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

Luxury home market sees huge growth in Saskatoon and across Canada

A new Carriage Trade Luxury Properties Report released today by Royal LePage Real Estate Services finds that sales of luxury homes far outpaced the general market across Canada. Year-over-year unit sales more than doubled in Calgary, Edmonton and Halifax.

While Saskatoon is not mentioned specifically in the report, I can confirm that a similar trend is occurring here. Of course, our “luxury market” still boasts a substantially lower price point than those used in this survey. For the most part, Royal LePage looked for properties which sold in excess of $500,000. So far this year, Saskatoon real estate agents have sold 152 homes priced over $300,000. That compares with just 73 homes sold for the same period last year. It’s also worth noting that one sale of a Riverside Estates property came it at the $1,000,000 mark, a new record for a residential home sale in this area. Read on for more of this report.


TORONTO, November 24, 2006 – Canadians are embracing luxury living more than ever before – and if they are not currently living in a luxury home, many aspire to someday live in the lap of luxury. As a result, the number of unit sales of luxury homes has skyrocketed in Canada’s major markets, according to the Carriage Trade Luxury Properties Report released today by Royal LePage Real Estate Services. The report found that there has been a surge of unit sales in all markets examined, with the greatest increases occurring in Calgary, Edmonton and Halifax, which all reported sales increases of more than 125 percent, year-over-year, in the first three-quarters of 2006.

If the aspirations of Canadians play a factor, sales of luxury homes will not diminish anytime soon. The report, which includes a market analysis of trends and activity in major markets across Canada, combined with a national omnibus poll (conducted by Maritz Research Canada), found that over one-third (37%) of Canadians aged eighteen and older, currently live in a luxury home, plan to buy a luxury home soon, or aspire to one day live in a luxury home.

“The pronounced increase in the number of luxury homes sold across the country is a strong reflection of Canadians’ confidence in the economy and the real estate market,” said Phil Soper, president, and CEO, Royal LePage Real Estate Services. “For the substantial sums that these homes command, buyers have come to expect distinctive properties outfitted with luxurious amenities, where it is clear that painstaking attention has been paid to every detail.”

When asked, “If you were purchasing a luxury home, what would be the most important criteria you would consider when choosing this type of home?” Canadians cited: investment potential (25%), proximity to excellent schools (19%), the prestige of the neighbourhood (17%), luxurious amenities throughout the house and the size of the house (11%) and the prominent neighbours (8%).

Added Soper: “House values have appreciated much more quickly than the underlying economy for much of this decade. The Carriage Trade brand is a unique way for Royal LePage Realtors to raise the profile of special homes which are not only priced in the upper end but also exhibit unique features and amenities that set them apart from other properties. Realtors using the Carriage Trade brand are experienced working with exceptional homes and have access to proprietary tools enabling them to succeed in this segment.”

In terms of the feature that would be the most important to Canadians if they were purchasing a luxury home, a commercial style kitchen assumed top rank (21%) in the poll. Interestingly, a gender divide was evident when it came to cooking as 26 percent of women cited the commercial style kitchen as the most important feature, compared to 15 percent of men. The men’s den prevails with 11 per cent of males citing the luxury in-home movie-viewing theatre as the feature that would be most important to them if they were purchasing a luxury home, compared to only five percent of females.

The poll also found additional features that would be of most importance to Canadians if purchasing a luxury home to include an indoor or outdoor pool (14%), smart wiring (12%), heated floors and driveway (11%) and a fitness centre/pilates/yoga studio and luxury in-home movie theatre (both at 8%).

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

I’m bullish on Saskatoon real estate for 2007

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix ran a story today on the front page of the Business section with the headline, “City house prices stable.” The story, written by Murray Lyons, Star Phoenix Business Editor references the National Century 21 fall house price survey and suggests that Saskatoon house prices will see substantially less appreciation in 2007.

Rob Friesen, broker for Century 21 Conexus Realty Ltd. in Saskatoon is quoted as saying, “I don’t think we’re going to see increases such as 13 or 15 percent as we’ve seen lately. I think we’re going to start seeing some more normal appreciation now, something more like three to six percent.”

Rob Friesen is a man I respect and his opinion on real estate matters carries some weight with me, but in this particular instance, I do think his prediction underestimates the factors which will affect our market in 2007. He’s not the only one in this camp. Remax recently released its “2007 Housing Market Outlook” for Canada. While they predicted Saskatoon will lead the country for growth in unit sales, they predicted price growth of only 4%.

Why am I feeling bullish, you ask?

First of all, several things are going on in mortgage financing which I believe will have a positive effect on the market.

  • Mortgage rates are expected to drop in the range of .5-1% over the next few quarters.
  • Many of the major lenders are now offering 40-year amortizations. That reduces the monthly carrying costs on a $160,000 at 5.5% from $956.79 to $801.79 and opens the market up to lots more buyers.
  • Mainstream lenders are breaking into the “b” lender market offering the opportunity for credit-worthy buyers to buy a home with no money down and they’re offering these kinds of arrangements at attractive and competitive mortgage rates. Again, more people will qualify to buy a home as a result.

 Add to those factors, the fact that Saskatchewan seems to be on a roll. Business owners are feeling good and employment is up. Earnings are up and taxes are down for both individuals and businesses. There’s a growing demand for skilled workers throughout the province. Affordability and quality of life issues will bring a continuing flow of people migrating to this province in 2007. Saskatoon will be the largest benefactor in the province.

