BY now, pretty much everyone who calls Winnipeg home knows it's one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.
Here's a statistic -- courtesy of WinnipegRealtors' market analyst and director of public affairs, Peter Squire -- that puts just how hot the market is into perspective.
"It took us 99 years to reach one-billion dollars in sales in 2002," he said at WinnipegREALTORS' sixth annual forecast breakfast Jan. 25. "Nine years later, this milestone has tripled. Winnipeg, thanks to an increasingly hot real estate market over the past nine years, is now a three-billion-dollar MLS market."
A banner 2011 -- marred only by slow sales in April, the result of flooding -- reinforced the fact the Winnipeg market isn't about to slow down any time soon.
"Overall, we were just 14 sales shy of topping our best year, 2007. Sales volume was highest in June at $368 million, while the only month down in volume was April," reported Squire. "And our summers are no longer sleepy, as sales volume was strong through the entire summer, right into September."
As for sales hot spots, the most active areas included St. Vital, Fort Rouge and Transcona, where sale prices routinely went above the average list price. One area that rated as a very pleasant surprise was Steinbach, where sales volume increased dramatically.
"Rural areas have really come on in the last few years, none moreso than Steinbach. Last year, there were over 500 home sales there," he said. "The area there is booming, so we expect sales volume to be strong in 2012, too."
With it still being a sellers' market due to high demand and a relatively low inventory level, it's not surprising home prices increased in 2011. Whereas the average price in 2010 was $241,743, that figure shot up just over $15,000 in 2011 to $256,748.
That increase can be attributed to several factors that have put resale homes in high demand, added Squire.
"International migration has been a huge driver. With our low apartment vacancy rate, people who couldn't find an apartment then looked to buying a home, whether it be a single-family detached home or a condominium," he said. "About 76 per cent of sales were residential detached homes, while more than 1,600 condominiums were sold in 2011. It's a trend I see continuing, it's just a matter of supply."
Several other factors will also contribute to what figures to be an active 2012, as sales figures in January have been strong.
"More people are coming to the province, while interest rates are expected to remain low through 2012," said Squire. "Manitoba's economy is solid and the jobless rate is low, which should also keep sales strong. Other things like new construction and the Winnipeg plan, which will encourage and facilitate more development, should also help."
However, 2012 figures may not be quite as robust as 2011, a near record year.
"It's going to be difficult to top such a strong year. Still, our forecast is for home sales to go up zero to two per cent, with home prices increasing by three to five per cent and condominium prices going up by two to four per cent," he said. "We're also predicting that total volume will be up four to six per cent. The only cautionary note is that debt and deficit issues by all levels of government, as well as global (economic) uncertainty could influence those numbers downward."
With the Winnipeg Jets back in the fold, and a new stadium for the Blue Bombers and IKEA coming in the near future, Winnipeg now finds itself in an exciting new category, said Squire.
"We're a major league city with affordable housing. As a city, we're ready for takeoff," he concluded.