Saskatoon home builders make case to city council for more lots

Alan Thomarat, Executive Director of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association made an impassioned plea before city council on Monday for the availability of more serviced lots in 2007.

Before a full capacity council chamber, Thomarat argued that while Saskatoon has consistently ranked in the top three Canadian cities for economic growth in recent years, we are under performing miserably as far as new home starts are concerned, ranking last in the country behind Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.

Thomarat, on behalf of his association and a chamber full of local builders donning white hard hats as a show of their support, made the following recommendations:

  • The city approves servicing plans for 2,000 units of single family and multi family serviced land for 2007.
  • Once approved, the city must act quickly to prepare and post appropriate tender calls.
  • That builders be offered the opportunity to develop theme oriented neighbourhoods in city owned subdivisions.
  • That the city considers releasing lots to builders prior to servicing if required so that they might be able to work with their customers.
  • That the city work with existing developers in Stonebridge, Rosewood and Blairmore to mitigate delays, expedite approvals at all levels and ensure that the private development community is not hindered in its effort to serve their builders and customers.
  • That the city assesses the retail value of long held inventory and discount these properties to levels that are market appropriate to satisfy the need for more affordable lots.
  • That the city work with the industry, community associations, the fire department among others, to develop an aggressive neighbourhood revitalization strategy that includes existing housing stock, enforcing safety requirements, conducting inspections on marginal rental properties, and working with industry stakeholders to develop meaningful infill, core area housing strategies.

Speaking in support of those recommendations, Harry Janzen, Executive Director of the Saskatoon Real Estate Board, provided a statistical overview of the resale real estate market presenting evidence that many consumers wishing to purchase Saskatoon homes are “settling” for homes in outlying communities as a result of low inventories within the city. He reinforced the general belief in the resale industry that many more families are interested in moving to Saskatoon, and many already have, using figures from Statistics Canada which indicate 3,700 families have moved to Saskatchewan since June of last year.

I also had an opportunity to speak in support of our home builders and I expressed the following points to council:

  • The current lack of resale listings is tied more to increased demand than it is to a low supply. Listings taken through 2006 by Saskatoon REALTORS®, though down slightly from 2005, were actually above the five year average.
  • That the five year average of unit sales in our “bedroom communities” was up 31% over the previous five year average indicating that more and more buyers are considering these areas because of low housing inventory in Saskatoon.
  • That many of these people will work and access services in Saskatoon, utilizing our infrastructure while paying property taxes in a different municipality.
  • That a lack of new housing inventory is putting pressure on the resale housing market spurring price increases which are far exceeding income growth in the province. The average price of a Saskatoon home increased over 50% in the last five years while income growth has likely been somewhere below 20%.
  • That Saskatoon is poised to see even larger increases in coming years if new housing opportunities are not fully explored and exploited.
  • That many prospective home buyers, particularly those at the entry level are displaced and forced into substandard housing if resale property values are permitted to “skyrocket.”
  • That the current challenges in meeting increased demand can only be met through the development of more land and the construction of new homes. Simple math would indicate that if more families wish to reside in Saskatoon, we’ll need more homes to accommodate them.

Finally, Pearl McNevin, an employee of North Ridge Development Corporation delivered an emotionally charged address on the impact that the current land use policies are having on employees of local builders and their families.

Political will to bring more lots to the market seems to exist. Mayor Don Atchison and a number of Councillors are clearly in favour of capitalizing on this opportunity to grow Saskatoon. Let’s hope that the Land Bank bureaucracy can rise to the challenge and deliver the goods.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Saskatoon blog finds a place in the 10 Good Men Award roll

10 Good Men Award Teresa Boardman, REALTOR® and well known blogger from St. Paul Minnesota is no stranger to the blogging scene. She’s been at it longer than most and she’s well known throughout the community making guest appearances on other popular blogs on a regular basis.

She swears that given enough time, science will eventually prove that “woman” represents the beginning of all life, but we certainly can’t accuse her of not believing in equal opportunity. Teresa decided that it was high time male bloggers got a little recognition and today, I’m feeling very proud to have been included as a recipient of her “10 Good Men Award.”

Teresa, you are truly an inspiration! The internet is a pretty big place but somehow you managed to notice this brand new blogger and you took the time to say hi and offer your encouragement. The award is truly appreciated but I am even more thankful that I have had the opportunity to cross paths with you, and others like you. Thank you. Your authority as a blogger is evidenced by the sudden increase in backlinks to my blog that started building today. Now, I need to get to work on building a blog roll of my own. 🙂

I find myself in great company and want to extend my congratulations to nine good men who I share this honour with:

Josh Dorkin – Real Estate Investing for Real

Larry Cragun – Real Estate Undressed and Mortgages Undressed

Jonathon Miller – Matrix Blog

Doug Quance – Brokers First Realty Atlanta

Alex Stenback – Behind the Mortgage

Noah Roseblatt – Urban Diggs

Ed Rybczynski – No longer active

Erik Hare – No longer active

Jim Duncan – Real Central VA

Congrats guys and I’m looking forward to exploring your blogs.

For my American friends: I do actually know how to spell words like honor and neighborhood. The bonus “U” that you see in these words is a crazy Canuck thing, in case you didn’t know that.

Pimp my igloo! Housing alternative for Saskatoon home buyers

You may already be aware that the Saskatoon housing market is experiencing a serious shortage of listing inventory.Currently, we have fewer than 300 active residential listings and buyers are finding it extremely tough to find homes.

