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Sales falter, but city home prices still climbing

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House prices continue to climb at a healthy pace in Winnipeg, a new survey shows, even though unit sales are flagging.

The latest quarterly house-prices survey by Royal LePage shows average selling prices for the three most common types of resale homes -- bungalows, two-storeys and condominiums -- rose between 3.3 per cent and 6.9 per cent from the first quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year.

That was nearly triple the national average increase of between 1.2 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

And the price hikes came at a time when unit sales had begun to falter. Sales were down 11 per cent from a year earlier in February, and the Winnipeg Realtors Association's next monthly sales report, due out today or Monday, will show another significant year-over-year decline in March.

"Certainly in March we were down considerably," Peter Squire, the association's residential market analyst, said Thursday.

Squire wouldn't reveal how much sales were down, saying that will have to wait until the report comes out.

At least three other major Canadian cities -- Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary -- also posted weaker year-over-year sales last month.

They saw declines of 18 per cent, 17 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively, and that's in spite of some Canadian mortgage lenders offering five-year loans at less than three per cent.

Squire said local industry officials will be watching closely to see if sales rebound during the crucial spring market, which is now underway.

The Royal LePage survey showed the biggest first-quarter price hike was in the standard detached bungalow category, where the average price jumped by 6.9 per cent to $302,896. That was followed by standard condominiums (up 4.4 per cent to $194,269) and standard two-storey homes (up 3.3 per cent to $319,409).

Rick Preston, broker/owner of Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate in Winnipeg, said although home sales were sluggish in February and in the first half of March, the market showed signs of perking up in the second half of the month.

"It's starting to feel like it's coming around," he said, adding he thinks it could still be an active spring market.

He noted many of the factors that helped to fuel house sales over much of the past decade are still in play, such as historically low interest rates, high consumer-confidence levels and strong population growth.

One of the factors that helped to put upward pressure on house prices in the first quarter, Preston said, was the ongoing tight supply of available homes.

"If you have a tight supply and you still have good demand, the end result is higher prices."

He said one potential fly in the ointment this spring is the threat of major flooding in Manitoba, which could reduce sales activity.

Nationally, Royal LePage president and CEO Phil Soper said Canada's housing industry finds itself in an unusual situation as it enters the spring selling season.

"The combination of very low mortgage rates and flat home prices, against a background of general economic improvement across the nation, is not something we've seen before," he said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Selling prices around Winnipeg

AVERAGE selling prices are still climbing in Winnipeg, according to the latest house-price survey by Royal LePage. Here is a breakdown of prices in eight areas of the city in the first quarter of this year, with the percentage increase from a year ago in brackets:

NEIGHBOURHOODBUNGALOWTWO-STOREYCONDOMINIUM

Charleswood$295,500 (7.8)$310,000 (-0.6)$177,467 (-2.0)

River Heights$310,400 (8.5)$360,000 (10.8)$198,000 (7.0)

Southdale$299,714 (8.6)$289,000 (1.0)n/a*

Westwood$296,667 (9.1)$317,500 (4.1)$174,800 (2.8)

Northwest$279,150 (-1.0)$321,200 (5.7)$206,000 (-1.9)

Northeast$298,938 (4.5)$288,572 (-3.8)$185,000 (10.1)

South St. Vital$309,500 (4.9)$345,500 (5.7)$215,933 (8.0)

Ft. Richmond$333,300 (12.6)$323,500 (2.7)$202,680 (7.2)

*not available

-- Royal LePage

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2013 B5

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