Holiday musings on the market’s future

In December 2002, then Winnipeg Real Estate Board president Lorne Weiss was quoted as saying that real estate had become a year-round business locally.

The WREB  had just registered its first ever $1 billion in sales through the board’s Multiple Listing Service®. Weiss reported that in the past in Winnipeg, real estate was seasonal, starting slowly in January and February; gaining momentum and peaking March through June; taking a hiatus in July and August as everyone went to the cottage; revitalizing in September and October; and settling down for the holidays in November and December.

When doing $1 billion through the MLS® in one year, there didn’t appear to be any peaks and valleys — it was full throttle the entire year.

In 2003, president Tom Fulton saw the same economic indicators that had prevailed during Weiss’ term of office and predicted another good year. But, even Fulton didn’t think that the board would reach its second straight $1-billion performance. It did. The record was set in November as resale activity for the year climbed to $1.15 billion.

But, records are meant to be broken.

Cliff King took over as president in January 2004. Again, all the planets were aligned. Despite negative warnings from the banks and the CMHC, King looked at continuing low interest rates, controlled inflation, a healthy job market and stable consumer confidence, and was cautiously optimistic. 

No one could predict what might happen internationally or in the U.S. election,  but everything looked good for another healthy year, even if the board couldn’t post another record.

Low and behold, Winnipeggers again traded houses in record numbers. This time, the $1-billion mark was shattered before the middle of September. By mid-December, total dollar volume sales through the MLS® sat at $1.32 billion!

Not only was dollar volume up 17 per cent, but by December 15, listings were up 8.7 per cent and sales were up 6.4 per cent. So, even with a record $1.15 billion in sales in 2003, King was able to deliver and set new records. 

He has left a difficult record for Ruthe Penner, next year’s president, to duplicate. While some are talking about the “housing bubble” and lot shortages, indicators are still positive — interest rates, inflation, jobs and confidence. Even if the supply of listings increases and a more balanced market returns, it appears that, if there is a correction in the market, it will be a stabilization of prices, not a severe drop in property values.

The only blip on the radar screen (other than another four years of Bush!) appears to be the rising Canadian dollar (although somewhat cooled in the past week). The board will watch this with interest as it will impact all exporters dramatically and affect all those employed in that sector and supportive of that sector.

Penner sees a year in 2005 of increased listings, a moderate increase in sales and a leveling, or just modest, reduction in dollar volume.

The year 2004 was eventful in another way at the board. King oversaw the conversion to a new, technologically advanced MLS®. The WREB switched from its old legacy MLS® system to a new Internet-based system called MLXchange. This system permits members to browse the board’s database over the Internet from any computer with Web access. This permits access to its records (over 15 years of historical data on all properties ever listed or sold through the MLS®) to members anywhere, at anytime, through any device.

This allows REALTORS® to provide cutting-edge service — MLS® is a fully-integrated marketing system, providing maximum exposure for sellers and total market information to buyers.