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Homebuyers get more choice

Inventory at highest level since late 1990s

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A condo is under construction in Winnipeg. Active listings include every type of housing.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A condo is under construction in Winnipeg. Active listings include every type of housing. Photo Store

Jumping into the local resale-homes market is less nerve-racking than it used to be for some buyers, thanks to the inventory of available homes, which is climbing to levels not seen since the late 1990s.

Nearly 3,900 properties were listed for sale at the end of June through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the Winnipeg Realtors Association (WRA) said Thursday.

"You'd have to go back to 1999 to see more active listings going into July," said Peter Squire, the association's residential market analyst. "In 2004, we had less than 2,000. "

Squire noted active listings include almost every type of property -- detached homes, condominiums, townhouses, mobile homes, cottages, and even commercial properties.

But even with just detached homes and condos, which is what most buyers are looking for, the story is the same, he said.

At the end of June, there were 2,200 detached homes on the MLS market -- nearly double the 1,199 that were available at the same time in 2007, when the current 10-year housing-market boom was at its peak. And in the case of condos, it was nearly triple the number -- 428 versus 163.

That kind of change is good news for buyers. Not only do they have more homes to choose from, they're less likely to encounter the kind of hair-raising bidding wars that saw homes selling for $20,000 or $30,000 above the listed price in recent years.

"But that doesn't mean they can totally relax," Squire said.

"If it's something you like, you still need to be ready to act quickly."

It also doesn't mean an end to bidding wars, said WRA president Richard Dettman and veteran real estate agent Blair Sonnichsen, of Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate.

"We're still seeing multiple offers on properties that are priced well," Dettman said.

But there might be fewer of them, Sonnichsen added, citing the case of one couple who had to compete against five other buyers for a property they unsuccessfully bid on about eight or nine weeks ago, and only two others on a property they just acquired.

And because there were multiple offers, they had to pay more than the asking price to get it, he added.

Sonnichsen said it's just been in the last three months that he's seen a noticeable increase in the number of active listings.

In the Crestview/Westwood area, for example, this time last year there might have been seven or eight properties available in the $230,000 to $275,000 price range, he said.

"Now we're looking at 14 to 16 properties."

Industry officials said a combination of factors has led to a surge in active listings. One was the delayed arrival of spring, which prompted some buyers to postpone listing their properties until warmer weather arrived in May and June. It also caused some buyers to postpone their search, which led to a build up of unsold properties.

Squire said Winnipeg's fast-growing condo market has also been a factor.

Not only are there more condos to choose from in a variety of price ranges, more first-time buyers and baby boomers are buying them because they're either more affordable or better suit their lifestyle.

And as more empty-nest baby boomers downsize to condos, that puts more detached homes onto the market, Squire added.

This year's condo numbers appear to back that up. Condo listings were up 18 per cent in the first half of this year, the WRA said, and condo sales were up 10 per cent in the first half of the year and 11 per cent in June.

While a bigger selection is good news for buyers, Sonnichsen said it also means some homes may take a longer to sell -- an average of 28 to 32 days in his experience, versus 14 to 16 days this time last year.

"But having said that, it's still a very strong market," he added.

Dettman and Squire agreed, saying while the market has become more balanced, it's still a seller's market.

"If your property is competitively priced, you're still going to sell it quickly," Dettman added.

murray.mcneill@freepress.m

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 B6

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Updated on Friday, July 5, 2013 at 7:27 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds fact box

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