Influx of immigrants expected to play major role in driving this year’s real estate market

by Todd Lewys
As the saying goes, the numbers never lie.
Going into 2014, the numbers relating to home sales — both resale and new — continue to look solid. 
That said, those numbers will be more evenly distributed, according to WinnipegREALTORS® market analyst, Peter Squire.
“MLS® sales figure to be strong across the board in 2014,” Squire said at the WinnipegREALTORS® eighth annual forecast breakfast, held at Canad Inn Polo Park on January 22. “With the best supply in many years, the market is becoming more balanced. There will be more choice in the market, with home sales going up by as much as two per cent, with prices up two to four per cent. Condominium prices could increase by up to six to eight per cent due to their popularity with home buyers. With more new developments on the way and immigration still driving the bus, 2014 should be another good year.”
That final factor — immigration — which has boosted sales of both resale homes and new homes over the past eight to nine years, may not be quite as strong as it has been, but the influx of newcomers into the province still figures to be very steady, said Wilf Falk, chief statistician for the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics (MBS).
“We expect the number of new arrivals to the province to be approximately 12,900 in 2014, down about three per cent from 2012,” he said as he addressed a room packed with attentive REALTORS®. “That’s a small decrease that won’t affect the impact those new arrivals have on the provincial economy.”
As has been the case over the last number of years, that impact figures to be huge, added Falk.
“New arrivals to the province figure to add about $20 million in retail wages, $8 million in salaries and $14 million in disposable income,” he said. “Those numbers are still very significant.”
What’s also significant is that the new arrivals — who are coming from countries such as the Philippines, China, Korea and Israel — are young. Not only that, they figure to keep coming well into the future.
“The average age of immigrants to the province is young,” said Falk. “They’re typically 28 years old versus the median age of Manitobans, which is 37.6 years old, so that’s good news. The other good news is that we expect annual increases of 12,000 to 15,000 new arrivals per year to the province to 2020.” 
Couple steady immigration numbers with the province’s steady economic growth, and home sales in Manitoba figure to remain at a steady, if not quietly spectacular level.
“The provincial economy performed reasonably well in 2013,” said Falk. “Our GDP grew by 2.4 per cent, while wages and salaries increased by 3.3 per cent. However, disposable income was up 2.9 per cent in 2013 versus 4.8 per cent in 2012; spending was up at 4.1 per cent (compared to 3.3 per cent in 2012), while the saving rate went to 1.3 per cent in 2013 compared to 2.4 per cent in 2012. Overall, the economy is still strong, something that key indicators verify.”
Other key economic indicators are also encouraging. Manitoba’s unemployment rate is still below the national average, while interest rates figure to remain stable as the federal government attempts to continue to stimulate the Canadian economy.
Meanwhile, homes are still affordable, with the average price of a home coming in at $283,903, said Squire.
“While home sales figure to stay strong into 2014,” added Squire, “I’m really excited about condominium sales. They were very strong in 2013, with 1,759 units sold, which is well above the 10-year average of 1,300 (with the bulk of the sales happening in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range). 
“New projects in Bridgwater Lakes, Royalwood, River Park South, Garden City and Crestview could well boost numbers even more in 2014.”
Likewise, builders are still applying for high numbers of building permits in communities throughout the city for both single detached homes and condominiums.
“With existing communities doing well, more new communities with homes and condominium developments on the way, a steady stream of new arrivals coming to Manitoba and more choice in a more balanced market in 2014, home sales in 2014 and beyond figure to be strong,” said Squire.