Consumer confidence fueling real estate sales

Canada’s housing market got off to a surprisingly strong start in 2007 with average house prices rising in all major markets surveyed, according to a first quarter report released by Royal LePage Real Estate Services. 

The combination of resilient consumer confidence, moderately low interest rates and improved affordability across most of the country led to greater than expected activity during the typically slower first quarter.

Wes Schollenberg, president of the WinnipegREALTORS® Association, said the local Multiple Listing Service® is operating at a high level of efficiency, “resulting in 44 per cent of residential-detached properties selling for above listing price in February and another 10 per cent selling at list price.”

MLS® results for the first quarter indicate sales are up four per cent to 3,508 units and dollar volume is up 14 per cent to $388.7 million when compared to the same quarter in 2006, added Schollenberg.

Of the housing types surveyed across Canada by Royal LePage, the highest average price appreciation since the same quarter in 2006 occurred in standard condominiums, which rose by 16.3 per cent to $230,146, followed by detached bungalows, which rose by 14.9 per cent to $316,993 and standard two-storey properties, which increased by 11.8 per cent to $378,148.

According to the survey, average house prices rose by double digits in most Winnipeg neighbourhoods. For example, the average price for a standard condo by the end of the first quarter was $109,250, an increase of 12 per cent over the same period in 2006. The average detached bungalow went up 11.8 per cent to $191,375 and the average price for a standard two-storey home rose by 12.5 per cent to $220,714.

Fuelled by the energy sector, Alberta’s economy continued to show extremely high price appreciation, while more moderate levels were noted in the central and eastern regions of the country.  

“The recent months have produced record-breaking sales levels in many markets and unwavering demand — momentum which will undoubtedly be maintained through the always busy spring market,” said Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services. 

Buyers’ demands for affordable housing and the desire to be near the city’s core continues to fuel expansion in the condominium market, while suburban neighbourhoods continue to develop as they attract a large part of the population growth.

“First-time buyers continue to be active despite expectations that many would be priced-out of the market,” said Soper. “Employment levels continue to improve ... and stable interest rates have led home buyers to feel confident that the cost of borrowing won’t spike anytime soon.”

In most regions, slight increases in inventory levels have given buyers more options and the opportunity to take more time in making their purchasing decisions. 

In Winnipeg, MLS® listings rose four per cent in the first quarter.