Housing demand varies by neighbourhood

WinnipegREALTORS® knew going into 2009 that 2007 and 2008 would be tough years to follow, as the former was the best year ever for MLS® sales at over 13,000 units sold and last year set a new dollar volume record with a final tally of over $2.4 billion in MLS® activity.

If you look at WinnipegREALTORS® most recent market release, May sales and dollar volume are off the peak performance of the previous two years. May sales and dollar volume fell 13 per cent from the same month a year ago, and were down more from May 2007, which is the only month in WinnipegREALTORS® 106-year history to eclipse 1,600 in MLS® sales. 

But, year-to-date dollar volume was down less than 10 per cent at the end of May, meaning there is still a good chance that by year-end $2 billion in sales activity will be recorded for the third consecutive year.

“These May results are nothing to be discouraged about as they are more symptomatic of a market in which sellers have to be more realistic about their price expectations as buyers are less inclined to jump at the first available opportunity to place an offer on a property,” said Deborah Goodfellow, president of WinnipegREALTORS®. 

“It is also a market that is quite varied in demand which depends upon the neighbourhood you live in and the price range of the homes. 

“The best advice I can give you is talk to your REALTOR® about your situation, whether you are buying or selling,” she added.

This month Century 21 Canada released a report on the 21 hottest neighbourhoods in the country based on house price increases from April 2008 to April 2009 and from March 2009 to April 2009. Many cities did not have any neighbourhoods on the list, while some only listed one. When you include their suburbs, Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto  were the only cities to beat out Winnipeg which laid claim to having two of the hottest neighbourhoods in the country — Transcona and North Kildonan.  

With an average resale house price of $195,739 in April 2009, Transcona’s price went up 10 per cent from April 2008 and two per cent from March 2009. 

North Kildonan had its April average resale house price of $225,111 rise 15 per cent from March 2009 and two per cent from April 2008. 

(Note: The MLS® area representing Transcona in this Century 21 Canada survey is the newer residential housing bordered north and south by the CPR Keewatin and CEMR Pine Falls railway tracks, respectively. For North Kildonan, it is the MLS® area between Henderson Highway and Raleigh and the Perimeter Highway and Douglas Avenue.)

The Century 21 Canada survey reinforces the WinnipegREALTORS® message that not all  markets or neighbourhoods are created equal. There are different demand/supply factors at play and REALTORS® always  keep that in mind as part of their pricing and marketing strategy for your home.

In April, both Transcona and North Kildonan — especially North Kildonan — experienced a tight supply while demand remained strong, according to local century21carrie.com manager Rolf Hitzer. 

“You have a market situation in both these neighbourhoods where there were limited new listings coming on the market and there were aggressive buyers ready and willing to snap them up,” said Hitzer, who is a past-president of WinnipegREALTORS®. “Moreover, the April 2009 average resale price of these two northeast Winnipeg neighbourhoods fell exactly within the two busiest residential-detached price ranges ($150,000 to $249,999) within the entire WinnipegREALTORS® MLS® market territory.” 

As 45 per cent of all home sales in Transcona and North Kildonan during April fell within the two price ranges, it’s an indication of housing affordability. 

To explain why the two neighbourhoods are doing so well despite national economic challenges and less robust local market activity, Hitzer said Transcona is one of Winnipeg’s best kept secrets. 

He said it has strong community-minded residents who are fiercely loyal to the area. 

The neighbourhood caters to families in so many positive ways, he added. 

Transcona Councillor Russ Wyatt is delighted by the recent finding.

“The result of this national study by Century 21 is no surprise to me,” he said. “Transcona is a family-oriented neighbourhood with great public amenities and a real sense of community. It is only 15 to 20 minutes to downtown. Closer to our major employment centre than most, if not all, new neighbourhoods in the city. 

“Let’s not forget the solid local employment base Transcona has unto itself, with exceptional retail operations, industrial players like New Flyer Industries and even offices such as the Winnipeg Taxation Centre,” he added. “It even has a major entertainment attraction in Club Regent Casino.”

 WinnipegREALTORS® 2007 president Wes Schollenberg, a managing partner of Avison Young Commercial and a resident of Transcona, made  the following comments on both neighbourhoods from a commercial perspective.  

Transcona — “It has virtually zero vacancy in the commercial sector and it is the same story all over again with the rental market. Almost every retail brand name is represented here with probably more to come as retail clusters just like  car dealerships (clusters).”

North Kildonan — “This neighbourhood is  known for lots of churches and quality of life. It has a very good school division. One of the great new developments is the Gateway Trail along the old railway trail bed. This eight-foot-wide asphalt trail that runs several kilometers north and south has probably done a lot (to promote North Kildonan living) in the last couple of years:

 • “You see couples of all ages walking and holding hands and talking and meeting other people in the area.

• “People are exercising by rollerblading, walking, jogging, biking, etc.

• “Pets are happy to be getting their walks too as a result of this trail.”

“North Kildonan has a lot going for it — great local parks, proximity to downtown and an overall high-quality of life,” said North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty. “As a life-long resident of North Kildonan, it’s been interesting to see many of my peers that have left the area choose to return to raise their families.” 

“I have to sometimes remind myself (that) this MLS® area, where we are seeing the current market strength reflected in the Century 21 Canada survey, is not indicative of all neighbourhoods in Winnipeg at this time,” said Goodfellow, who along with her husband Bob operate their real estate company’s office in the Transcona MLS® area. “This newer area of Transcona shows how this long-established community is evolving in a progressive way to offer prospective buyers new housing options without having to move elsewhere. New condo projects are part of this mix, too.

“So, when you come to Club Regent Casino you will have the opportunity to gamble with games of chance, but in my opinion, when you invest in a home in this area it is a sure bet.”

Adding to the good news about some Winnipeg neighbourhoods was a story by Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair, confirming housing affordability for first-time buyers. WSO conductor Alexander Mickelthwaite and his wife, California-born Abigail, recently bought a lovely home in River Heights. In a comparable neighbourhood in Los Angeles, Abigail said a tiny house would sell for $700,000. 

Affordability is clearly a real strength of living in any Winnipeg neighbourhood in comparison to many other North American cities. There are also many other attributes attached to Winnipeg neighbourhoods that make us proud to live here and tell others about it.