Timely thaw is the antidote to deep freeze now affecting Winnipeg’s real estate market

by Todd Lewys
It would appear — for the time being, at least — that winter’s icy (and seemingly endless) grip has done more than chill Winnipeg residents to the bone.
Turns out, the wicked winter weather, whether it be cold or snow, or both at the same time, has had a negative effect on home sales.
“It’s been an unusually harsh winter to say the least,” said Winnipeg REALTORS® market analyst, Peter Squire. “As a result of the cold temperatures and snow, the market has been quite a bit slower than what we’d normally see. It’s now mid-March, and the pick up in sales that we normally see hasn’t happened yet.”
Though sales numbers are still marginally behind this time last year, Squire said he’s optimistic that things will turn around.
“Key factors such as the economy, interest rates and immigration are still strong, so I believe they will continue to to drive the market,” he said. “It’s still early. Of course, sales have been slower than we’d like them to be, but it’s not surprising. The poor weather has been a real factor in keeping sales numbers down.”
“The cold weather has been absolutely ridiculous,” said WinnipegREALTORS® president David Powell,  “there’s no question it’s kept people from getting out and looking at homes. 
“However,” he added, “once the weather breaks and buyers can physically get into homes, you’re going to see sales numbers go up. Right now (mid-March), we’re only down about 20 sales from the same time last year. If we can get some good weather, we can make up for that shortfall, still have a good month, and then build from there.”
 Powell said his optimism runs deeper than simply getting weather that’s more conducive to getting buyers out to view homes.
“We have such a good supply of homes in a balanced market that we’re actually in a good situation,” he explained. “With the diversity of inventory out there, things should start to break. When the weather warms up, I think we’re going to see a balanced — but very active — market over the next six weeks or so.”
Squire said statistics back up Powell’s hypothesis.
“Weather has unquestionably been the biggest factor in slowing down home sales,” he said. “There’s still a good supply of listings, so things should pick up naturally when the weather improves. 
“In fact, I believe consumers will really benefit because they’ll have a much healthier cross-section of listings to choose from. Not only that, but even though February sales numbers were down slightly, they were still up in two key areas — residential detached, and (especially) condominiums. Those numbers will only improve with better weather.”
Long-time REALTOR® Cole Castelane said that spring sales figure to be brisk.
“I believe the market will be extremely buoyant once the weather improves,” he said. “I’m looking for supply and demand, along with low interest rates, to drive sales. 
“We’ve seen bidding wars go up in price — typically, any house that was in good condition and priced under $290,00 sold. That trend has now moved up to the $300,000 to $400,000 range. 
“The good news is that there’s a lot of great inventory out there to meet pent-up demand,” added Castelane.
 An influx of warm, sunny weather also figures to provide consumers with more listings to choose from in key areas of the city.
“Some areas of the city are still short of listings,” said Powell. “Take some parts of North Kildonan, for example, some only have five listings. Once the weather warms up, more homes will come online. 
“With the balanced market, buyers should be able to find a home that meets their needs in the area they want to live in at a fair price.” 
While the weather has the real estate market in a deep freeze, all it could take is a timely thaw to put the market right, added Powell.
“Let’s just say the weather can’t get any worse. Come the first week or two of April, I think we’re going to be telling a different story about the local real estate market, and I’m optimistic it’s going to be a very positive one.”
In the meantime, Winnnipeg’s MLS® sales have decreased slightly  for the first 15 days of March.