Canada’s housing market weakened in May, ahead of a long-awaited interest rate cut from the Bank of Canada that may help ease some pressures on buyers.

The benchmark price of a home fell 0.2 per cent in May from the month before to $714,300 (US$519,700), according to data released Monday by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Prices are down 2.4 per cent from the same time last year. 

Sales fell 0.6 per cent from April as buyers balked at what were some of the highest interest rates in twenty years, the data show.

The slump came just before the Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate earlier this month, becoming the first major central bank to begin easing and signaling more cuts to come. Lower rates could ease the housing affordability issues that have plagued buyers this year. 

“May was another sleepy month for housing activity in Canada, although it may prove to be the last of those now that interest rates have moved lower,” Shaun Cathcart, the national real estate board’s senior economist, said in a statement. “The psychological effect for many who have been sitting on the sidelines was no doubt huge. The question now turns to further rate cuts – specifically, how fast, and how far?”

Any buyers that do venture back into the market may have more options to choose from. The number of newly listed properties climbed 0.5 per cent in May from the previous month, the real estate association’s data show.