Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Alberta housing market most affordable in Canada: RBC
Resale activity picking up in Calgary
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald May 29, 2012

CALGARY — Housing market activity in Alberta is showing increasing signs of strength as it benefits from attractive affordability and nation-leading economic growth, according to the latest Housing Trends and Affordability Report released Tuesday by RBC Economics.

RBC’s housing affordability measures for Alberta, which capture the province’s proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home at market value, remained among the lowest, if not the lowest, in the country in the first quarter of this year.

And RBC said the “long-awaited resurgence” of the Calgary-housing market appears to have been launched in recent months as home resales advanced by a “sizable” 7.4 per cent in the first quarter relative to the fourth quarter of last year, and April activity showed even greater strength.

In fact, Calgary bucked the national trend and showed improved affordability in the first quarter.

“Homebuyers in the Calgary area are motivated by a booming provincial economy, strong job creation, and attractive housing affordability,” said the report. “Despite higher resales lately, home prices so far have remained flat for the most part, with some weakness observed in condominium apartments. This has kept housing affordability in check at some of the better levels among Canada’s largest cities.”

It said affordability improved modestly in the first quarter in Calgary. RBC housing affordability measures show the proportion of median pre-tax household income that would be required to service the cost of a mortgage payment. RBC said that in Calgary measures compared with a year ago edged lower for condominium apartments (0.4 per cent) and two-storey homes (0.3 per cent), and stayed unchanged for detached bungalows.

“We expect the market resurgence to continue for the remainder of this year,” it said.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, MLS sales in Calgary so far this month from May 1-28 are up 27.90 per cent from the same period a year ago with 2,104 transactions and the average residential sale price in the city has increased by 3.03 per cent to $445,120.

Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB’s chief economist, said the city has experienced positive economic growth with the expansion in jobs, full-time jobs in particular.

“And this really has encouraged some demand into housing. We’ve had low interest rates . . . We’ve had a signficantly strong spring season compared to other years,” she said. “It’s also important to note that we’ve been pretty slow to recover in the first place. So there was a lot of hesitation out there.

“But as things have started to improve in the economy, people are starting to re-invest.”

Lurie said she doesn’t expect to see any change in the demand for housing in the city in the near future.

Robert Hogue, senior economist with RBC, said attractive affordability and a strong provincial economy are playing significant roles in driving Alberta’s home resale activity, up 11.5 per cent year-over-year in the first quarter and showing no sign of easing in April.

“We expect that, going forward, Alberta’s housing market will remain on this bright path, particularly as the province continues to lead the country in economic growth,” he said.

The measure for benchmark detached bungalows in Alberta rose by 0.1 percentage points to 32.2 per cent, while the measure for condominium apartments marked a small improvement, decreasing 0.3 percentage points to 20.2 per cent. The two-storey home category was the only measure that remained unchanged at 35.3 per cent.

RBC’s housing affordability measure for the benchmark detached bungalow in Canada’s largest cities is as follows: Vancouver 88.9 per cent (up 3.1 percentage points from the previous quarter), Toronto 53.4 per cent (up 1.2 percentage points), Ottawa 41.8 per cent (up 0.9 percentage points), Montreal 41.4 per cent (up 1.2 percentage points), Calgary 36.7 per cent (unchanged) and Edmonton 32.4 per cent (down 0.4 percentage points).

The following are average prices in the first quarter of this year, affordability measure, and year-over-year change in the affordability measure:

Detached Bungalow

Canada, $360,500, 43.1 per cent, 1.5 per cent.

Alberta, $347,900, 32.2 per cent, 0.1 per cent.

Calgary, $423,000, 36.7 per cent, 0.2 per cent.

Standard Two-Storey

Canada, $403,600, 48.7 per cent, 1.2 per cent.

Alberta, $372,800, 35.3 per cent, 0.2 per cent.

Calgary, $418,200, 37.5 per cent, 0.1 per cent.

Standard Condominium

Canada, $235,800, 28.8 per cent, 0.3 per cent.

Alberta, $212,300, 20.2 per cent, — 0.6 per cent.

Calgary, $248,100, 22.2 per cent, — 0.4 per cent.

Photo By: woody1778a


May MLS sales in Calgary up substantially
Calgary Herald
May 29, 2012

It’s been a good spring so far for the local real estate industry with sales moving ahead of last year’s pace at a good clip.

