Never is Winnipeg’s status of being slightly off the beaten track more appreciated than when considering the challenges homeowners face in the overheated markets of Toronto and Vancouver.
Winnipeg sellers may be jealous of the sky-high home prices elsewhere, but priced correctly, there’s plenty who have the luxury of fielding several offers after just one open house.
While the Winnipeg market has always been dominated by single-family dwellings — largely because of their affordability — condos are starting to move briskly.
In August, there were 199 condo sales — just shy of the historic high for monthly condo sales and one of only a handful of months on record approaching such levels. August MLS sales of 1,439 were up 13 per cent over August 2018 and rose nine per cent above the five-year average for August. Dollar volume of $411 million in August resulted in close to a 10 per cent gain over the same month last year. It is the first time August dollar volume has eclipsed the $400 million mark.
Aided by a warm, dry summer, the market was a little more intense than usual, said Peter Squire, long-time market analyst at the Winnipeg Realtors Association. July and August are sometimes thought to be "slow" sales months, but Squire said it was the busiest summer ever.
And the big condo business is something unexpected and somewhat extraordinary.
"I can’t recall a month where there has been such a big difference between the increase in condo sales and the total increase in multiple listing service (MLS) sales," Squire said.
Condo sales were up 37 per cent year over year and MLS sales were up a respectable 13 per cent.
"It is not often, if at all, when we see condominium sales outperform single family to the degree they did this month," said Ken Clark, president of the Realtors Association. "It means their year-to-date percentage gain over 2018 sales is greater than single family’s now."
In one project alone, Sunstone Properties’ Jubilee South Osborne, sold eight units in August. The two-storey, townhouse-style project was preceded by an apartment style development that sold out as well.
Stacey Campbell, a sales agent with Keller Williams, said the project has the right combination of location — beside the Jubilee bus-rapid transit station — amenities and price point.
"These condos have two-car carports right at the door, the decks are massive.... it is a really good product they delivered and the prices were good," Campbell said. There are only two units left in the development, selling between $288,000 and $325,000.
Not every development can benefit from being adjacent to the rapid transit corridor. Campbell said some of the residents at Jubilee South Osborne can save themselves as much as $500 a month they might otherwise pay to park downtown.
Tony Martone, the lead agent and owner of the Keller Williams franchise in Winnipeg, helped sell 40 units in the Icon on Portage Avenue building (at the former site of the Palomino nightclub) in the past 14 months.
"There are more and better condos on the market in Winnipeg," he said. "The Icon project is one of the only recent condo projects with accessibility units and they are priced the way they should be priced. That’s why they are selling."
The proliferation of condos crowding onto the Winnipeg market over the past 10 years — as this city caught up to the rest of urban North America when it comes to that category of housing — has from time to time created some sluggishness when it comes to resale values.
But most of the sales last month were resales, and Campbell and others noted the degree to which product moves swiftly has a lot to with whether or not they are priced properly.
The strong sales bode well for future market dynamics because there are a lot of condos on the market.
"There is as much inventory as we have ever had in our system," Squire said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Friday, September 13, 2019 at 10:13 PM CDT: adds photo