OTTAWA -- The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in February were up 18.7 per cent from a year ago as it raised its forecast for this year.

The increase compared with February 2015 was driven by sales in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Vancouver and Toronto also helped drive the national average price for a home sold in February up 16.4 per cent to $503,057.

Excluding those two markets, the average price was $355,235, up 8.7 per cent.

On a month-over-month basis, home sales in February were up 0.8 per cent from January.

In its new forecast for 2016, the association says it now expects sales this year to grow by 1.0 per cent compared with earlier expectations that the number of homes sold this year would contract by 1.1 per cent.