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Record year for new condos

First-time homebuyers, empty-nesters drive sales

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New condos under construction on the west side of St. Mary's Road, between Britannica Road and  Vista Avenue.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

New condos under construction on the west side of St. Mary's Road, between Britannica Road and Vista Avenue. Photo Store

It's been a record-breaking year for condominium construction in the Winnipeg area, as a growing number of first-time homebuyers and downsizing empty-nesters embrace the condo lifestyle.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation figures released Monday show there were 1,567 new condo starts recorded in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) during the first 11 months of this year.

That's a 46 per cent increase from the 1,074 new starts recorded during the same period in 2012, CMHC said. It also shatters the previous annual record of 1,092 set just last year.

Dianne Himbeault, CMHC's senior market analyst for Winnipeg, said first-time buyers and empty-nesters are the main driving forces behind the growing popularity of condos as a housing option.

'Our latest forecast is for a slight moderation in both multi-family and single-family starts (in 2013)'

Not only can condos be a more affordable option than a single-family home for first-time buyers, Himbeault said, they also offer a lifestyle that can appeal to career-driven professionals who have neither the time nor the inclination to be mowing the lawn or shovelling snow.

And for empty-nesters, it's more than just a lifestyle change that's prompting them to take the condo plunge, Himbeault said. Rising house values are also enabling them to essentially swap their older single-family home for a new condo without having to fork out a lot of extra money.

New Winnipeg Realtors Association (WRA) numbers also show it's not just new condos that are selling these days. There's also been a hefty increase in sales of existing units through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

A total of 1,627 condos were sold through the MLS during the first 11 months of this year, WRA figures show. That's a 13 per cent increase from the 1,441 sold during the same period in 2012.

And four of them sold for more than $1 million, the figures show, compared with none in 2012.

Himbeault also sees no reason for condo sales to wane any time soon. Baby boomers continue to age, she said, and more of their children are reaching the age where they're considering homeownership.

However, with all of the new units being built this year, Himbeault said some builders may opt to scale back their starts next year until some of this year's stock is sold.

"Our latest forecast is for a slight moderation in both multi-family and single-family starts (in 2013)," she said.

There were certainly no signs of moderation last month in the Winnipeg CMA, which includes Winnipeg and 10 neighbouring municipalities. CMHC said total starts were up 25 per cent from a year earlier -- 409 units versus 327.

The biggest gains were on the multi-family side, where starts soared by 44.3 per cent to 215 units from 149 in November of last year.

Single-family starts were up by a more modest nine per cent to 194 units from 178.

The surge in construction activity left combined starts for the first 11 months of 2013 running 13.2 per cent ahead of last year's pace -- 4,411 units versus 3,896.

Nationally, CMHC said housing starts came in at an annualized rate of 192,235 units in November. That was down from October's annualized rate of 198,161, and was less than the 195,000 starts that economists were expecting.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2013 B5

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Updated on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 6:43 AM CST: Replaces photo

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