Canada’s national average home price was down five per cent and sales volume was down 16.9 per cent in February compared with a year ago, evidence that many buyers raced to purchase before new mortgage rules came into effect.There was also a 6.5 per cent decline in transactions between January and February, the second month-over-month decline and the lowest reading in nearly five years, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Thursday.CREA’s latest monthly statistics show that home sales were down in February in almost three quarters of all local housing markets tracked by the national association.Speculation can be good for housing markets — just look at Paris‘Fear and uncertainty’: Out-of-province homebuyers could rush to sell if B.C. slaps speculation tax“The drop off in sales activity following the record-breaking peak late last year confirms that many homebuyers moved purchase decisions forward late last year before tighter mortgage rules took effect in January,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist in a statement Thursday.The number of homes sold nationally in December hit a record high, ahead of a new stress test for uninsured mortgages that requires potential buyers to show they can service their mortgage payments if rates increase.The federal banking regulator’s tougher rules, which took effect Jan. 1, now require a stress test to be applied even to borrowers with more than 20 per cent down payment.To qualify for federally regulated mortgages, borrowers must be able to afford interest rates that are two percentage points above the contracted rate or the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate, whichever is higher.The stricter residential mortgage lending regulations introduced by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions were aimed at reducing risk in the market amid high housing prices.Homebuying activity has also been dampened by the Bank of Canada’s move in January to hike interest rates to 1.25 per cent. The quarter-point increase was the central bank’s third since last summer, after hikes in July and September. In January, Canadian home sales fell by 14.5 per cent from the previous month, according to CREA’s figures.The national average house price for homes sold in February 2018 was just over $494,000, down five per cent from a year earlier. But excluding Toronto and Vancouver, the country’s most active and most expensive markets, the national average price was just under $382,000, up 3.3 per cent from $369,728 a year ago.The number of newly listed homes in February increased by 8.1 per cent, following a plunge of more than 20 per cent in the month prior. However, new listings across the country in February were still 6.4 per cent below the 10-year monthly average and 14.6 per cent below the peak reached in December 2017. New home listings in February were also below the levels recorded every month last year except January 2017.
Ohio State redshirt junior linebacker Dante Booker intercepts a pass in the second quarter of the Buckeyes game against Rutgers on Sept. 30. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOhio State’s linebackers — led by junior Jerome Baker, who had 3.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and two interceptions including one for a touchdown in 2016 — were expected to help ease the loss of three NFL-bound defensive backs who accounted for 15 interceptions last season.But that did not happen in the first few weeks of the season. Linebackers Dante Booker, Chris Worley and Baker did not pick up a sack or interception through the first three weeks of the season. Last week, Meyer said the linebackers and the unit’s energy were average to begin the year.In the last couple games, the unit has begun to make more game-changing, drive-ending plays. None was more apparent than when Baker scored the linebackers’ first touchdown of the year in the Buckeyes’ 62-14 victory against Maryland Saturday. It came off a fumble forced by defensive end Nick Bosa on the third play of Maryland’s opening drive. “Out of nowhere, I just see Nick Bosa do what Nick Bosa do and seen the ball, scooped it up and ran as fast as I can [for a touchdown],” Baker said.Baker later forced a fumble on a fourth-down try from Maryland that ended the Terrapins’ drive. Booker also made his presence felt early as he began Maryland’s first drive with a sack. Booker picked off the first pass of his career two weeks ago against Rutgers and also picked up his first sack of the season against the Scarlet Knights. “We’ve just really been tightening down on the little stuff,” Booker said. “I know that’s easy to say, but I really feel like that’s what we’ve really been doing. Just tightening down the little things, trusting each other and just going out there and having fun with each other.”Booker and redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis also each said increased competition in practices since the Week 2 loss to Oklahoma has led to additional improvement.Though redshirt freshman Tuf Borland and freshman Baron Browning have filled in adequately in place of Worley, who has missed the last three games with a sprained foot, Worley’s likely re-entry into the starting lineup would give the Buckeyes added stability. Regardless, the linebackers believe they can make the rotation work regardless of who is healthy.“We’re just locked in,” Baker said. “We were so worried about making mistakes and doing the wrong thing [earlier in the season]. We all told each other just go out there and play no matter who’s out there.”Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis signals instructions to the team during the season opener at Indiana on Aug. 31. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe most notable difference between this year’s Ohio State linebackers and last year’s unit, which featured Baker, Booker and now-Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan, is the position coach. Luke Fickell, who played for the Buckeyes and worked as an assistant coach for Ohio State from 2002 to 2016, took the job as Cincinnati Bearcats head coach. Former NFL coach Bill Davis, who was an analyst for Ohio State in 2016, was hired to replace Fickell as linebackers coach. Davis worked as a defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers (2005-06), Arizona Cardinals (2009-10) and Philadelphia Eagles (2013-15).Last Wednesday, Meyer said Davis’ “last two weeks have been outstanding.” However, the transition to college position coach — a job Davis had never held — was rocky to begin.“It was a little bit of a culture shock,” Meyer said. “This is closer to a high-school program than a pro program. We’re in the development where you have 17- and 18-year-olds that need to be developed with energy and hands on and sprinting A to B as coaches.”Meyer explained he often chooses to avoid hiring lifelong NFL coaches because they are not as attuned to focusing on the day-to-day responsibilities of coaching teenagers. Meyer said though the linebackers began the year slowly, they excelled recently, including making plays on special teams.“I think we’re really on a roll here and we’re going in the right direction,” Davis said last Wednesday. “We’ve got a little momentum going and we look to build on that.”Given the linebackers’ performance against Maryland, the unit seems to be on the right track.