Shirley Przybyl is convinced that the strength of the local real estate market is that “Winnipeg is the place to be.”
“It’s an exciting time in the city,” the incoming president of WinnipegREALTORS® said in an interview. “There’s so many great things happening that are bringing people back to the city.”
To make her point, the broker manager of Century 21 Bachman & Associates mentioned the improvements to the Assiniboine Zoo, the new James Richardson International Airport, the new Investors Group Stadium, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and, of course, the return of the Jets.
“Big things are coming to the city,” she added. “People are recognizing it’s a happening city. People are realizing that Winnipeg isn’t such a bad place to call home.”
Przybyl, who has been active in real estate for 19 years — 10 as a broker — said the 2012 resale market began slowly, “but January is the month when it’s always a little slow at the beginning, and then suddenly people get that urge to sell.”
Przybyl confidently predicts that by the end of this year, WinnipegREALTORS® members will top $3 billion in sales for the second year in a row. Last year was the first time that the lofty plateau had been reached in the 108-year history of the organization.
She is also confident that MLS® sales will top 13,000 units sold by the end of 2012. Last year, there were 13,063 units sold, which was only 14 units shy of the record total for 2007.
Przybyl said increased immigration had a positive impact on the housing market in 2011 and will also have an effect in 2012.
“The last home sold in 2011 was bought by someone moving to Winnipeg,” she added to stress her point.
Out of the total increase of 16,121 people in Manitoba in the last one-year period, nearly 15,700 were new immigrants, according to April 2011 figures released by Statistics Canada. The number of new immigrants coming to Manitoba was the highest ever since 1946.
“It’s spurring on a lot of new developments in Winnipeg,” she said.
“Winnipeg isn’t the only area benefiting — newcomers are also moving to rural centres, such as Steinbach.
“People are looking to the countryside for alternatives,” Przybyl added. “Sometimes the housing is a little cheaper, so it might be worth that drive.”
According to WinnipegREALTORS® statistics for 2011, there were over 500 MLS® residential-detached sales in Steinbach, and rural MLS® areas grabbed 24 per cent of all MLS® sales in the category. In comparison, the southwest quadrant of Winnipeg was second for residential-detached sales at 19 per cent.
Interest rates will be helping home buyers in 2012, said Przybyl, who welcomes the news from the Bank of Canada that it wouldn’t be upping its rate for the foreseeable future.
Benjamin Tal, the managing director and deputy chief economist for CIBC World Markets, told the WREN that Winnipeg’s real estate market has been primarily driven by low interest rates which are expected to remain in place for at least two years.
“It should also be noted that Winnipeg remains a very affordable housing market,” said Przybyl.
Relative to family income, home prices have remained highly affordable in Winnipeg, according to a January 30 report prepared by Bank of Montreal economists Dr. Sherry Cooper and Sal Gautieri for BMO Capital Markets.
Although houses have appreciated in value by 171 per cent since 2001, the average price-to-family income ratio is still the lowest among major Canadian centres at 3.2. On the other hand, the ratio is 4.9 for Canada, 10 for Vancouver and 6.7 for Toronto.
The authors of the report said the cost of housing is not out of reach for the typical buyer.
They said prices are still rising strongly in Winnipeg, but affordability has not been adversely affected.
The overall average price for a residential-detached home rose six per cent in 2011 to $256,748, according to WinnipegREALTORS®.
WinnipegREALTORS® is predicting a more modest single-digit percentage increase in the average house price for 2012. A recent RE/MAX report is forecasting an increase of just three per cent this year.
“Since it (the average price) will only rise slightly, it’s great news for buyers,” said Przybyl.
“You also have more condo conversion happening and more condo developments, which offers more choices for home buyers,” she added.
In 2011, condominium sales reached their highest level ever with close to 1,600 sales, which was a 10 per cent increase over 2010. Condo sales accounted for 12 per cent of all MLS® activity last year, according to WinnipegREALTORS®.
“This year sales will remain strong because of the greater choices available to first-time and move-up buyers,” Przybyl said.
“And thankfully, flooding won’t be a factor this year, as the initial forecast is for a significantly drier spring.”
Flooding in 2011 wreaked havoc by destroying or severely damaging homes, cottages and properties surrounding Lake Manitoba.
“I look forward to another solid year of real estate activity,” she said, “with our REALTORS® continuing to set the bar high in terms of meeting the needs of discerning buyers and sellers. I know how important our association’s role is in continually improving its efforts to provide our members with the tools and support they require to deliver great value to their customers and clients.”