Low inventory levels set stage for heated Spring market in most major
Canadian centres, says RE/MAX

Active listings down in 81 per cent of markets in January

KELOWNA, BC, Feb. 24 /CNW/ - Lack of inventory will be the greatest challenge facing housing markets across the country this Spring, according to a report released today by RE/MAX.

The RE/MAX Market Trends Report 2010, which examined real estate trends and developments in 16 markets across the country, found that unusually strong activity during one of the traditionally quietest months of the year has led to a sharp decline in active listings in 81 per cent of markets surveyed. The threat of higher interest rates, tighter lending criteria, and in British Columbia and Ontario, the introduction of the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) have clearly served to kick-start real estate activity from coast-to-coast, prompting an unprecedented influx of purchasers. As a result, 87.5 per cent of markets posted an increase in sales in January. Average price appreciated in 81 per cent of markets surveyed.

"Affordability is the catalyst for the vast majority of purchasers in today's housing market," says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. "While homeownership is still within reach in many major centres, levels are slipping. There is a growing sense, on both sides of the fence, that the time to act is now."

Markets experiencing the tightest inventory levels include Toronto (- 41 per cent); Kitchener-Waterloo (-33 per cent); Ottawa (- 30 per cent); Victoria (- 30 per cent); Greater Vancouver (- 27 per cent); Halifax-Dartmouth (- 19 per cent); London-St. Thomas (- 18 per cent); Regina (- 16 per cent); and Winnipeg (- 13 per cent). Conditions were still balanced, but starting to tighten in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon, particularly in the single-family detached category.

The highest year-over-year sales gains were reported in Greater Vancouver (152 per cent), Kelowna (121 per cent), Greater Toronto (87 per cent), Victoria (69 per cent), Hamilton-Burlington (58 per cent), London-St. Thomas (55 per cent) and Calgary (47 per cent). Western Canadian cities dominated the list of centres with the highest increases in price appreciation. These included Victoria at 25.5 per cent, Kelowna at 22 per cent, Greater Vancouver at 19.5 per cent, and Winnipeg at 17 per cent. St. John's (23 per cent) and Toronto (19 per cent) were also among the frontrunners for price growth.

"There have never been so many motivating factors in play at once," says Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. "We're in for a heated Spring market that will, in all probability, spill over into the summer months as the window of opportunity draws to a close. The supply of homes listed for sale has been drastically reduced, housing values are once again on the upswing, and banks and governments are moving in unison toward stricter lending policies."

While buyers are taking advantage of favourable conditions, sellers too are reaping the rewards. Competing bids are a factor in the marketplace once again, with well-priced listings-especially at the entry-level price point-experiencing multiple offers. Properties priced at fair-market value will likely sell quickly for top dollar. The overall pressure on sales and price is significant across the board - and it's not likely to subside unless more inventory comes on-stream.

"The level of frustration is growing, as pent-up demand builds," says Polzler. "For every successful offer, there are those that will walk away empty-handed. They're thrust back into the buyer pool and the process starts all over again. Some buyers are upping the ante, while others are considering alternate housing options. Still, purchasers remain cautious in their bids, with most careful not to max out debt service ratios."

Recent revisions to lending criteria will add fuel to the fire in the short term. Buyers considering a variable rate mortgage will step up their plans for homeownership in the next month or so just to get in under the wire. In the longer term, buyers will adjust, but move forward. Compromise has long been a reality-particularly in the larger centres. This simply means they may go smaller or further in their pursuits.

"It's been a 180 degree turnaround from this time last year," says Ash. "It's clear that real estate from coast to coast has roared back to life and markets are once again firing on all cylinders. The vast majority of markets are now recovered and fully-evolved, with all segments working in tandem. At the luxury price point, activity was brisk in seventy-three per cent of centres surveyed, with momentum ramping up in the remainder. Opportunity exists in some areas, but the question is for how much longer?"

    
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                         ACTIVE LISTINGS BY MARKET - JANUARY
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    Market                                    2009         2010        % +/-
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    St. John's                                 951          999           5%
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    Saint John                                2005         2180           9%
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    Halifax-Dartmouth                         3311         2695         -19%
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    Hamilton-Burlington(xx)                   1028         1261          17%
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    Ottawa                                    3988         2840         -30%
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    Kitchener-Waterloo                        1323          884         -33%
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    London-St. Thomas                         2538         2071       -18%*
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    Greater Toronto                          20450        12052         -41%
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    Winnipeg                                  2222         1938         -13%
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    Regina                                     456          381         -16%
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    Saskatoon                                 1156          729         -37%
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    Calgary                                   9225         6838     -26%(xxx)
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    Edmonton                                  6573         4864         -26%
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    Kelowna                                   4648         4120         -11%
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    Victoria                                  2930         2061         -30%
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    Greater Vancouver                        13996        10218         -27%
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    *Detached Homes     (xx)Freehold Homes     (xxx)Total MLS
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    Source: Local Real Estate Boards
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To view the full RE/MAX Market Trends Report 2010, click here: http://files.newswire.ca/577/MarketTrendsRpt2010.pdf

RE/MAX is Canada's leading real estate organization with over 17,000 sales associates situated throughout its more than 677 independently-owned and operated offices across the country. The RE/MAX franchise network, now in its 37th year, is a global real estate system operating in more than 70 countries. Over 6,700 independently-owned offices engage nearly 100,000 member sales associates who lead the industry in professional designations, experience and production while providing real estate services in residential, commercial, referral, and asset management. For more information, visit: www.remax.ca.

SOURCE RE/MAX of Western Canada

For further information: For further information: Rhia Bachynski, RE/MAX of Western Canada, (250) 860-3628; Eva Blay, Charlene McAdam, Point Blank Communications, (416) 781-3911

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