Average house price rises in Saskatoon and Regina – Royal LePage House Price Survey

SASKATCHEWAN, December 14, 2006 – Strong in-migration from the Western provinces lead to tight inventory levels in the major markets in Saskatchewan, causing average house prices to rise, year-over-year, according to a year-end report released today by Royal LePage Real Estate Services.


Low inventory levels continued to pressure prices upwards in Saskatoon, where buying activity remained brisk throughout the quarter. Accurately priced properties that showed well continued to attract multiple offers and often sold above list price, with the average time on the market falling to below 30 days.

Of the four markets examined in Saskatoon, the average price of a standard condominium experienced the greatest increase compared to other housing types surveyed, rising by 15.3 per cent to $124,000, year-over-year. Standard two-storey homes increased by 13.3 per cent, to $205,000, while the price of a detached bungalow rose by 14.2 per cent to $188,500, year-over-year.

Saskatoon has continued to experience an increase in in-migration – a population who is accounting for a large portion of the activity within the housing market. People have been moving to the city to take advantage of the affordable cost of living and excellent job opportunities, as many businesses in a variety of sectors are expanding.

“Saskatoon has experienced an increase in in-migration, and inventory has not been able to satisfy demand which has resulted in continued double-digit increases in average house prices,” said Norm Fisher, sales manager, Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate. “Moving into 2007 we should see some reprieve from the shortage of inventory as some current building projects are completed, helping to free up inventory for the resale market.”

Demand for condominiums has seen continued to grow in the fourth quarter, as an increasing number of entry-level purchasers have been turning to condominiums when they are unable to find a home that is affordable. Luxury homes priced above $300,000 have also seen an upswing in activity, largely attributable to out-of-province purchasers.

In Saskatoon North, the average price of a standard two-storey home rose by 14.0 per cent to $212,000, year-over-year. Detached bungalows rose by 13.4 per cent, to $195,000, while the price of a standard condominium rose by 14.3 per cent to $128,000 over the same period in 2005.

In Saskatoon West, the average price of a standard two-storey home rose by 13.4 per cent, to $178,000, while the average value of a detached bungalow also increased, rising by 13.5 per cent, year-over-year, to $164,000.

In the East End, the average price of a detached bungalow rose by 15.6 per cent, to $200,000, year-over-year. The average price for standard two-storey homes also increased, rising by 11.9 per cent from the same period last year to $225,000.

In East Central, the price of a standard two-storey home rose by 13.9 per cent to $205,000, while a detached bungalow rose by 14.0 per cent to $195,000, year-over-year. A standard condominium also appreciated by 16.5 per cent compared to the same period last year to $120,000


Of the markets examined in Regina, the average price of detached bungalows experienced the greatest increase compared to the other housing types surveyed, rising by 6.9 per cent to $150,375, year-over-year. Standard two-storey homes increased by 3.1 per cent, to $146,500, while the price of a standard condominium rose by 2.1 per cent to $96,500, year-over-year.

“Demand for all types of housing remained strong during the fourth quarter, as affordable interest rates and strong consumer confidence continued to drive buyers into the market, placing pressure on already tight inventory levels,” said Mike Duggleby, manager, Royal LePage Regina Realty, Regina. “In some cases, we have seen the lack of available inventory result in purchasers deciding to wait until the new year to make a purchase as they have become frustrated by the limited supply.”

Activity in the upper end of the market has seen an upswing of activity in the fourth quarter, driven by purchasers from the Western provinces, seeking out a lower cost of living and the excellent employment opportunities that the city offers. Windsor Park and Wascana are popular areas located in the southeast of the city, while the bedroom communities of Emerald Park and White City have seen strong activity in the fourth quarter.

Regina’s housing market is expected to maintain its strength throughout the upcoming year, with tight inventory levels limiting the number of units sold. For the year ahead, purchasers can expect average property prices to rise by 5.9 per cent to $144,000, according to the 2007 Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast, while the number of property transactions is expected to increase by 1.0 per cent to 2, 970 units sold.

In 2007, move-up buyers are expected to account for a larger portion of activity than they have in previous years. Out-of-province buyers are expected to remain active, sustaining strong activity within the upper end of the market.

Added Duggleby: “New developments in the southwest and the northwest of the city should help to relieve some of the pressure on inventory levels next year, however, seller’s market conditions are expected to persist for all of 2007.”

In Regina North, the average price of a standard two-storey home remained stable, year-over-year, at $132,000, while the average price of a detached bungalow increased by 6.8 per cent to $146,750, while standard condominiums remained steady at $85,000, year-over-year.

In Regina South, standard two-storey homes showed the largest gains, rising by 5.7 per cent, year-over-year, to $161,000. The average price of a detached bungalow rose by 3.2 per cent, to $154,000, year-over-year. The average price of standard condominiums in the area rose by 3.8 per cent to $108,000, compared to the same period last year.

Lack of residential lots pressures Saskatoon real estate market

The Saskatoon and Region Home Builders Association is arguing that the City of Saskatoon is not making enough new lots available for single family detached homes and that argument rings true to my ears.

Alan Thomarat, executive director of the association points out that while housing starts in 2006 are clearly ahead of last year (37%) they remain 15% lower than those achieved in 2004. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reports 1,384 housing starts including 886 single-family detached homes for the Saskatoon region over the first 11 months of the year. Thomarat says that the Saskatoon area should be able to build 2,000 homes a year and that the market could handle as many as 2,500 to 3,000 per year “within the decade” if the land is available.

City land branch manager Rick Howse expressed skepticism that Saskatoon could support 2,000 lots saying, “Any CMHC report I’ve seen doesn’t indicate that kind of growth.” However, he did explain that the city fell short of its lot servicing objective for 2006 due to wet weather in the spring and a lack of capacity for Saskatoon construction companies to meet objectives.

