Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Free from winter blahs, home sales through roof

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It was a May for the record books as the sale of three million-dollar-plus homes helped to make last month the highest dollar-volume month in the Winnipeg Realtors Association's 111-year history.

The good news didn't stop there. It was also the third-best month ever for unit sales through the association's Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The WRA said 1,570 properties changed hands during the month for a total of $438.4 million. That was a one per cent increase from the 1,550 properties that sold in May 2013, while the dollar volume was a six-per-cent improvement from the year-ago total of $411.9 million.

WRA president David Powell said he had a feeling May would be a good month after an unusually cold winter and spring put a damper on home-selling activity earlier in the year.

He thinks the next three months could be busy for the same reason, especially with the number of active MLS listings up 22 per cent from the same time last year going into June, which is traditionally the market's second-busiest month of the year after May.

"I think there is still some catching up to do because of the crippling winter and spring markets we had," Powell said. "So we might see a stronger than usual summer market."

May's strong showing left unit sales running slightly ahead of last year's pace after the first five months of 2014 -- 4,961 compared with 4,951. The dollar volume was up by four per cent to $1.34 billion from $1.29 billion.

May was also a good month for the new-homes market. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said Monday housing starts in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area were up 69.4 per cent thanks to a surge in construction activity on the multi-family side of the market.

However, construction activity on the single-family side continued to lag behind last year's pace, with starts down nearly 26 per cent in May and 25 per cent for the first five months of 2014. A CMHC official blamed that in part on more homes to choose from in the resale market, which has prompted some buyers to purchase an existing home instead of a new one.

Oddly enough, two of the three million-dollar-plus properties that sold last month weren't Winnipeg properties. The association's MLS region also includes a number of rural areas, and one of the big-ticket sales was in Falcon Lake and another was in Headingley.

The most expensive property, which sold for $1.82 million, was on South Drive in Fort Garry, said Peter Squire, the WRA's residential market analyst.

Squire noted it wasn't the first time three million-dollar-plus properties sold in the same month.

"We've had five or six a few times."

But having three in May not only helped boost the dollar-volume for the month, it also helped push the average selling price for residential-detached homes above the $300,000 mark for the first time in the association's history. It came in at $300,786 for May, while the average for the first five months of 2014 was a little lower, at $294,232.

The association said not only were the number of active MLS listings up, the number of new listings was also up 10 per cent from a year earlier.

Even though there were more properties to chose from, the sales-to-listing ratio for new listings was still a healthy 57 per cent. That's only down about three percentage points from one of the more recent highs set in April 2008.

"It's a really balanced market," Powell said, with buyers having more properties to choose from but selling prices still holding up well.

"It's the best market to be in for both buyers and sellers," he added.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2014 B5

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