And so far in May sales have continued to be quite healthy.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, from May 1-28, there have been 2,104 MLS residential sales in the city, up 27.90 per cent from the same period last year and the average sale price has increased by 3.03 per cent to $445,120.

The single-family home market has seen year-over-year growth of 26.52 per cent in sales to 1,503 with the average price rising by 3.12 per cent to $503,694.

That average sale price is flirting with the all-time monthly record of $505,920 set in July 2007.

In the condo apartment category, sales of 345 are up 31.18 per cent from last year and the average price has risen by 4.03 per cent to $275,382.

Also, in the condo townhouse category, sales in May are up 31.96 per cent from last year to 256 transactions and the price has increased by 5.29 per cent to $329,969.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Condo pace picks up steam in city
By Claire Young
Calgary Herald May 18, 2012

Compared to the last three months of 2011, resale condos sold faster from Jan. 1 to the end of March in three of four quadrants of the city, says the Calgary Real Estate Board.

All of the board’s zones except for Zone A — which roughly corresponds to the city’s northwest — sold more quickly than during October to December.

In Zone A, condos took an average of 58 days to sell — three more than during the last quarter.

Condos in Zone B, which roughly consists of northeast Calgary, averaged 58 days on market, down from 64 in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Zone C — roughly southwest Calgary — saw the hottest sales with an average of 49 days on market, down from 60.

And Zone D, which is roughly consists of southeast Calgary, saw a six-day drop to an average of 50 days on market.

The new year brought many more listings for condos.

From Jan. 1 to the end of March, there were 2,702 new listings in the city compared with 1,644 during October to December.

The bulk of the new listings were in Zone C, with 1,492 added. This zone also saw the most sales at 783, up again from last quarter’s 612.

The only neighbourhood to hit triple-digit sales in 2012’s first quarter was Connaught in Zone C, which saw a tidy 100 sales averaging $309,451.

Other neighbourhoods in Zone C that sold well were Victoria Park with 48 sales averaging $351,754, and Bankview with 32 sales averaging $262,512.

The most expensive neighbourhood from Jan. 1 to the end of March was Varsity Estates in Zone A, which had two sales averaging $598,750.

The most affordable neighbourhood was also in Zone A — Highland Park, which had one sale for $79,000.

During the first three months of 2012, the average sale price increased in all zones except Zone D — where this quarter’s average sale of $259,768 marked a decline from last quarter’s $268,998.

Zone C had the highest average sales at $307,822, an increase from $298,960.

Zone A’s average sale was $281,193, up almost $10,000, while Zone B was up a little more than $4,000, with an average sale of $173,544.


Luxury Elbow River condo sells for almost $9 million, sets Calgary real estate record
Tops $8.3 million sale earlier in the year
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald May 24, 2012

CALGARY — A luxury condominium in the new The River project has sold for a record $8.99 million, the most expensive sale ever in the Calgary market for a condo.

The penthouse unit is 5,626 square feet with 2,950 square feet in additional outdoor space.

Earlier this year, a 5,260-square-foot condo covering the entire 12th floor of the 15-storey tower, to be located on 26th Avenue S.W., along the Elbow River, sold for $8.3 million.

“The River not only offers its owners an unsurpassable location but also redefines condo living in Calgary,” said Chris Bourassa, chief operating officer of 26th Avenue River Investments Inc. “The development presents living spaces that do not compromise quality or size, and offers a premium lifestyle not yet seen in the city.”

The development will have a total of 38 residences — 27 units in the tower and 11 town houses. There have also been four sales so far of more than $5 million each.

The project is being developed by 26th Avenue River Investments Inc., an affiliate of Ledcor Properties Inc.

Bourassa said the development is projected to start construction late this year with completion in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Bourassa said a key to the project’s success is that it is offering a product that’s never been offered in the Calgary market.

“If you look at other industries, whether they be cars or single-family homes, large homes and the acreages, the luxury market was being served,” he said. “But once those buyers were sort of done with families, done with acreages, wanted to travel more, wanted a place that they could have the space to stretch out in a condo and be able to turn the lock and leave for months at a time, it didn’t exist. Not with the whole building being of like-minded people.”

