Families On The Move In Lively Market

It was just the right time.

After observing Calgary’s housing market for the last few years, Miriam Wilton decided now was the right time to make a move.

“After watching comparable sales in our area, we felt this was the best time for us to list for a fair asking price,” said Wilton who, along with her husband Phil, decided to sell their southeast Calgary home in November.

As it turns out, the Wiltons were just one of 1,730 Calgary households who decided November was the right time to change addresses. MLS® sales for the month in the city were up by 19 per cent increase over the same month in 2012.

The rise in sales was driven in part by the ability of homeowners to capitalize on both increased demand and increased prices, said CREB® President Becky Walters.

“Many first-time homebuyers appear to be moving now to get ahead of any further increases in home prices, rent hikes or an increase in lending rates,” she said. “And current owners are taking advantage of the recent price gains to upgrade to a home that better fits their lifestyle.”

Citywide, only the price of single-family homes has fully recovered and started to push above unadjusted levels recorded in 2007. Meanwhile, condominium apartment and townhouse prices remain below peak.

Single-family benchmark prices totaled $470,600 in November, 8.5 per cent higher than one year ago. Meanwhile, condominium apartment and townhouse unadjusted benchmark prices totaled a respective $279,600 and $305,700 in November, six per cent below 2007 peak pricing.

“Tight market conditions have resulted in higher-than-expected price gains in all sectors of the Calgary market,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB® Chief Economist. “However, these increases need to be put into context.”

Helping to do just that is a new report from RBC, which showed affordability levels in Alberta remained relatively attractive in the third quarter of 2013, with costs below historic averages and the national averages.

The RBC Housing Trends and Affordability Report indicated that while home prices in Calgary are among the most expensive in Canada, the average high household incomes in the area mean those homes are within reach. Home resales in Calgary surged to their highest level in six years in the third quarter (32,200 units, seasonally adjusted and annualized).

“Much like the rest of Alberta, Calgary’s hot labour market, increasing population and booming economy are the key factors underpinning housing market activity,” said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist at RBC. “The flooding that hit the area at the end of June had very little impact on resales, which clearly demonstrates the market’s resilience and continued strength.”

RBC’s measure, which is based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow at market value, rose by 0.7 percentage points to 33.7 per cent points for bungalows, 0.4 percentage points to 34 per cent for two-storey homes, and 0.2 percentage points to
19.6 per cent for condominiums. An affordability reading of 50 per cent means that homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, would take up 50 per cent of a typical household’s monthly pre-tax income.

In comparison, the price of the average Vancouver home increased by two percentage points to 84.2, while Toronto affordability also decreased slightly, with the average bungalow requiring 55.6 of the average homeowner’s income.

Despite an outlook that predicts home prices in the province to rise further, Wright said Alberta’s positive economic outlook should drive activity into 2014.

“Alberta’s strong provincial economy and rapidly rising population continue to fuel housing market activity – third quarter home resales increased by 7.8 per cent from the second quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years,” said Wright. “The province’s unrelenting economic boom bodes well for continued solid housing market conditions next year.”

For anyone thinking of entering the market during that time, Miriam Wilton has some simple but effective advice to help make the process a little less stressful.

“Take your time. This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, so take your time. Don’t let anyone rush you. If it’s meant to happen it will.”

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