Buyers with deep pockets contribute to increase in local luxury home sales

While overall home sales over the past couple of months have declined, the upper-end market has witnessed a surge in activity.
“In fact, our highest price range of over $500,000 clearly outperformed March 2012 in sales, less days on the market and having a higher sale price of $1.65 million for one property,” said WinnipegREALTORS® Association president Richard Dettman.
The surge in luxury home sales was also noted in a new report by RE/MAX. 
“Winnipeg’s luxury real estate market posted healthy momentum in the first quarter of 2013,” according to the report, “with sales running ... five per cent ahead of 2012 levels.”
There were 61 sales over $500,000 from January to March 2013, compared to 58 during the same period last year.
“The bulk of buyers remain local,” according to the RE/MAX Upper End Report, “driving sales in blue chip neighbourhoods such as Waverley West, Tuxedo, Pritchard Farm, Island Lakes and River Heights.
The most expensive home to sell in Winnipeg was located in Bridgwater Forest. Boasting 5,400 square feet of finished living space, it changed hands for $1.65 million.
A 7,850-square-foot home on a riverside lot is now listed for sale at $4.3 million. At present there are 191 upper-end properties listed, including 16 condominiums.
The record upper-end sale for Winnipeg was $2.2-million in November 2012 for a mansion on Wellington Crescent.
“Condominiums remain most sought-after on the riverfront and the city’s Osborne Village, with Wellington Crescent on the river by far the most coveted,” according to the report.
A four-year-old condominium on Wellington Crescent sold for $700,000, which is the priciest condo to move so far this year.
An 8,000-square-foot apartment unit on Wellington Crescent is now listed for sale at $3.3 million.
According to the report, upper-end home sales in the city may have been stronger if not for the especially harsh winter and delayed spring weather.
“Prices have held firm overall, with most priced at fair market value. Some price adjustments have been occurring, but most are limited to properties that have been overpriced by unrealistic sellers.”
Across Canada, eight out of the 16 residential housing markets examined in the RE/MAX report were on par or ahead of year-ago levels, as of March 31, while records were set for first-quarter sales in six markets. By far the strongest appreciation occurred in Calgary, where the number of luxury homes sold was up close to 50 per cent, compared to the same period in 2012.  
Edmonton secured second place with a 41 per cent increase in high-end sales, followed by Regina (10 per cent), Saskatoon (six per cent), Winnipeg (five per cent), London-St. Thomas (five per cent), and Quebec City (three per cent).  
For the second consecutive year, Greater Toronto secured the top spot for the greatest number of upper-end sales in the first quarter.
“Activity in the luxury segment is quite healthy, especially when compared to years past,” said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president, RE/MAX of Western Canada.  “In fact, most markets are performing in line with the next best year on record — this is particularly the case in the Greater Vancouver Area.  Clearly, demand has returned to more sustainable levels, and we suspect that’s where it will remain going forward.”
Affluent purchasers remained committed to homeownership, with many taking advantage of historically attractive interest rates, and in some instances, lower housing values, to make their moves. 
Equity gains have also factored into the equation, given substantial increases in housing values over the past decade.
The RE/MAX report 2013 also found sales of upscale homes in at least 12 of the 16 major centres are expected to match or exceed the previous year by year-end.  
According to a recent report by RNR Market Research, the volume of Canadian High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) — typically those with investable assets of $1 million or more — rose by 7.7 per cent in 2012.  The segment is forecast to grow by 29 per cent, reaching 544,000 by 2017.
The country’s most expensive upper-end sales in the first quarter — an $18.6-million single-family estate and a 5,700-square-foot condominium at $8 million — were both located in Vancouver's Westside.