Economic downturn and dampened consumer confidence caused house prices to dip during fourth quarter



    
    Poll indicates tomorrow's federal budget announcement, Obama inauguration
    anticipated to buoy optimism
    

    TORONTO, Jan. 26 /CNW/ - During the fourth quarter of 2008, Canada's real
estate market posted a decline in both unit sales and house prices, according
to a House Price Survey released today by Royal LePage Real Estate Services.
The combination of a global economy in recession and shrinking employment
figures did much to dampen consumer confidence, diminish home sales and cause
house prices to drop.
    Of the housing types surveyed, the average price of detached bungalows
dipped by 4.8 per cent to $319,640, followed by standard condominiums, which
decreased by 5.2 per cent to $233,230, year-over-year. The average price of
standard two-storey properties fell by 6.3 per cent to $376,140,
year-over-year.
    While national average house prices decreased, price trends varied
dramatically across regional real estate markets. Bolstered by strong local
economies, the housing markets in Regina and St. John's posted double-digit
year-over-year price appreciations, while the larger cities that have seen the
greatest increase in prices this decade, including Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary
and Vancouver, recorded declining house prices.
    The tumultuous times that characterized the end of 2008 are not
anticipated to define 2009. A recent poll commissioned by Royal LePage found
that almost half (49%) of Canadians surveyed agree that the economic stimulus
measures anticipated as part of tomorrow's Canadian federal budget
announcement will have a positive impact on Canada's real estate market.
Political actions taking place south of the border are also likely to buoy the
country's economic conditions, as the poll found that 82 per cent of Canadians
agree that the inauguration of Barack Obama will have a positive impact on
consumer confidence in Canada.
    "The steady flow of universally dire news that Canadian consumers faced
in the fourth quarter has gradually given way to a mixed diet of positive and
negative economic indicators," said Phil Soper, president and chief executive,
Royal LePage Real Estate Services. "This is clearly having some impact on
consumer confidence as nearly half of all Canadians believe the steps the
government is taking to stimulate the economy in tomorrow's budget will
positively impact the country's real estate market."
    Added Soper: "During the fourth quarter, housing markets go through a
typical seasonal slowdown, and 2008 was no different. Earlier in 2008, as the
country began to experience the anticipated adjustment in home sales, news
that Canada would be hit hard by the rapidly expanding global recession caused
home sales to grind to a halt in the last quarter. In many regions of the
country, those that did decide to sell their homes were faced with a limited
number of buyers who could be broadly classified as bargain hunters. What
would have been a normal cyclical correction gave way to a sharp reset in
housing values."
    The inability for real estate activity to continue at the pace seen
earlier in the decade comes as no surprise. While the large price increases,
bidding wars and brief listing periods that characterized the 'boom' years
were driven by solid economic fundamentals including real buyer demand and the
ability and willingness to match rising listing prices, they were
unsustainable in the long run, particularly if any of the factors that
underpinned the economy weakened - exactly what occurred at the end of 2008.
    Soper notes that as consumer confidence levels begin to creep upwards,
the country's solid economic fundamentals should lead to a recovery in the
housing market. "For many people, deciding to hold off on buying a home at the
end of the year was an easy decision to make. With consumer confidence in
tatters, many were reticent about making any large purchases. However, waiting
on the sidelines during the normally slow winter market is one thing, sitting
out the seasonally busy spring market is quite a different story. Activity
levels should rise as the year progresses." said Soper.
    Despite the global and Canadian economic downturn that characterized much
of the fourth quarter of 2008, each province soldiered on in their way, and
relied on the strength of their local economies to support their housing
markets.
    While lags in sales and prices were noted in many parts of the country,
St. John's real estate market experienced phenomenal double-digit price
increases and recorded Canada's highest price appreciation in the fourth
quarter. Move-up buyers created an abundance of activity in the housing
landscape as stable employment and growing incomes encouraged investment in
more expensive properties. Despite disappointing employment news from the
forestry sector, the recent announcement that Vale Inco NL is planning to
construct a large new hydromet plant, helped to sustain the high level of
confidence Newfoundlanders have in their province's economy.
    Mirroring St. John's healthy economic activity and fuelled by stable and
diverse economies, many cities in Atlantic Canada saw healthy price
appreciations at the year's end.
    Looking west, Saskatchewan's local economy also weathered the storm, and
led to price increases in both Regina and Saskatoon. Finally adjusting to the
sharp rise in prices experienced over the past two years, residents of
Saskatoon saw much smaller average price increases year-over-year in the
fourth quarter. Regina, where recent price increases have been more modest,
experienced double-digit house price gains. In both cities, favourable
employment rates and consumer confidence levels, and growing population
figures, were able to sustain upward trends within the province's real estate
market during the last three months of 2008. Also insulated to a certain
degree by its strong regional economy, Winnipeg's real estate market saw price
gains during the fourth quarter. However, like Saskatoon, the large percentage
increases that have characterized the Winnipeg market in recent years have
given way to modest single digit price appreciations.
    The cities in which real estate prices appreciated most quickly over the
last few years, including Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver trended
lower as shown by year-over-year house price comparisons. Despite these
cities' tight labour markets and reasonable buyer demand, the fact that house
price growth overshot the rate of income growth during the boom periods, will
result in a short-term price correction.
    With relatively modest average housing values and a recent history of
moderate price appreciation, residents in Montreal and Ottawa experienced only
slight price corrections. While no region of the country is immune to the
effects of the global recessions, the relative strength of these regions'
diversified economies are expected to buffer the housing markets there when
compared to the corrections happening in other large Canadian cities.
    Looking ahead, Soper concluded, "The first quarter of 2008 was the final
period of substantial price appreciation during the long expansionary cycle
that Canadian housing enjoyed this decade. The first quarter of this year will
pale in year-over-year comparison, although conditions should improve over the
dismal final months of 2008. The balance of 2009 should see gradual and
continuous improvements as the effects of low mortgage rates along with
efforts by governments and central banks to get the economy back on its feet
again begin to take hold."

