For the second consecutive year, the Multiple Listing Service has racked up over $2 billion in sales.
“The kind of adjustment we are seeing in our MLS market in the fourth quarter has not derailed another record-breaking year,” said Darlene Clare, president of the WinnipegREALTORS Association.
Year-to-date dollar volume sales reached $2.33 billion, which Clare said was a reflection of Winnipeg’s healthy local economy and strong consumer confidence.
Dollar volume sales actually increased by nine per cent over the same period in 2007, although sales were down three per cent to 12,126 units.
A recent housing market activity report by RBC Economics indicated Manitoba is well-positioned to weather the storm hitting other provinces.
“The housing boom has been rather a low-key affair in Manitoba compared to its western neighbours,” said Robert Hogue, senior economist at RBC, “with prices increasing steadily over the past few years, but well within manageable territory. Consequently, housing affordability did not deteriorate excessively.”
The report said homeownership costs have risen modestly since 2005, but remain fairly close to historical norms, much better positioned than is the case in other provinces.
High sales-to-new listings ratios are also consistent with reasonably firm support for prices, according to the report.
Clare said November statistics have shown a drop-off in demand with the majority of sales below listing prices.
“There is no question people are being more cautious as a result of the volatility in the stock market and the forecasts of tougher times ahead,” Clare added. “Pent-up demand in Winnipeg has been running its course for some time now and the media reports of uncertainty do not reflect how well the city is managing with its diversified economy.
“The unemployment rate actually went down in November and major projects such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are slated to go ahead in 2009.”
“One of the real positive things going forward is the existence of a more balanced market in which affordability is alive and well,” said Clare.
“In November nearly two out of three residential-detached sales were under $200,000,” she said.
According to WinnipegREALTORS, the most active price range in November was between $160,000 and $199,999, which accounted for 24 per cent of all sales.
The WinnipegREALTORS president said home buyers are in a better position to take advantage of the market than they have ever been in recent years.
“The supply of homes for sale is much healthier and the urgency to buy has been tempered considerably,” she said.
Total MLS year-to-date listings are up 10 per cent over last year, while the current inventory at the end of November rose 63 per cent over the same period in 2007, an indication of a more balanced market, according to WinnipegREALTORS
Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada has lowered its bank rate to 1.75 per cent — a 50-year low — saying the global economic recession “will be broader and deeper than previously expected,” and “it will take some time before market conditions in financial markets normalize.”
The result of the bank’s action has caused Canadian financial institutions to lower mortgage lending rates. The advertised five-year conventional mortgage rate stood at 6.95 per cent, down 0.44 per cent from a year earlier, and a quarter of a percentage point below where the rate stood when the Bank of Canada last lowered its rate on October 21.
“Canada is in a better position to weather the global economic recession than many other countries,” said Gregory Klump, the Canadian Real Estate Association’s chief economist. “Lower interest rates and a lower Canadian dollar will support economic growth, as will expected government spending.”