The cost of owning a home in Canada declined slightly in the last three months of 2012 for a second consecutive quarter, according to a new Royal Bank of Canada report.

However, the RBC Housing Trends and Affordability report notes there is no clear trend in housing prices, since there were also back-to-back cost increases in the first two quarters of last year.

Home ownership costs came down thanks to small declines in mortgage rates and home prices in several major Canadian markets, the report says.

But, "the absence of clear direction in the trend in the past three years, in turn, means that affordability pressures continue to be somewhat greater than they have been on average historically,” the report notes.

Although Vancouver showed the biggest improvement in house prices, it is still the least affordable market in Canada, according to RBC Economics Research.

According to RBC, the cost of mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes for a benchmark detached bungalow in Vancouver would take up 82.2 per cent of a typical household’s pre-tax income – and that’s down 2.6 percentage points from the previous quarter.

The report estimates it would take an annual income of $147,700 to qualify for a benchmark mortgage on a detached bungalow in that city.

Toronto was the second-most expensive market, where the qualifying income for a detached bungalow mortgage was $111,400. The affordability measure was calculated as 52.8 per cent, down just four-tenths of a point from the last quarter.

RBC notes that Vancouver and Toronto markets skew the overall housing numbers.

Overall across the country, the cost of owning a detached bungalow fell by two-tenths of a point to 42.1 per cent of a household’s pre-tax earnings, with a qualifying annual income of $77,200.

RBC estimates that typical condo owners had to put in 28 per cent of their pre-tax income, while a two-story house ate up 47.8 per cent of typical household earnings.

CTV’s chief financial commentator Pattie Lovett-Reid said the declines are “not enough to get really excited about,” but still offer opportunities for those thinking about buying a property.

“The real story here is that those people who want to get in still have a chance to get in while markets are pulling back slightly and interest rates continue to be low,” she told CTV News Channel Monday.

With a report from The Canadian Press