Thomarat points to the fact that 35% of new single family home starts are now happening outside of the city as an indication that the city is not making enough lots available. Significant residential developments are currently underway in Warman and Martensville; others are planned for Corman Park and Clavet. Are people actually turning to bedroom communities because of a scarcity of lots in Saskatoon? It is apparently so. November saw 91 new starts for each Saskatoon and Regina. In the Saskatoon area, only 52 of those starts were within city boundaries while Regina captured 76 of the 91 starts in that area.

Thomarat links the lack of city building lots to the increasing prices of existing residential real estate in Saskatoon. “These price increases will have the largest impact on entry level homes, reducing affordability for populations within Saskatoon that can least afford it.”

It’s hard to argue with his logic. Resale prices have risen as much as 15% in some neighbourhoods over the past year and resale inventory continues to shrink. As of today, there are 309 active residential listings available within the city limits. 265 of those are single family homes and 44 are condominiums. This is the lowest number of listings which I have seen in 14 years of business. At the same time, demand continues to remain strong and you don’t have to be an economist to understand that these factors together mean increasing prices for Saskatoon real estate. Without more development in new housing, resale inventories are likely to remain low, pushing prices higher. People are not going to sell their existing homes if they don’t have a place to go.

Meanwhile, the Saskatoon economy is strong with many small business owners indicating an appetite for expansion. The only real problem is finding people to help manage the growth. My colleagues and I have a sense that the people want to come home but we’ve really got no place to put them. I can’t help feeling that Saskatoon isn’t in an ideal position to fully capitalize on a growing interest in our fine city. Somebody, find us a way to build some houses or hang the no vacancy sign.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Saskatoon real estate market update for November, 2006: SRAR

The Saskatoon Real Estate Board released the MLS Listings and Sales statistics for November of 2006 yesterday.

Residential sales for the month totaled 230 units, down just one percent as compared to November of 2005. The average selling price for the month was $167,480 representing an increase of 10 percent for the same month last year.

The most notable numbers were the “active residential listings” which hit a new low of just 363 units across all Saskatoon areas and all price ranges. In my fourteen years in Saskatoon real estate, I can’t recall a time when active listings ever fell below 400 units.

Demand continues to be fairly high for this time of year. There are people out there who want to buy a home. If you’re considering offering your property for sale in the near future, now would be an excellent time to capitalize on the high demand and the unusually low supply of Saskatoon homes. I expect that we will see more units come available in the New Year as people building new houses begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and start planning to sell their existing home. If you’re buying a home, waiting until January may be a good strategy.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Pending legislation may reduce minimum down payment requirements

The Canadian government has tabled legislation which, if approved, would allow consumers to purchase homes with a minimum down payment of just 20% without any requirements to purchase mortgage insurance. Currently, anyone who purchases a residence with a down payment lower than 20% is required to insure the mortgage against default with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) or another insurer. An unidentified federal official couldn’t estimate when the change might take effect as the bill must be passed by both the Parliament and the Senate before it becomes law.

For home buyers purchasing a $200,000 home with 20% down this proposed change would net them a savings of approximately $1,600.00, enough to cover the legal costs of the transaction in most cases.

Alan Silverstein, a Toronto-based real estate lawyer and author of several mortgage-related books said, “For people with 20% to put down this is a Godsend. You’ll save a chunk of money.” However, Silverstein went on to warn that it’s possible the cost associated with the savings could be passed on to those who have less money to put down through higher insurance premiums.

John Williamson, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says homeowners deserve a break on insurance fees. The CMHC made over a billion dollars last year. It’s time to return some of that money to homeowners.” He said lowering down payment requirements makes more sense than “gimmicks” like 40 year amortizations and zero down mortgages with hefty fees attached.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

40-year mortgages now available in Canada

Update: In 2008 the Canadian government took actions to eliminate 40-year mortgages.

Mortgage amortization periods of 40 years are now available in Canada through many of the major lenders for both conventional and high-ratio mortgages. The changes are fresh enough that some of the big ones haven’t had the opportunity to update their online mortgage calculators to work with the new terms. Some predict that 50-year mortgages will be available soon.

This will be good news for some buyers who find that increasing house prices are forcing them out of the market. On an average Saskatoon real estate purchase, financed at 5.5% a buyer would essentially qualify to borrow an additional $25,000 by stretching the amortization over 40 years, as compared to the more traditional 25-year term. Of course, that will make a significant difference in the type of home that buyer could consider purchasing.

Borrowers would be well advised to carefully consider the other side of this equation when choosing an amortization period for their new mortgage. A $160,000 mortgage, financed at 5.5% over 40 years will cost the borrower an additional $100,000 over the entire period of the loan. For anyone who cares to do the math, that’s an average of $2,500 per year over the 40 years. If you were to put $2,500 a year into an investment which generated just a 5% return you would accumulate over $300,000 with that money over the same period of time. I do understand that it’s really not so simple an equation, but I believe these things are worth thinking about before one locks in for the long term.

I can see that this type of a long term approach might make sense under the right circumstances. A young person, or a couple who can feel reasonably confident that their household income will increase, as it normally does as we get older, may take a longer amortization with the goal of shortening it up later when income is stronger. Someone with additional sources of income which the lender refuses to use in qualifying them may be able to qualify based on the longer term but still plan to pay the mortgage down quicker. There are probably a number of scenarios under which longer term financing would make sense.

One must remember that the slower you build equity in your home, the more susceptible you are to hardships, particularly if the housing market depreciates and you end up owing more on your home than you can expect to sell it for. In such a situation you are either tied to your home indefinitely or you’re forced to give it back to the bank, destroying your credit in the process.

No matter how you look at it, 40 years is a long time!

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra