President says all market indicators are positive

Cold weather will not send a chill into the real estate market anytime soon, according to 2007 WinnipegREALTORS® Association president Wes Schollenberg.

“The number of sales will be down slightly in 2007, but the amount of dollar volume will make up for that,” predicts Schollenberg, who took over the association’s top elected position just as a name change was implemented.

Local organized real estate no longer goes under the banner of the Winnipeg Real Estate Board, but has been renamed the WinnipegREALTORS® Association.

“It’s a change that better reflects and describes who we are — an association of REALTORS®,” said Schollenberg.

“The full operating name is the WinnipegREALTORS® Association while the logo and marketing name is WinnipegREALTORS®.”

The new name also comes with a new tagline: “The tools. The team. The trust.”

The name change was officially launched during a Manitoba Moose-Hamilton Bulldogs game last Friday evening (see photos below) at the MTS Centre — the Moose won 3-0.

Schollenberg, a managing partner with Avison Young Manitoba which is a partner-owned Canadian commercial real estate company, said this year’s market will build on past years’ successes.

In 2006, MLS® dollar volume ended the year at $1.87 billion, a 13 per cent increase over the previous record established in 2005 when dollar volume sales stood at $1.62 billion.

The final dollar volume figure for 2006 was helped by seven $1-million-plus home sales, including a Wellington Crescent home that sold for $2.02 million, the highest price ever for a Winnipeg residence.

And, the 12,304 MLS® sales in all categories set a record, overtaking the previous best year of 12,087 MLS® sales in 2005 which had been the first year that MLS® sales topped the 12,000 mark.

Residential-detached MLS® sales accounted for 9,337 of total sales last year, establishing another new record.

Schollenberg said the market may slow slightly this year, but is still going to be a strong market that will be helped along by an increase of listings inventory —  a trend that was emerging at the end of 2006.

“The leading real estate market indicators remain positive — low unemployment numbers and low mortgage rates — and we have a strong network of well-trained, full-time real estate professionals ready to employ the latest technology to serve the needs of buyers and sellers,” said Schollenberg, who has been a REALTOR® for 20 years, 13 of them as a real estate broker.

“This year will usher in new upgrades to our MLS® system, a major revamping of our commercial property information exchange database (cpix), the launch of a new commercial real estate magazine publication, and enhanced Web services for our REALTOR® members and the public,” explained Schollenberg.

The condominium market is  where significant gains will be made in 2007, according to Schollenberg.

“Condos are going to take off,” he said. “We’re behind other centres in condo development, but there’s more developments coming on-stream to meet the growing demand.”

Last year, condominiums only made up nine per cent of total MLS® sales, which is a lesser market share than found in other Canadian centres.

Still, condominium sales accounted for 1,136 unit sales, an increase of 11 per cent over the previous year, while condo dollar volume sales were up 36 per cent.

On Wellington Crescent, two condos sold for over $800,000, the highest selling prices in the association’s 104-year history. 

Schollenberg, a graduate of the University of Manitoba’s faculty of management, said new developments will primarily be aimed at the empty-nester and young professional market, although new multi-family rental properties will also be part of the mix.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported the 1,040 multiple-family starts — semi-detached, row and apartment — in 2006 represented the highest level since 1988 and was a 25.3 per cent increase over the previous year. Sixty per cent of the starts were apartment units and the remainder were condo units.

“The resurgence in multi-family construction continues to be fuelled by demand for rental as well as condominium units,” said Lyndsey Krepela, CMHC’s senior market analyst for Manitoba.

Despite rising house prices, Schollenberg, who had specialized for six year in residential properties with NRS Block Bros., said local residential real estate remains among the most affordable in Canada’s major markets.

In fact, a recent RBC Economics survey indicated Manitoba showed the strongest overall affordability improvements in Canada in all home classes with the exception of townhouses.

Compared to an average home price of $400,000 in Calgary by the end of 2006, Winnipeg’s average price was relatively modest at roughly $160,000.

In terms of the commercial marketplace, Schollenberg said business confidence is high and many companies are willing to expand their operations if they can find the right workers — it’s a tight market for skilled workers.

“If they find employees, many of those employees will be buying houses,” he said.

“I also see the industrial market being pretty healthy because of the number of willing institutional investors who have become frustrated by the conditions in the resource-driven boom provinces of B.C. and Alberta,” added Schollenberg.

Meanwhile, the retail segment of the market has been booming locally. 

Schollenberg cited the example of the Kenaston and McGillivray area where several hundred million dollars have been invested.

“These retail areas across Winnipeg will continue to fill out as small-box stores will want to be next to big-box stores and that will attract more restaurants and bank branches,” he added.