Consumer confidence, energy sector to help market

It may not duplicate the sellers’ market of five years ago, but 2012 should bring a healthy jump in home sales and a modest increase in prices, says the president of the Central Alberta Realtors Association.

It may not duplicate the sellers’ market of five years ago, but 2012 should bring a healthy jump in home sales and a modest increase in prices, says the president of the Central Alberta Realtors Association.

Tracey Christensen offered her analysis of the past year and her outlook for the next during a news conference at the association’s office on Monday.

Christensen said she’s projecting that residential sales through the Multiple Listing Service will rise by nine to 11 per cent in Central Alberta this year. That would follow a stellar year in 2011, when home sales surged by more than 25 per cent over 2010 levels, climbing to 3,767 from 3,006.

Christensen, who is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Ontrack Realty, cited a strengthened energy sector and rising confidence among Alberta consumers as reasons for her optimism.

She also pointed to new jobs, an in-migration of people to the province and continued low interest rates as factors likely to drive sales.

“I expect we’ll probably come up in volumes to our 2008 levels.”

However, despite this anticipated growth in sales and a decline in listings that saw only 2,844 homes added to the MLS inventory in Red Deer last year — down 14 per cent from the 3,298 new listings in 2010 — Christensen anticipates that prices will only improve by two to three per cent.

“The past recession remains strong in the memory of the buyer and they continue to be cautious with spending and allowable debt levels.”

But even this small increase in prices would be a big improvement over 2011, when the average selling price of single-family homes in Red Deer slipped four per cent — to $332,500 from $345,545.

The average price of townhouses dropped nine per cent, while apartment condos and half-duplexes were down one and two per cent respectively.

On a community-by-community basis, residential sales were up 22 per cent in Red Deer. Townhouse transactions in the city showed the biggest increase, at 39 per cent, while sales of apartment condos were up 26 per cent, half-duplex sales improved by 12 per cent and deals involving single-family homes rose by eight per cent.

Outside Red Deer, sales of single-family dwellings increased in most towns within the area covered by the association in 2011. Stettler jumped 50 per cent, to 90 sales; Ponoka was up 41 per cent, to 147; Rocky Mountain House posted a 39 per cent improvement, to 85; Blackfalds climbed 41 per cent, to 147; and Lacombe was seven per cent higher, at 174.

Single-family dwelling sales in Innisfail were unchanged at 77, while in Sylvan Lake the figure slipped six per cent, to 183.

The 2011 average selling prices of single-family dwellings in these outlying communities improved by two per cent in Lacombe, to $312,875; and by one per cent in each of Blackfalds and Innisfail, to $298,679 and $265,298 respectively. The average price in Rocky declined slightly to $297,153; while Sylvan Lake’s average slid by one per cent to $344,656; the average in Stettler was two per cent lower, at $228,170; and Ponoka single-family dwelling prices were down seven per cent on average, to $225,799.

When median prices are compared, the 2011 figure in Rocky was up nearly two per cent, to approximately $290,000, and in Stettler it increased 8.5 per cent, to about $230,000.

Christensen said the most active price range in Red Deer last year was $250,000 to $350,000.

Many prospective buyers, she said, were previously waiting to see if prices would drop further or if new properties would come onto the market.

“We had buyers who decided it was a good time to buy.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com