January sales slow but still set a dollar volume record


January is invariably a slow month for home sales, so Shirley Przybyl says WinnipegREALTORS® doesn’t tend to consider the month a true harbinger of things to come over the course of the year for the housing market.
“We do not read a lot into one of the slowest months of the year,” said the WinnipegREALTORS®  president.
January’s 564 sales were two fewer than the same month last year, while January 1997 had the highest total ever with 660 transactions.
Still, January’s sales activity was among the best for the month in the history of WinnipegREALTORS®. 
But $133.3 million in dollar volume sales was seven per cent higher than January last year, setting a new record for the month.
“It is fair to say that the totals are in line with our 2012 MLS® forecast for sales holding the line with last year’s 13,000-plus performance and that dollar volume will still move higher due to tight market conditions remaining firmly entrenchment,” said Przybyl.
The 1,045 MLS® listings entered in January were off eight per cent from the pace set in the same month in 2011.
In its forecast for the resale housing market over the next two years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts upward pressure on house prices will continue to ease as sales growth moderates and the number of listings increases.
“With supply rising to meet demand, it is expected that price gains will moderate to around three per cent in both 2012 and 2013,” according to the CMHC report.
WinnipegREALTORS® reported the average price for a single-detached home rose six per cent in 2011 to $256.748.
CMHC forecasts that population gains will continue to feed demand as more buyers enter the market. 
The federal agency forecast net migration to Manitoba will remain elevated over the course of this year and next with flows adding an estimated 10,000 people to the province each year, which will in turn support housing demand.
The demand, moderated by a scarcity of listings, means existing home sales will rise two per cent in 2012 and 2013, predicts CMHC. 
“The extremely low interest rate environment will continue to be a real incentive for first-time buyers to get into the housing market,” said Przybyl.
Relative to income, home prices have remained highly affordable in Winnipeg and Manitoba, according to a recent CIBC report. The average price-to-family-income ratio  is among the lowest of Canada’s major centres at 3.2. The higher the ratio, the less affordable is the market. The ratio is 10 in Vancouver and 6.7 in Toronto.
Przybyl said sales in the rural areas covered by WinnipegREALTORS® stood out in January, and represented 29 per cent of all single-family home transactions.
Throughout the entire region it covers, WinnipegREALTORS® reported an overall  four per cent increase in single-family home sales when compared to the same month last year.
Single-family homes account for the lion’s share of MLS® activity. For example, 74 per cent of all sales in 2011 involved this property type.
In January, 51 per cent of all MLS® residential-detached home sales were between $150,000 to $299,999. With 43 per cent of all sales, the $150,000 to $199,999 price range dominated the condo market.