compared with April 7 and 9 last year.

CREA senior economist Shaun Cathcart said this spring has seen contrasting conditions compared with the same season last year.

“April 2023 was characterized by a surge of buyers re-entering a market with new listings at 20-year lows, whereas this spring thus far has been the opposite, with a healthier number of properties to choose from but less enthusiasm on the demand side,” he said in a press release.

Slower monthly sales amid more new listings meant there was a 6.5 per cent jump in the overall number of properties on the market — the second largest month-over-month gain on record.

The national housing market is also seeing the highest inventory levels since just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 4.2 months of inventory at the end of April, compared with 3.9 months at the end of March.

The long-term average is about five months of inventory.

Jason Ralph, broker of record for Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa, said that while local inventory levels in his market aren't quite as high as the national figures, relatively balanced conditions are giving buyers more negotiating power.

"Balanced markets tend to be a place where buyers can have conditions like home inspections, financing conditions," he said in an interview.

"We consider it a little bit more of a fair market where neither buyers or sellers have, let's call it, an advantage."

He added now is a good time to buy, even as some remain cautious about when the Bank of Canada will begin cutting its key interest rate.

"There are some buyers on the sidelines waiting for that positive news release with the interest rate drop, but I see more buyers [coming] out of the woodwork," said Ralph.

"We've had a pretty strong start to the year compared to last year ... I think people are becoming a little bit more comfortable with the rates that we're going to be dealing with."

Also on Wednesday, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. released its latest data on housing starts for April, showing the annual pace of starts edged down one per cent compared with March.

The overall drop came as the annual pace of starts in urban centres essentially flatlined in April. The national housing agency said last year's challenging borrowing conditions contributed to the downward trend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2024.