He said many of the buyers are business leaders who have vision and can see the economy moving in the right direction.

“Calgary is very strong and they can just foresee that now is the time to move on some of these things,” added Bourassa.

Of the 38 residences, 14 have been sold and several are conditionally sold, he said.

Recently, a report by RE/MAX said growing confidence in Calgary’s residential housing market has spilled over into luxury properties with first-quarter sales over the $1-million price point, the best on record since 2007.

The Upper-End Market Trends 2012 report said 115 homes changed hands in the first quarter, up from 106 during the same period in 2011, 67 in 2010, 35 in 2009, and 86 in 2008.

Only 2007 posted greater sales activity in the top end, with 124 sales priced over $1 million, said RE/MAX.

“Locals are primarily behind the push, trading up to larger homes or lot sizes, taking advantage of today’s low interest rates and more affordable housing values,” said the report.

“Movement back into Calgary — in the form of transfers from international corporations — is also a trend worth noting.”


Hot Toronto, cold Vancouver have competing effects on Canadian housing market
By Sunny Freeman

TORONTO – The Canadian housing market gained momentum in April as strong sales in the Toronto offset weakness in Vancouver, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday.

April seasonally adjusted home sales on CREA’s Multiple Listing Service gained 0.8 per cent compared with March.

On a year-over-year basis, the association said there were 49,480 homes sold in April, up 11.5 per cent from 44,370 a year ago, when sales slowed following a tightening of mortgage lending rules including the elimination of 35-year amortizations came into effect in March 2011.

Two of Canada’s largest markets are having opposite effects on the national average, with slowing sales and falling prices in Vancouver dragging, and soaring sales and prices in Toronto exerting upward pressure.

The average home price in Canada in April was up 0.9 per cent from a year ago at $375,810.

“It bears repeating that the national average price was skewed higher last spring by record level high-end home sales in Vancouver’s priciest neighbourhoods, and that a replay of this phenomenon was not expected this year,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

The average selling price in Vancouver was down 9.8 per cent compared with a year ago at $735,315, while the average price in Toronto was up 8.4 per cent at $517,556. April sales in Vancouver slid 13.2 per cent while Toronto sales picked up 14.5 per cent compared to a year ago.

“Trends in Vancouver and Toronto continue to diverge. These two housing markets have an obvious influence on national statistics and a high profile, but Canada is a big place,” said Wayne Moen, CREA President.

Excluding Toronto and Vancouver, the average price in Canada was up 3.1 per cent from a year ago.

Gains in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, as well as London and St. Thomas, Ont., also contributed to the increased sales, offsetting declines in Ottawa, Windsor-Essex, Quebec City, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver.

Continued strength in the housing market, largely due to the staying power of low interest rates, has led some economists to warn the market is overvalued. That could make homeowners vulnerable to a downturn, especially those who have used low interest rates to borrow more than they could otherwise afford.

TD Bank estimates Canadian home prices are 10 to 15 per cent overvalued, with the excess most evident in Toronto and Vancouver, said TD economist Diana Petramala.

“With mortgage rates still at rock bottom through the early part of this year and job creation heating up through March and April, it’s not that surprising to see continued growth in Canadian home sales,” she said.

“Still, growth in home prices and sales will likely be limited as the overvaluation has led to a deterioration in affordability. Overall, we anticipate the Canadian housing market to remain relatively flat in the coming year with home prices to rise just another two per cent this year, following gains of seven per cent in each of the last two years.”

The number of newly listed homes pared back 0.2 per cent from March to April, which, combined with slightly higher sales resulted in a tighter national housing market, but remains firmly entrenched in balanced market territory,” CREA said in a release.

A total of 157,804 homes have traded hands so far this year, up 6.4 per cent from levels reported in the first four months of 2011.

That’s also about four per cent higher than both the five- and 10-year averages for sales during the first third of the year.

Sales on CREA’s Multiple Listing Service was either up or held steady in half of all local markets, with Toronto and Calgary posting the biggest monthly increases for the second consecutive month.

Toronto home sales in 2012 have been particularly strong, up 9.5 per cent from year ago levels at 31,639 homes sold so far this year. But sales in Vancouver, a market that was bustling with high-end home purchases last year, are down 19.9 per cent so far this year at 9,935 homes sold.