Finally, active residential listings are at an all time low. Today, there are fewer than 400 active residential listings of all types (single-family, condos, etc) listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service of the Saskatoon Real Estate Board. Last year, at this time we had closer to 650 homes in the market. Again, low supply and high demand create upward pressure.

In a nutshell, here’s what the various camps are saying will happen next year.

Century 21 sees prices increasing three to six percent.

Remax is predicting price increases of four percent.

CHMC is predicting prices will rise by seven percent.

Count me in for eight percent, or better!

I’ve played my cards and now, we’ll just have to wait and see what actually happens.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Saskatoon MLS sales statistics make some waves nationally

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) just released it’s findings on MLS® sales across Canada for the month of October and Saskatoon stands out as one of the “major markets” showing exceptional performance.

“Resale housing in Canada’s major markets remains on solid ground. With just two months to go in 2006, MLS® home sales for the year-to-date in October 2006 were higher than the same period for any other year on record.”

Some of Canada’s largest centres like Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, and Vancouver saw some of “the steam” come out of their market as listing inventories “began to trend higher … giving buyers more negotiating power and time to make purchase decisions. That trend is forecast to continue and result in smaller price increases in 2007.”

The report notes that “Monthly sales reached their highest monthly level ever (for the month of October) in Edmonton and Saskatoon. Higher activity in Edmonton, Saskatoon, Toronto, Hamilton and Quebec City offset fewer sales in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal.”

I expect that we will continue to see some softening in the country’s largest markets as affordability and cost of living begin to impact the numbers of people who can afford to participate in residential real estate markets. The kinds of increases that some of these markets have experienced is unsustainable. For instance, Calgary reported price increases of up to 50% in some areas over the last two quarters of 2005 and the first two quarters of 2006. The Globe and Mail ran a story yesterday with the headline “Housing Boom Fizzles in Calgary.”

Saskatoon is in an excellent position to attract those seeking a more affordable housing market and an overall lower cost of living. Businesses everywhere seem to be screaming for people and growth is predicted in several market sectors.

My colleagues and I have been talking about this trend for several months as we’ve all suddenly seen an increase in the numbers of out of province buyers seeking homes in Saskatoon. While it will take some time before we have statistical information to back this idea up, I’m confident that the numbers will deliver. Half of the transactions which I was involved in this year involve people who are relocating to Saskatoon. I was just reviewing the list of guests who are registered to my online client service centre. As of this morning, there are 255 guests and clients registered there. 91 of them have provided telephone numbers which ring somewhere outside of Saskatoon, as far away as the UK. As I write this post, I can hear a gentleman who just walked in the door telling our receptionist that he’s returning home from Kelowna.

Is Saskatoon in for a real estate boom?

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Can’t find a house? It’s time to get ugly!

An agent I know listed a charming little home, in a beautiful location. The house had seen numerous upgrades in recent years including new windows, heating system and a host of cosmetic upgrades. The kitchen and bathrooms were renovated, hardwood floors refinished, it had been painted not long ago and the house is generally neat as a pin. The exterior has that dollhouse appeal and just looking at it from the street; you knew it was going to attract offers, most likely right away. It did. Now, I think that a one and one-half storey home with just 1,030 square feet of living space on its two upper levels, priced at $239,900 is pushing the top end of the market, regardless of its condition, but the buyers poured in to see this hot new listing and almost everyone who viewed it thought they’d like to live there. It attracted multiple offers. An offer was accepted and later firmed up at $260,010. Wowza!

You can probably appreciate how much fun this kind of situation is for a home seller. You have a number of buyers drooling over your home, knocking themselves out to try to beat the next ones offer. How delightful. However, it’s not so much fun for the buyers, is it? Been there? Yuck!

If you’re having trouble finding a house and you’re tired of participating in these kinds of bidding wars, perhaps it’s time to set your sites a little lower, to see ugliness as the beautiful thing that it is, or at least can be. Homes which have been neglected still attract very little attention. Buyers view them with indifference at best and total disdain at worst. They tend to linger on the market and fail to attract offers. Why is that? Most buyers are really unable to visualize and imagine what an ugly house could become. The truth is, there’s really only one thing that can’t be fixed if it’s bad, and that’s the location. Poor floor plans, ugly decors, and even structural defects can all be addressed, at a price.

The same home which I discussed above may have lingered on the market at $165,000 if the seller had not been so diligent in keeping the place up. A couple of weeks into the listing period, a savvy buyer could likely have bought it for $160,000 leaving them with $100,000 in potential renovation room. The buyer would have actually had as much leverage as the seller in this negotiation because in all likelihood they would be the only interested party. In all likelihood, an awesome renovation on a house of this size would be far less than the difference which was saved by buying a home which was not attracting much interest. Most mortgage lenders will allow you to work these kinds of renovations into the mortgage amount provided that the “as improved” value of the property doesn’t exceed the total purchase price and the renovation cost. So, you get to pick the new kitchen, the bathroom, the paint and flooring colours. Sounds like a winning move to me.

Try it! Have your agent show you some of the ugly stuff. Look at some properties that have been on the market for a week or two. Start by using location and size as the primary criteria and really think about how some of those dogs could look with a little bit of attention. Have fun! I’d love to hear how your agent responds the first time you say, “We really have our sights set a little lower than this. Have you got anything ugly that you could show us?”

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra