Home renovation tax credit deadline looms but there may still be time for you

The opportunity to take advantage of Canada’s Home Renovation Tax Credit expires at midnight on January 31. Obviously, the clock has run out when it comes to hiring a contractor but a quick trip to your favorite home renovation store might be in order if home improvements are part of your plan over the next few months. Items purchased before the close of business this Sunday may qualify for a 15% tax credit up to $1,350.

More info here.

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.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Housing affordability in Saskatoon shows modest year-over-year improvement

I can’t imagine that it would come as much of a surprise to anyone that the cost of home ownership in Saskatoon has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the recently released “6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” owning a Saskatoon home priced at the median in Q3/2009 would have cost about 4.4 times the median household income, a sharp increase from 2.6 times median income we enjoyed in Q3/2006. Saskatoon saw one of the steepest declines in affordability between 2006 and 2008 placing us among the ranks of the “seriously unaffordable,” according to Demographia’s ranking system. On the brighter side, our city saw some small improvements from Q3/2008 when 4.6 years of income was required to buy that home.

The following chart shows the changes in affordability levels in some of Canada’s most active real estate markets over the past five surveys. Click the image for a larger view.

I was a bit surprised to see that affordability at a national level really hasn’t changed significantly in the past five years. Canada’s “median multiple” comes in at 3.7 years, up from the lows of 3.1 in Q3/2007 but just slightly higher than the 3.6 years in Q3/2005.

Vancouver “wins the gold medal” as the most severely unaffordable housing market in the world requiring 9.3 times to median household income, an increase of almost a year in just twelve months time.

See the entire Demographia survey for 2010 and past reports for 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.

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.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Q4 house prices in Saskatoon show increases over last year: Royal LePage

Saskatoon’s real estate markets saw solid improvements in the final quarter of 2009 across housing types, according to the latest Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast and House Price Survey.

In Saskatoon, standard condominiums sold for an average of $217,000, up 5.9 per cent from the same period last year. Detached bungalows sold for an average of $310,500, up 3.5 per cent year-over-year, and average standard two-storey home prices increased by 3.0 per cent year-over-year to $338,750.

“At this time last year, Saskatoon’s real estate was hitting the bottom of the market,” said Norm Fisher, Sales Manager for Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate. “Resale activity is up across the board, and higher house prices are supported by lower inventory and increased demand, especially for entry level properties.”

“Condos are big movers. In 2009, interest rates went down and entry level homes came into high demand. Condominiums less than 1200 square feet are up dramatically in terms of unit sales in the last half of 2009,” added Fisher.


Canada’s residential real estate market is forecast to remain unusually strong through the first half of 2010 as economic conditions across the country improve and the stimulus impact of low interest rates continues to stoke demand, according to today’s Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast and House Price Survey.

“The Canadian real estate market enters 2010 with considerable momentum from an unusually strong finish to the previous year,” said Phil Soper, president and chief executive, Royal LePage Real Estate Services. “The stimulus effect of low borrowing costs has contributed to a sharp rise in demand that has driven activity levels to new highs. This demand, coupled with a typical seasonal under supply of homes for sale, should cause home prices to continue to appreciate significantly during the early months of the year. Improving supply as the year unfolds and easing demand as the cost of home ownership rises should moderate home price increases in the second half of 2010.”

Regions that saw the strongest declines during the recession are now showing marked gains. Those regions include Toronto and the Lower Mainland, B.C.. Vancouver in particular experienced a robust quarter, with home prices rising across all housing types surveyed.

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.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Flaherty raises some specific actions he could take to cool Canadian housing

For the first time since he initially acknowledged concern over a potential bubble in Canadian housing markets, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has openly indicated in an interview for CTV’s Question Period that higher down payments and shorter amortization periods are both on the table “if” there is further evidence of a bubble.

“If we see further evidence that there’s excessive demand in the housing market, or that there’s an indication that people are taking on obligations that they will not be able to handle in the future when interest rates do rise, then we’ll take some action,” Flaherty told the CTV.

Historically low interest rates intended to spur economic activity have pushed demand for homes higher resulting in sharp price increases in many Canadian markets. Near record level activity in our largest and priciest markets, Vancouver and Toronto has helped push the average selling price of a Canadian home to $368,665 (according to the Canadian Real Estate Association) , roughly twenty-percent higher than it was at this time last year.

“The likely action we would take is to increase the size of the down payment from five percent to a higher amount and probably, once again, reduce the amortization period. So, bring it down from a maximum of thirty-five years to something less than that,” Flaherty said.

I’m going to guess that December’s sale numbers will continue to fuel concern and bring us closer to seeing at least one of these changes implemented. Also uncertain is whether these changes would take effect immediately or if they would be effective at some future date.

Thanks to @JenCT for the heads up.

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.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Canadian sub-prime lenders seek billion-dollar government bailout

An estimated 30,000 mortgages granted to Canadians with poor credit or insufficient incomes at the height of the Canadian housing boom will not be renewed when they mature over the next three years, according to a story on globeinvestor.com. The sub-prime lenders who granted the loans say that the investors who financed buyers at above market interest rates, and in many cases charging add-on fees that many might consider unconscionable, are no longer interested in these investments so they’re calling for full payment at the mortgage maturity date.

Knowing full well that calling these loans will lead to losses, these sub-prime lenders are hard at work using lobbyists to try to convince your government that you ought to be on the hook. Apparently, these are “healthy mortgages” given to individuals with “impeccable payment histories.”  The lenders will be “forced to foreclose on them” if the government doesn’t establish a one billion dollar fund to bail them out.

The effort is cleverly disguised as a bailout of unfortunate homeowners, but hopefully the Canadian people can read between the lines. Apparently, most of these mortgagors would not qualify for financing through a mainstream lender, or for mortgage insurance. As the Canadian Mortgage Trends blog points out, “Makes you wonder how healthy they are if the borrowers can’t re-qualify.”

Ivan Wahl, CEO for Xceed, a sub-prime lender who will call loans on 1,100 Canadians when they come due reportedly said in an interview with the Globe, “The government certainly should step up to the plate to provide some facilities for people who got caught in the crunch.”

It’s clear what a win this proposal would be for these investors who would land on their feet with every penny due after milking this risky scheme for all it was worth. As sad as it would be for those homeowners who took these loans and lived up to their agreement, the taxpayer should not be on the hook for these mortgages. The mortgages should be dealt with in the manner prescribed within the agreement. Some people will lose their homes. That’s a harsh reality of these types of risky ventures. For those that have sufficient equity, the months ahead should provide some strong selling opportunities. For those who are in for more than the home is worth, let’s send that loss back where it belongs, to those who cooked up the hair brained scheme in the first place.

Homeowners that have been notified that their mortgage will not be renewed should immediately explore their options. Can you re-finance with another lender? Is there enough equity in the home that you may be able to sell the property? See a lawyer who understands foreclosure to find out what rights you have under the law.

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.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate