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Realtors predict solid year for 2013

With sales of single-family homes jumping by 34 per cent in Sylvan Lake but dropping by 17 per cent in Stettler last year, it’s tough to generalize about the health of Central Alberta’s real estate market. But Ken Devoe, president of the Central Alberta Realtors Association, offered an optimistic diagnosis on Thursday.

“The 2012 real estate market was one of good growth,” he said at a Red Deer news conference organized by the association.

“It’s the most balanced market Central Alberta has seen in years.”

Devoe described how activity was slow at the start of the year, but improved soon after.

“Sales started to pick up in February and peaked in May at 527 sales for our Central Alberta Realtors Association board area, and continued strong throughout the summer at over 400 sales per month.”

On a community-by-community basis, Sylvan Lake enjoyed the biggest year-over-year increase in sales of single-family homes — climbing to 245 in 2012, as compared with 183 in 2011. Innisfail was next, jumping 19 per cent to 92 from 77; followed by Blackfalds, which was up 14 per cent to 167 from 147; and Red Deer, which saw a 10 per cent increase to 1,164 from 1,059. Lacombe slipped three per cent, to 169 from 174; Rocky Mountain House was down four per cent, to 82 from 85; Ponoka decreased 12 per cent, to 85 from 97; and Stettler dropped to 75 from 90.

Devoe cautioned against reading too much into the 2011-to-2012 changes, explaining that the relatively small number of transactions in smaller communities can result in fluctuations from year to year. He added that five-year trends provide a better indicator of what’s happening in a market.

“Whereas Sylvan Lake had a good year last year, 2011 and 2010 weren’t so good,” he said, noting that 2008 and 2009 were also productive years for Sylvan Lake Realtors. “So if you look at a five-year average, I think Sylvan Lake is a steady climb.”

Overall, summed up Devoe, 2012 was a strong year.

“It wasn’t a boom year by any means, but it was a very solid year.”

He expects more of the same in 2013, noting the strength of the energy sector and Central Alberta’s economy overall.

“We’re starting to get more people coming into Alberta again, like we saw in 2007-2008.”

This, combined with continued low mortgage rates, should result in a six to seven per cent increase in sales across Central Alberta this year, he said.

Favourable prices should also encourage buyers, said Devoe.

“While 2011 saw sellers fighting to hold the higher asking prices of 2008, this past year most sellers realized the boom was over.”

In the case of single-family homes, the change in median price from 2011 to 2102 was greatest in Red Deer, which jumped seven per cent to $335,000 from $313,000. The median price of single-family homes in Sylvan Lake was up 5.9 per cent in 2012, to $342,000 from $323,000; in Innisfail it was up 5.2 per cent, to $283,000 from $269,000; in Blackfalds it rose 2.7 per cent, to $302,000 from $294,000; and in Stettler it increased 0.9 per cent, to $232,000 from $230,000. The median price of single-family homes in Lacombe slipped 0.3 per cent in 2012, to $309,000 from $310,000; in Rocky Mountain House it was down 1.7 per cent to $285,000 from $290,000; and in Ponoka it fell 6.25 per cent, to $195,000 from $208,000.

For 2013, Devoe anticipates an average price increase of three to four per cent across Central Alberta.

He down-played concerns about a housing crash, which has been predicted for Canada by some.

“Our market is very strong here compared to other areas.”



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