The Toronto Real Estate Board yesterday reported a meagre 888 sales in the first half of January, compared with 1,776 sales during the same period a year ago.

The average price of a home is also down 9.5 per cent to $332,495, compared with last year’s $367,574 — a $35,000 plunge.

“The economic situation in Canada has changed noticeably over the past year ... Toronto is not immune to this,” TREB president Maureen O’Neill said.

“The GTA housing market has been impacted.”

Realtors say a flurry of buying last January to escape Toronto’s new land transfer tax that came into effect in February 2008 may have exaggerated the year-over-year drop.

Sales in the city of Toronto are off 54 per cent in the first 15 days of 2009, while prices are down more than $40,000 for the average home. Homes in the 905 suburbs were not hit as hard, with sales down 47 per cent and prices off $26,000.

There is no question this will be a difficult year for the housing market, as well as the commercial real estate market.

Job losses for the GTA could mount to 125,000 over the next 12 to 18 months, according to a report by housing analyst Will Dunning.

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