October house sales flat in Central Alberta

House sales expected to rise in 2018 as provincial economy improves

Central Alberta home sales remain sluggish, but there is optimism for 2018.

There were 323 residential sales in October down three per cent from the same month last year, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics provided by the Central Alberta Realtors Association.

Year-over-year sales are down 1.3 per cent to 3,379 units sold.

Across the province, October sales were also down 1.3 per cent compared with the same month a year ago.

Central Alberta Realtors Association president Danielle Davies said November looks to be following the same trend.

“I would say things are pretty much on par right now. There haven’t been any major changes.”

Davies said there are signs that is about to change thanks to growth in the provincial economy on track to rise 6.7 per cent this year. Next year, GDP is projected to increase 2.4 per cent.

“So, we’re on our way,” she said.

In Central Alberta, the dollar value of October sales was basically the same as last year, down only 0.6 per cent to $101 million.

New residential listings were up 16 per cent to 711 units, compared with October 2016.

Similar numbers were recorded province-wide, where dollar values were down 0.4 per cent.

An issue very much on radar screens of realtors and home buyers are new mortgage rules due to take effect in January.

Under the new rules, even home buyers who don’t require mortgage insurance because they have a 20 per cent down payment, will have to prove they can afford their mortgage if interest rates rise above Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate or two per cent or more higher than their existing mortgage rate, whichever is higher.

Central Alberta Realtors Association joined its provincial counterparts at a government liaison event recently to meet with MLAs and make them aware of the concerns the real estate sector has with the mortgage changes.

“We just wanted to express our concern and tell them what’s happening in Central Alberta and to lobby with a stronger voice for Alberta real estate,” said Davies.

“After three days, I think we were fairly successful. We got our point across.”

Realtors argue the new rules will hit the middle class hardest, especially those looking to upgrade into a bigger home.

“It just makes it that much harder for the average buyer to get approved for the mortgage or refinance their mortgage,” she said.

While the incoming rule changes cannot be stopped, Alberta real estate representatives want to send the message that further changes would be harmful at a time when the economy is just starting to pick up again.

Davies said Alberta realtors want to see regional conditions taken more into account when mortgage rules are changed. Rules meant to cool red-hot housing markets do not make sense in markets such as Alberta’s, which are recovering from the recession.

“(Rules) should be regionalized to the different markets,” she said. “They need to consider all factors, look at all economies, look at all markets — no two provinces are the same.”


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