Real estate hit hard by downturn

Year-end residential real estate numbers for Central Alberta are in and they tell a sobering tale. The number of residential sales in the region are down 19.2 per cent to 4,439 sales, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics released by the Central Alberta Realtors Association on Thursday.

Year-end residential real estate numbers for Central Alberta are in and they tell a sobering tale.

The number of residential sales in the region are down 19.2 per cent to 4,439 sales, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics released by the Central Alberta Realtors Association on Thursday.

Month-to-month comparisons show just how hard the real estate business has been hit — especially in the last several months — by the economic downturn that has created turmoil in financial markets and dragged oil prices down to levels not seen in years.

Last December, 162 residential sales were recorded in Central Alberta, down 34.9 per cent from a year ago, which to be fair was a near-record December.

Realtors Association president Sandi Gouchie said it’s anyone’s guess what is in store for this year on the economic front and, more specifically, real estate markets.

“Nobody seems to agree with what’s coming up. Depending on what you read, some stuff says (the downturn) is going to be quicker than others, and others say it’s going to be all of 2016.

“I wouldn’t even want to say what’s going to happen.”

Gouchie, who co-owns Lacombe’s Royal LePage Lifestyles Realty, said other realtors are “cautiously optimistic” for the coming year.

“They seem to be busier right now than they expected to be. The phones are ringing and they’re out showing.

“From that end of it, business is going on.”

Given the province’s economy, it’s no surprise that real estate has been affected. Several area real estate watchers recently predicted that a modest price correction could be coming this year.

Gouchie agrees. “I don’t think we’re going to see a huge decrease in housing prices.”

Those looking to sell in Central Alberta are willing to wait the market out if they don’t get their price, she said.

Year-to-year sales were down every month last year when stacked up against a very hot 2014 market. In January, 2015 sales were down more than 22 per cent, offering a hint of what was to come.

For the rest of the year, sales were down in the double-digit percentages almost every month.

However, the rocky year did not translate into a drop in the average value of homes sold. It remained basically unchanged at $314,563.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com