Another good year ahead for housing market, says new president

WinnipegREALTORS® president Claude Davis says more of his friends and clients are returning to Winnipeg after retiring or leaving jobs in other Canadian cities. 

The attraction is not only the very affordable housing in relation to cities outside Manitoba, but the lifestyle options that Winnipeg offers, according to Davis.

“We have a wonderful city,” said the new WinnipegREALTORS® president, who is a broker/salesperson at Royal LePage Dynamic. 

“There’s the Manitoba Moose hockey games and world-class concerts at the MTS Centre, theatre, numerous art galleries, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at the Centennial Concert Hall, the Blue Bombers at Canad Inns Stadium, and skateboarding at the The Forks. 

“Then there’s the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is expected to be completed in 2012, and is a project supported by REALTORS® through donations and by articles in the WREN,” Davis added.

Another attraction of the city is that everything is within easy commuting distance, either by foot, bicycle or vehicle. 

A professional client from Toronto, told Davis he was delighted that he could walk from Crescentwood to take in a football game at the stadium.

Davis’s fortysomething client marvelled that all of his and his wife’s interests — including skateboarding, football and the theatre — were easily accessed.

“You can walk your kid to school and still get to work, since the travel times are so much less than in Toronto,” said Davis.

Another client from B.C. was pleased he could buy a beautiful bungalow close to good schools.

Davis said he has heard comments from people returning to Winnipeg about the real value of living in a city possessing affordable housing. They cite “a lot of consumer confidence and job security, as well as historically low interest rates,” as a selling feature for the city’s housing market.

Davis said the Bank of Canada has announced its intention to maintain low interest rates. This situation isn’t expected to change for some time, possibly into June and beyond, he added.

A recent RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook reported the “economic indicators in ... Manitoba are strong,” forecasting that Manitoba’s real GDP growth will be 3.2 per cent in 2010.

A Demographia International Housing Affordability survey showed Winnipeg was No. 1 in a top-10 list of major Canadian cities in terms of affordability.

The Winnipeg market’s average residential-detached house price may have risen in the last few years, but at a more steady pace than the booms and busts of other provinces such as B.C., Alberta and Ontario. Winnipeg’s average residential-detached sale price in 2009 was $217,000, while the average condo price was $185,000. By comparison, the average residential-detached price for 2009 in Edmonton was $364,032 and the condo average price was $240,322.

In Winnipeg, 61 per cent of residential-detached sales in 2009 were from $100,000 to $249,000 and 62 per cent of condos sold from $100,000 to $200,000. 

Davis said MLS® sales this year have already started off strongly. “Some houses are selling in multiple-offer situations. There has been a lot of activity. I don’t expect to see that fall off. I think it’ll be a good year.

“I think the residential market, especially at the entry level, will be really strong this year,” said Davis.

He said the affordable Winnipeg market provides an opportunity for first-time home buyers to make the transition from renting to homeownership. 

“Younger people able to enter the market are way more in number than say in the ’90s,” Davis added. “The population growth figures for the city  shows that would make sense.”

Last year, the province experienced the highest population growth since 1971, attracting over 13,000 new residents with the vast majority settling in Winnipeg, according to Statistics Canada. 

Davis said first-time buyers will be a contributing factor to increased condo sales this year, as young people look toward an “urban lifestyle.”

In 2009, the condo market showed increased strength, recording its highest market share of MLS® sales at 12 per cent.

Davis said WinnipegREALTORS® will be working on the public’s behalf by drawing the province’s attention to issues that affect Manitobans and hamper their ability to realize the dream of homeownership.

Davis said one problem for first-time home buyers that “has to change” is the land transfer tax.

“With few exceptions,” said Davis, “there are hardly any places in the country where first-time buyers are required to pay taxes to the province when they put hard-earned savings aside from their net income to come up with a down payment and closing costs on a new home.

“It is unfair and sends out the wrong message if we want people to stay or come and settle down here. The province needs to ‘give it up’ for first-time buyers.”

The land transfer tax adds $1,650 to the cost of a $200,000 home, which is the entry level for most first-time home buyers. When buying a $250,000 home, another $1,000 is added to the tax bill.

Davis called the land transfer tax  a “big, big issue.”

WinnipegREALTORS® will be working with the Manitoba Real Estate Association and the education tax coalition to address the issue of eliminating school board property taxes levied to fund education, added Davis.

“Education is a societal benefit similar to health care, which means education should also be fully funded by the province.”

Davis said WinnipegREALTORS® abides by the five quality of life principles to make the city and surrounding municipalities better places in which to live.

The five principles are supporting growth that encourages economic vitality, providing housing opportunities, respect for the environment, protecting property owners and building better communities with good schools and safe neighbourhoods.

“REALTORS® are in the business of growing our city,” he said. “We are all involved in our communities. We all contribute in some way, such as being volunteers in community and charitable organizations.”