Fortunately, this is Saskatoon, and it happens to be January so there is no shortage of building materials for this project.

Gather all of the snow from your best friend’s back yard into one corner of the yard.

Igloo 1

Hollow that baby out.


Create some cozy sitting areas complete with carpet covers.

Don’t forget one or two spots where you can catch a few winks.


Bring in the projector, crack a few cool ones, and check out a movie.Apparently, these guys chose Ice Age.


Thanks to James for allowing me to post these images.James is an aspiring photographer from Saskatoon.He’s got a great website that features some of his work.Please check it out at here.

Your Saskatoon home is not your second income

Your Saskatoon Home is Not Your Second Income

CNN runs a program on Saturday afternoons called Open House, which touches on topical issues surrounding home ownership. This week’s program carried the title, Open House: Mortgage Meltdown and focused on skyrocketing foreclosure rates across the United States. CNN reported that 1 in 1,000 American homes face foreclosure. Some markets report much higher numbers, like Denver, where 1 in 365 homes face foreclosure actions.

Of course, after several years of aggressive price increases in many U.S. cities, the housing market south of our border took a turn for the worst. The second and third quarters of 2006 were particularly tough and many people saw substantial amounts of their home equity washed away. Some will tell you that the worst is over and year end numbers seem to indicate that things are turning around but even if it is over, a significant amount of damage remains. I’m hearing stories every day about people who are buried in their homes with a much higher level of mortgage debt than they can realistically sell their homes for. The foreclosure numbers speak for themselves.

In my opinion, one of the biggest contributors to financial hardship is our willingness to continuously borrow against the equity which we’ve built in our homes. The problem is particularly bad in the U.S. where lenders are constantly beating the drum to “cash out your equity,” or “consolidate your debt.” People have financed their homes to the absolute max and in some cases, beyond the property’s resale value. When interest rates creep up as they have in the U.S. it suddenly gets very difficult to manage that debt.

Yesterday, a story published in the Star Phoenix with the headline, Mortgage market robust going into 2007 spoke of all the new mortgage options available in Canada which will “stimulate buying activity in the new year.” 40 year mortgages! Interest only mortgages! 100% loan to value mortgages! Yay! Most of these wonderful opportunities come with the ultimate risk of living in the poor house. We shouldn’t be looking for ways to slow our opportunity to build equity.

In recent years, Saskatoon has experienced higher than normal appreciation in housing prices. All indicators suggest that this trend will continue for some time. However, we are wise to remember that price increases above the norm don’t often continue forever. At some point it stops, and often prices will decline after long periods of growth. We would be wise to make every effort to retain as much of our home equity as possible, avoid “cashing out” and other “attractive” financing opportunities that allow us to treat our homes as a source of income, or discourage us from the opportunity to be free of debt.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

No end to good news for Saskatoon economy

It’s everywhere! You can hardly open a newspaper without encountering good news about Saskatoon’s growing economy. Some are even starting to use the boom word. Perhaps what’s most striking is that I’m hearing this news on a daily basis from people who reside outside of the province, would be investors who are obviously catching wind of all of the good things happening in Saskatchewan, and here in Saskatoon.

The latest bit of good news for Saskatoon is the recently released Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey which tells us that there were 9,800 more people working in Saskatoon at the end of 2006, as compared to the same time in 2005. Across the province of Saskatchewan, we see an increase in the workforce of 22,800 people.

So, where are the people coming from to fill these positions? Perhaps we’re finally getting our lazy people off of the couch and into the workforce, but probably not. These people are coming to Saskatoon from all regions of Canada. Saskatoon is on the grow and an abundance of jobs in construction, agriculture, science, trade and services, and the mining, oil and gas industries is bringing people back home to this province. Talk to any REALTOR® and they’ll tell you what I’m telling you; they have never been dealing with more out of province prospects than they are right now.

Managing this opportunity for growth will be just one of the bigger challenges that we face in Saskatchewan over the coming years. How do we continue to create opportunities which encourage interest in our province?Dwight Percy writes an excellent column titled, “It’s a Make or Break Year for Saskatchewan” which is certainly worth a read.

What about housing? Today, the MLS® system is showing only 258 active listings of houses and condos across all areas of Saskatoon and all price ranges. Based solely on my recent effort to arrange showings of “active listings” I’m going to guess that 30-40% of these properties are under contract, and technically, no longer available.

Part of the challenge that we face in capitalizing on this interest is having adequate housing to accommodate people. The city of Saskatoon needs to take a serious look at its land development policy and find a way to make more building lots available, and they need to do it fast.

Last week, I received a call from Alan Thomarat, executive director of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders Association. Alan asked me to join him and Harry Janzen, executive director of the Saskatoon Region Association of REALTORS® at City Council this Monday evening to speak to council about the potential problems which could arise from our current situation. I’ve agreed to do so.

I don’t know much about land development and I’m not an expert in municipal growth management but I do have a pretty good handle on basic mathematics, the Saskatoon real estate market and the principle of supply and demand. It’s quite simple really; if we have more families moving to Saskatoon we need more homes to put them in. If we don’t meet that growing need, we can count on house prices to rise faster than incomes leaving many of our younger families and less affluent citizens out in the cold and that doesn’t sound like good news to me.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra