Tighter inventory levels helped to make the last decade one of the healthiest periods on record for Canadian real estate, insulating markets in major centres from the peaks and valleys characteristic of past decades, according to a report released by RE/MAX.
The RE/MAX Housing Barometer Report measured monthly sales-to-new listings ratios in 18 major centres across the country from January 2000 to December 2010. The report found strong seller’s/balanced conditions prevailed for much of the time frame, prompting significant gains in housing values. The lone exception was when the market dipped into buyer’s territory during the latter half of 2008 and early 2009. However, fewer listings served to offset diminished demand and provided greater stability. Average price increases from 2000 to 2010 ranged from an annually compounded rate of return of 4.82 per cent in London-St. Thomas to a high of 9.56 per cent in Regina. The national average was 6.82 per cent. By far the tightest market in the nation was Winnipeg, where seller’s ruled the roost for 85 per cent of the decade, followed by Hamilton-Burlington (67 per cent), Regina (63.6 per cent), Kitchener-Waterloo (59.8 per cent) and Edmonton (57.5 per cent).
Housing markets have been remarkably hearty over the past decade and the stage is set for a better than expected 2011. Inventory has proven to be an effective form of market self-regulation, providing both an ideal climate for price escalation and a shelter in periods of softer home-buying activity. As a number of city centres are already reporting stronger than usual activity out of the gate, it’s clear supply will continue to be the wild card in 2011.
First-time buyers comprise the vast majority of purchasers, with move-up buyers in close pursuit. Demand and supply are on relatively even keel at present in most areas, but the traditionally busy spring season is expected to keep the market at a perfect equilibrium in the days and months ahead. However, there may be some exceptions to the rule. The country’s largest markets—Greater Toronto, Greater Montreal, and Greater Vancouver—are expected to head into the second quarter with fewer listings overall.
An improved global economic picture, lower unemployment rates and rising consumer confidence levels have buoyed home buying activity since November. While sales figures are expected to be slightly off 2010’s heated pace, housing values are forecast to continue to climb in Canadian real estate markets in 2011—with most a direct result of lower listing levels.