Many reasons to be optimistic

One of the main points made in last week’s release of WinnipegREALTORS® MLS® results was the welcome return of more buyers to the real estate market. There were close to 1,500 sales and the average days on the market before a home sold was just 25. In comparison, the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton was touting its record June sales and an average of “only” 40 days on the market.

June surpassed May as the premier month this year for sales activity. The month outperformed May by 123 MLS® unit sales, or nearly 10 per cent higher in sales activity this year. Often it is the other way around, as May 2007 holds the distinction of being the busiest MLS® month in WinnipegREALTORS® 106-year history with 1,652 sales. 

While June 2007 performed exceptionally well, it too fell short of this lofty level by 90 unit sales.

Given this year’s pronounced economic concerns, another major flood and decidedly poor weather, it really wouldn’t have been surprising to have seen spring market sales decline in the second quarter, but that wasn’t the case. 

The Conference Board of Canada is calling for the recession to end by summer and economic growth to start advancing towards the end of the year and into 2010, generating even more optimism. 

RE/MAX is reporting some cities in Canada will experience a strong rebound in sales in the second half of the year to bring them level with 2008 or perhaps slightly ahead of last year’s pace.

So far this year, Winnipeg’s MLS® market is down 10 per cent in sales, so it will be hard pressed to make up for lost sales in the next six months. July last year was the best July ever with over 1,400 in sales and September 2008 also set a record for the month. 

Nevertheless, there is no reason Winnipeg will not turn in a solid second-half performance given the very attractive mortgage rate environment and affordable house prices. 

The jobless rate is still the second lowest in the country at just over five per cent.

Also significant is an economic outlook and job security poll of 1,000 Manitobans conducted in June by Probe Research. The Probe Research-Jory Capital Inc. poll shows economic optimism remains unchanged from three months ago when the results were very positive despite what was happening across Canada. 

Four in five Manitobans (83 per cent) remain optimistic about the economic future of their local community, with over one-third of the respondents, or 35 per cent, indicating they are very optimistic. Winnipeg is even more optimistic at 86 per cent.

Reinforcing their optimism is how they view their own personal situation. Thirty-three per cent of Manitobans said they expect their family to be better off a year from now (three per cent higher than the response in March). 

A more notable improvement over March in the June survey was the reduction in Manitobans citing they would be worse off in the next 12 months — a decrease from 11 per cent to six per cent. 

The majority at 55 per cent said they expect their financial position to remain the same.

Scott MacKay, the president of Probe Research, said the June results confirm March’s positive economic outlook was no aberration. 

“These June numbers eased my initial concerns that March was somehow too good to be true, so I was pleased to see this recent poll more than back up what Manitobans were saying to Probe in March,” said MacKay. “Obviously, this kind of result bodes well for Manitoba’s economy, as it means consumers are willing to spend when they are feeling good about their future prospects.” 

During the first weeks of July, nearly one-in-three homes sold for above list price. While not at the heady levels of 2008 or 2007, buyer enthusiasm remains a real factor in today’s market.