A new Statistics Canada report confirms what shell-shocked local homebuyers have known for years -- residential property values in Manitoba have been increasing at one of the fastest paces in the country in recent years.
The federal agency said a study of residential property assessment values in 10 provinces and 33 Canadian metropolitan areas found the total value of residential properties in Manitoba increased at the fourth-fastest rate among the provinces -- 65.5 per cent -- between 2006 and 2011.
In the final year of that five-year period, 2011, it rose at the second-fastest annual rate -- 12 per cent.
Even the global economic recession of 2008-09 couldn't slow the momentum in Manitoba, Statistics Canada said. "In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the total value of residential properties grew strongly in 2009... "
The study found Winnipeg also stacked up well against its 32 urban counterparts on property-value gains. The total value of residential properties in the city increased at the eighth-fastest pace, 73.3 per cent, from 2006 to 2011, and at the fifth-fastest pace, 12 per cent, from 2010 to 2011.
This is the first year Statistics Canada has done a study like this. It said the results were based on assessed property values provided by provincial and municipal assessment departments.
All types of residential properties were included in compiling the assessed-value totals for each province and territory, including single- and multi-family homes, farm residences, cottages and vacation homes, mobile homes, institutional and communal residences and vacant residential lands.
Local real estate industry spokesmen said they weren't surprised by the strong showing in the Winnipeg and provincial housing markets.
"Manitoba properties have been undervalued over the years, and what they've done... is catch up," Manitoba Real Estate Association president Brian Canart said in an interview.
Canart said he's not aware of any other period in recent history where property values in Manitoba increased at a faster pace than in the last 10 years. He said there were even times during the late 1980s and early 1990s when property values here were declining from one year to the next.
What got things back on track, he said, was a combination of falling interest rates and consistently high employment levels in the province. Chronically low apartment vacancy rates also helped.
"That caused more people to... take the plunge (and buy a home)," he said.
Winnipeg Realtors Association president Richard Dettman said Winnipeg homes were also generally undervalued going into the new millennium, and the steady increases of the past decade have merely bumped them up to where they should have been.
He said one of the nice things is Winnipeg's housing market avoided the boom-and-bust cycles that some other Canadian cities have experienced during the last decade.
"I think if you were to look at the growth line, it would show pretty steady increases," he said.
He and Canart said a number of factors have helped drive up property values in recent years.
They include a prolonged period of historically low interest rates, which made buying a home more affordable for more people, and a steady influx of new immigrants into the province, including a lot of professionals who were in a position to buy rather than rent.
Though the escalation in house prices has been tough on homebuyers, it's been great for some home sellers.
Claude Davis, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate and a past president of the Winnipeg Realtors Association, said a number of his clients were able to take the profit from the sale of their starter home to buy a larger, nicer, move-up property.
The Statistics Canada study found the value of residential properties increased in every province and all but one city -- Windsor, Ont. -- between 2006 and 2011. Saskatchewan led the provincial charge, with a whopping 132.6 per cent increase in residential property values, and Saskatoon had the biggest urban increase at 149.1 per cent.
House-price hikes by province, city
HERE are the percentage increases in residential property assessment values for Manitoba and the other nine provinces between 2006 and 2011 and 2010 to 2011:
Newfoundland and Labrador100.015.0
Prince Edward Island40.64.4
Here are the top eight cities in terms of property-value growth (%) for 2006 to 2011 and 2010 to 2011:
-- source: Statistics Canada