“While these two cities are garnering most of the attention, Calgary is quietly becoming a market to watch,” said BMO economist Robert Kavcic, adding that sales in the city jumped 30 per cent year-over-year in April.

“If oil prices remain high enough to continue supporting strong economic growth and migration flows, Calgary could again become Canada’s real estate hot spot in short order.”


Canadians want more luxury homes, Re/Max says
By Canadian Press May 16, 2012

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – The Re/Max real-estate sales organization says demand for high-priced housing was strong in most Canadian markets in the first months of this year, with records set in 10 of the 16 markets it tracks.

Vancouver was one of the six markets where the luxury market has cooled off after an especially hot period last year but demand in Toronto remained high.

The organization says the price of luxury housing depends on the market, from a low of $500,000 in such mid-sized cities as St. John’s, N.L., and Halifax to a high of $2 million in the Vancouver area.

In the case of Regina, which had the biggest increase in luxury sales this year, there was a 56 per cent more sales of at least $500,000.

In Canada’s most expensive market, Vancouver, there was a 31-per-cent decline from last year’s peak with 393 luxury homes sold in the first quarter.

By contrast, Toronto’s market has been hotter than last year, with 412 homes sold for at least $1.5 million each – a 49-per-cent increase from early 2011.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Calgary’s housing market soars in April
MLS sales up 26% from a year ago
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald May 1, 2012

CALGARY — It was a very busy April for Calgary’s housing market.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, overall residential MLS sales in the city of 2,200 for the month were up 26.07 per cent from April 2011 and the average sale price of $429,388 increased by 1.95 per cent from last year.

Carrie Pepper was one of the many caught up in the April activity as she bought a condo in the Thorncliffe-Greenview neighbourhood.

“I wasn’t even planning on buying. I was looking for two months maybe. I found a lot of places that were good prices,” said Pepper who looked at about 10 properties.

“I didn’t want to rent because it’s so expensive. So why not buy?”

She said continued low interest rates played a role in her decision.

“That was huge. This is my first time buying. I know it’s a good time to buy right now,” added Pepper.

Apparently many others felt the same as Pepper.

In the single-family home category, CREB said sales of 1,582 were up 30.64 per cent from last year and the average sale price rose by 0.88 per cent to $483,519.

In the condo apartment category, there were 351 MLS sales, up 13.23 per cent from last year but the average sale price dipped by 5.76 per cent to $267,931.

And in the condo townhouse category, sales rose by 19.20 per cent to 267 with the average sale price increasing by 8.31 per cent to $320,912.

“What we saw in April was strong demand coupled with less good inventory. We also saw lots of multiple offers,” said Cody Battershill, a realtor in Calgary with RE/MAX House of Real Estate.

"I think that everyone’s realizing the world didn’t end and in fact on most metrics we are back to or stronger than most of the previous peaks achieved in the last cycle. Some people think we could be at the beginning of another strong positive economic cycle while others would still encourage cautious optimism. Regardless, living in Calgary means enjoying high economic growth, job growth, income growth and migration.”

He said the economic fundamentals in Calgary are strong and will be for the foreseeable future.

Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB’s chief economist, said the growth in full-time employment, combined with improving migration levels, is translating into improved demand for housing.

“While sales growth does seem exceptionally strong, it is important to keep in perspective that the sales activity in Calgary is returning to levels more consistent with the long-term average,” she said.

CREB said its MLS Home Price Index benchmark price for single-family homes was $449,500 in April, up 7.41 per cent from a year ago. The benchmark price for condo apartments was up 0.77 per cent to $248,300 and it rose by 4.58 per cent in the condo townhouse category to $294,500.

CREB says its new home price index measures how typical properties are valued in the market rather than relying on average and median prices.

It is calculated using a statistical model that estimates prices based on several factors.

In the city, total new listings in the MLS market dipped by 0.49 per cent in April to 3,238 and active listings were off by 16.67 per cent to 5,270.

“While sales activity and the level of new listings continue to remain below long-term trends, the spring market is definitely on the rise over the previous year,” said Bob Jablonski, CREB’s president. “As confidence in the local housing market continues to build, we anticipate a rise in demand, followed by improved listings from those waiting to see some price appreciation prior to listing their home.”