Economic growth in Winnipeg is predicted to be strong in 2017

by Todd Lewys

Without a doubt, 2016 was a banner year for WinnipegREALTORS®.

 To be more precise, a new record for number of MLS® sales was set, with a total of 13,632 sales eclipsing the previous record of 13,079 set in 2007. Correspondingly, total MLS® sales dollar volume set a record at 3.78 billion dollars, topping the former high water mark of 3.51 billion dollars recorded in 2015.

 WinnipegREALTORS®’ market analyst Peter Squire’s take on the past year was succinct.

 “It truly was a sweet 2016,” he said at WinnipegREALTORS®’ Annual Forecast Breakfast, held at Canad Inns Destination Centre Polo Park on Wednesday, January 18. “Not only was the 13,000 sale threshold broken through in 2016, that threshold was broken in early December. It was a great story.”

 That said, a series of so-called wild cards — such as new U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and the impact of new mortgage rules — could make it challenging to match or top last year’s record market performance.

 WinnipegREALTORS®’ 2017 President, Blair Sonnichsen, said those (and other) challenges can be overcome by being proactive rather than reactive.

 “Certainly, there are challenges confronting us — economic uncertainties, new mortgage rules, reserve fund studies and even bad roads,” he said. “But we can’t be reactive and shrink back from those challenges. We have to be visionary in charting our path toward the future. I’ve always appreciated the game of hockey, where successful players go to where the puck is going to be because it gives them an edge. As REALTORS®, we need to choose to be proactive like those players (to continue to be successful).”

 Sonnichsen said if every REALTOR® improves on their 2016 sales figures by just one sale in the New Year, 2017 will build on the previous year’s record numbers.

 “That’s all it will take to improve over last year,” he said.

 Squire said he sees 2017 as being a strong year.

 “While home sales may go down (to -3 per cent to zero per cent in 2017 vs. an increase of 3.6 per cent in 2016), home prices should go up in the neighbourhood of zero to two per cent, while condominium prices have the potential to recover from a slight dip in 2016 and go up by a percentage point or two. Still, total MLS® dollar volume should go up by one to three per cent.”

 Keynote speaker Michael Benarroch, Dean & CPA Manitoba Chair in Business Leadership, I.H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba, said that while the city and province have their own array of challenges to deal with (along with national and global ones), the overall economic landscape should remain stable.

 “Growth in Winnipeg should be fairly strong in 2017, with manufacturing picking up, strong growth continuing in the service sector and construction being moderate but still stable,” he said. “With the provincial government dealing with a huge deficit, growth will likely drop as spending moderates, but that’s a natural re-adjustment. Manitoba’s economy will likely grow by about two per cent. Winnipeg’s should grow by about two per cent.”

 Other factors, such as a growing population, the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada and continued low interest rates should also contribute to the residential market staying strong in 2017.

 “The commercial market should also continue to build off a very successful 2016,” said WinnipegREALTORS®’ 2017 commercial division chair, Trevor Clay.

 “In retail the big story will be the collection of outlet stores at the Seasons (across from IKEA), while there should be significant downtown development with True North Square, 300 Main Street (ARTIS REIT) and Sky City (a 40-storey residential tower with retail amenities in the downtown’s SHED District) coming. The investment market is looking strong, too.”

 WinnipegREALTORS®’ Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.), Marina James, said everything is pointing toward another strong year.

 “Manitoba’s economy is strong, with people employed and having jobs that allow them to have the economic output needed to spend money,” she said. “The positive trend in the residential and commercial markets should be the same as it’s been the last few years, which is a good news story.”