    
         FOURTH QUARTER 2008 ROYAL LEPAGE AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE CHART

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          Detached Bungalows          Standard Two Storey
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Q4 2008  Q4 2007 Bungalow   Q4 2008  Q4 2007 2 Storey
    Market             Average  Average % Change   Average  Average % Change
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Halifax            215,000  201,333     6.8%   259,667  231,667    12.1%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Charlottetown      157,000  152,000     3.3%   188,000  180,000     4.4%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Moncton            150,000  151,000    -0.7%   126,000  135,000    -6.7%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Fredericton        162,000  155,000     4.5%   210,000  197,000     6.6%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Saint John         225,064  196,500    14.5%   294,695  255,000    15.6%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    St. John's         190,050  157,667    20.5%   261,800  219,333    19.4%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Atlantic           190,921  173,150    10.3%   238,310  212,000    12.4%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Montreal           261,372  258,150     1.2%   334,850  342,491    -2.2%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Ottawa             321,333  308,583     4.1%   317,083  306,500     3.5%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Toronto            411,483  448,133    -8.2%   513,417  550,705    -6.8%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Winnipeg           219,650  214,494     2.4%   247,029  237,571     4.0%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Regina             274,167  229,200    19.6%   238,260  199,000    19.7%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Saskatoon          300,000  292,500     2.6%   328,750  321,250     2.3%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Calgary            410,333  429,889    -4.5%   408,263  461,811   -11.6%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Edmonton           301,429  336,786   -10.5%   337,075  370,000    -8.9%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Vancouver          743,750  795,250    -6.5%   837,500  895,000    -6.4%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Victoria           425,000  425,000     0.0%   433,000  456,000    -5.0%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    National Average
     House Price      $319,640 $335,850    -4.8%  $376,140 $401,300    -6.3%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    ---------------------------------------------
                          Standard Condominium
    ---------------------------------------------
                       Q4 2008  Q4 2007    Condo
    Market             Average  Average % Change
    ---------------------------------------------
    Halifax            159,500  148,500     7.4%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Charlottetown          N/A      N/A      N/A
    ---------------------------------------------
    Moncton                N/A      N/A      N/A
    ---------------------------------------------
    Fredericton        133,000  126,000     5.6%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Saint John             N/A      N/A      N/A
    ---------------------------------------------
    St. John's         203,000  165,000    23.0%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Atlantic           174,183  145,429    19.8%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Montreal           200,284  202,859    -1.3%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Ottawa             207,167  196,833     5.2%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Toronto            299,675  306,830    -2.3%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Winnipeg           132,083  127,408     3.7%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Regina             172,917  144,000    20.1%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Saskatoon          194,250  205,000    -5.2%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Calgary            257,189  284,144    -9.5%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Edmonton           206,854  240,500   -14.0%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Vancouver          405,000  428,250    -5.4%
    ---------------------------------------------
    Victoria           265,000  292,000    -9.2%
    ---------------------------------------------
    National Average
     House Price      $233,230 $246,050    -5.2%
    ---------------------------------------------


    Additional Poll Results

     -  73 per cent of Canadians polled agree that the economic stimulus
        measures that many people anticipate will be included in the federal
        budget announcement will have a positive impact on consumer
        confidence in Canada.
    

    About The House Price Survey

    The Royal LePage Survey of Canadian House Prices is the largest, most
comprehensive study of its kind in Canada, with information on seven types of
housing in over 250 neighbourhoods from coast to coast. This release
references an abbreviated version of the survey, which highlights house price
trends for the three most common types of housing in Canada in 80 communities
across the country. A complete database of past and present surveys is
available on the Royal LePage Web site at www.royallepage.ca, and current
figures will be updated following the end of the fourth quarter. A printable
version of the fourth quarter 2008 survey will be available online on February
16, 2009.
    Housing values in the Royal LePage Survey are Royal LePage opinions of
fair market value in each location, based on local data and market knowledge
provided by Royal LePage residential real estate experts. Historical data is
available for some areas back to the early 1970s.

    About Royal LePage

    Royal LePage is Canada's leading provider of franchise services to
residential real estate brokerages, with a network of over 14,000 agents and
sales representatives in 600 locations across Canada. Royal LePage is managed
by Brookfield Real Estate Services, and is part of a brand family that
includes Royal LePage, Johnston and Daniel, Realty World and La Capitale. An
affiliated company, Brookfield Real Estate Services Fund, is a TSX listed
income trust, trading under the symbol "BRE.UN."
    For more information visit www.royallepage.ca or www.brookfieldres.com.

    Polling Methodology

    From January 21, 2009 to January 22, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies
conducted an online survey among a randomly selected, representative sample of
1,001 adult Canadians through the Angus Reid Forum. The margin of error for
the total sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been
statistically weighted according to Statistics Canada's most current
education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a representative
sample of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between
totals are due to rounding.





For further information:

For further information: For the regional market highlights or to
contact a spokesperson, please contact: Tiffany Fisher, Whetstone
Communications Inc., Phone: (416) 595-9776 x 222, E-mail:
tiffany@whetstonepr.com


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