The past-president of the Central Alberta Realtors Association thinks residential sales activity in the last quarter is reason for optimism.
Randy Weins of Weins World Real Estate Inc. said the median prices of single-family dwellings sold in Red Deer, Lacombe, Rocky Mountain House and Sylvan Lake from April to June were all above the medians for the preceding three months.
In Red Deer, 387 single-family homes sold through the Multiple Listing Service system with a median price of $315,000. That compares with 210 sales at a median price of $305,000 in the first quarter.
In Lacombe, 41 single-family homes sold for a median price of $312,000, up from 23 sales at a median price of $289,000.
Single-family home sales in Rocky reached 30, with a median price of $284,000. That was a jump from the 20 sales and median of $280,000.
In Sylvan Lake, sales of single-family homes tallied 76, with a median selling price of $328,000. That was up from 43 sales and a median of $318,000.
Weins suggested these communities provide a good indication of what’s happening in the market.
“That’s the best bird’s-eye view, is firstly look at Red Deer and then look at Sylvan,” he said, adding that Rocky serves as a barometer for the West Country.
The median prices of single-family homes sold in Blackfalds, Innisfail, Ponoka and Stettler during the last quarter were all down from the previous three-month period.
Blackfalds had 32 sales at a median price of $271,000, as compared with 22 deals at $278,000 to start 2009.
Sales of single-family dwellings in Innisfail numbered 28 with a median price of $255,000. By contrast, there were 24 sales and a median price of $263,000 in the first quarter.
Single-family home sales in Ponoka reached 33, with a median price of $224,000. In the preceding quarter, there were 20 sales and a median price of $247,000.
In Stettler, sales numbered 21 with a median price of $220,000. There were three fewer sales in the first quarter but the median price was $254,000.
“Innisfail, Ponoka and Stettler I can understand because they’re further from the city,” said Weins of the price declines.
The economic downturn has hit small rural towns particularly hard, he explained.
Blackfalds, added Weins, experienced a big increase in home construction when the selection in Red Deer was scarce.
“Their inventory levels are still fairly high for a town of its size.”
Blackfalds also saw house prices approach, and in some cases surpass, Red Deer’s, he noted.
“There’s probably just an adjustment there.”
Although single-family home sales increased in all eight Central Alberta communities, Weins said this reflects a seasonal fluctuation.
“The fourth and the first quarters are the slowest half of the year, so you’ve got to be realistic whey you look at the numbers.”
Still, he added, the second quarter was stronger that he’d predicted. Weins forecast in January that there would be an eight per cent drop in single-family home values from the second quarter of 2008 to the same period this year. The change in the median figure turned out to be about 2 1/2 per cent.
In Red Deer, the second quarter of 2008 produced 445 single-family sales at a median price of $323,000; in Lacombe, the Q2 figures in 2008 were 55 and $313,000; in Rocky they were 29 and $291,000; in Sylvan Lake, 98 and $376,000; at Blackfalds, 43 and $312,000; in Innisfail, 37 and $275,000; in Ponoka, 26 and $254,000; and in Stettler, 29 and $215,000.
Weins thinks the Central Alberta market has stabilized.
“I don’t see prices going down any further; I don’t see them skyrocketing.
“I think we’ll have a stable market the rest of the year.”
Government stimulus packages have yet to make an impact, he added, and oil prices have strengthened, interest rates are at historic lows, mortgage money remains available and the stock market has enjoyed an extended period of stability.
One worry is the agricultural sector, he said, with government debt at the federal and provincial levels also a concern.