Lower home prices and shifting demographics mean first-time buyers could lead a rebound in Canada’s real estate market, experts said yesterday at a real estate conference in Toronto.

Phil Soper, president and CEO of Brookfield Real Estate Services, said rookies are the largest category of buyers in the real estate market, accounting for close to 70 per cent of all transactions at the height of the housing boom.

However, they’ve been scared away in droves by the economic downturn.

Such a lack of first-time buyers can grind the real estate market to a halt, Soper told Scotiabank’s annual real estate outlook conference. “When new buyers stop entering the market, it’s like sand in the gears,” he said.

Adrienne Warren, a senior economist and real estate specialist at Scotiabank, said all of this seemingly bad news is working to create a buyers’ market.

She said the demographic of first-time home buyers is growing as the children of baby boomers reach the age where they begin to consider entering the housing market. New immigrants will also be an important driver in the coming years, she added.

However, Warren predicted the housing market won’t see a substantial rebound until 2013 or 2014.