MLS® sales in 2013 were just 74 units short of the 13,000 level by the end of the year, according to market statistics released by WinnipegREALTORS®.
“A third consecutive year of 13,000 MLS® sales was attainable,” said Peter Squire, the market analyst for the association, “however, March proved to be the year’s Achille’s heel.”
March was noted for its unseasonably cold weather and snow remaining on the ground, which had a chilling effect on the traditionally buoyant spring housing market. March sales declined by 26 per cent from the same month a year earlier.
Squire said first-time buyers were particularly absent from the housing market in March.
He said the drop-off in activity was three times greater in the traditional lower-end price ranges favoured by first-time home buyers than in the price-ranges favoured by move-up buyers.
“With a more robust first-time home buyers’ market in March, 74 more sales could have easily been achieved to once again reach the 13,000 sales level.”
Last year, Squire said REALTORS® reported they were finding it difficult to find affordable housing for first-time buyers.
On the other hand, dollar volume increased five per cent in 2013, when compared to the previous year, hitting $3.36 billion and establishing a new record.
“Stricter mortgage regulations and excessive land transfer taxes levying on homes priced over $200,000 had a noticeable impact in moderating sales activity in the early half of 2013,” said Richard Dettman, the outgoing president of WinnipegREALTORS®. “Despite a recovery later in the year, it was not enough to make up for the lost ground in the earlier part of the year.”
While overall MLS® sales declined relative to 2012, condominiums sales were a standout. There were 1,759 condo sales last year, which was a 13 per cent increase over the previous year.
Squire said condo sales were driven by the “quest for more affordable accommodations.”
“They became the default option for single-family home buyers,” he added. “Condos have also benefitted in recent years from a growing appetite for an alternative lifestyle other than the traditional home.”
While condo sales were up, residential-detached home sales dropped by two per cent to 9,248 units when compared to 2012. But such sales still made up 72 per cent of the market share, while condo sales made up nearly 14 per cent of last year’s total.
Dettman said the housing market was far more balanced last year than it had been in previous years due to a better inventory of homes available.
“Two MLS® measuring sticks helped me to draw this conclusion,” he said. “One is the ratio of total sales price volume to total list price volume. It dropped under 100 per cent in 2013, but it was still very close to what I would call market equilibrium. The other is the number of listing that sold for above, at or below list price. The sales below list price were up eight per cent compared to the previous year to 58 per cent for residential-detached homes and rose three per cent to 54 per cent for condominium properties.”
There were 20,452 listing entered on the MLS® system last year, which was up nine per cent over 2012 and an impressive 18 per cent above the 10-year average.
The most activity residential-detached price range in 2013 was between $250,000 and $299,999, which made up 22 per cent of all sales activity. Next was the 200,000 to $249,999 price range with 18 per cent of market share.
Squire said upper-end sales had a particularly good year in 2013.
“There was a 20 per cent increase in sales activity for residential-detached homes priced over $400,000,” he said, “and the same gain for house sales over $500,000.”
One home sold for $2.2 million last year, which equalled the previous MLS® record price that was established in 2012.
The most activity price range for condos was between $150,000 and $199,999, which accounted for 32 per cent of all condo sales.
Higher-price condos also did well in 2013 with 33 sales over $500,000 compared to just 13 in 2012. Last year, one condominium sold for $1.295 million, which was the highest price ever obtained for a condo.