Average home price hits $350,000

By Scott Larson, With files from The Canadian Press and the Leader-Post, March 18, 2014 -Saskatoon and Regina seem to be heading in opposite directions when it comes to home prices.

The average home price in Saskatoon was about $351,000 at the end of February, up about six per cent from 12 months ago ($332,000), said Jason Yochim, executive officer with the Saskatoon and Region Association of Realtors.

"I think what we saw in January and into February was some of that higher (priced homes) were moving," he said.

Regina saw average housing prices drop 3.2 per cent in February over the same period last year, in contrast to a 10 per cent increase nationally, according to data released Monday by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

"Saskatchewan's two larger cities are still seeing decent combined sales levels, but supply has caught up," BMO Capital Markets said in a note. "As a result, benchmark prices are slipping." Yochim said there has been a significant increase in the number of listings in Saskatoon.

"There was 1,236 active listings compared to 1,040 last year (up 19 per cent)," he said.

"All of the areas in the city are trending upward again as far as there increase in values, with the exception of Area 4 (west of Idylwyld and west of Circle Drive). They dropped off a little bit in the first part of this year," he said, but added that could be due to a lack of product.

Yochim said there are still a lot of homes for sale in the $500,000-plus range, but many of those homes have adjusted their prices downward close to what the market will bear.

"(But) if you look in the $350,000-to-$500,000 range, we are always looking for product."

The warmer temperatures has also helped.

"The nice weather is certainly getting people out," Yochim said, adding on the weekend they saw 25 sales come in from agents.

In Regina, sales have been flat, posting a zero per cent increase year over year and a 1.5 per cent decline for the first two months of 2014 over the same period in 2013. But February saw a 4.9 per cent increase in sales in February from January. Average prices

have slipped year-over-year, but increased 3.4 per cent in the first two months of the year.

Nationally, the real estate association says 2014 is off to a slower start than many years, but there's no sign of a crash and predicts activity will pick up. CREA sees resales trending higher this spring, riding the wind of slightly lower mortgage rates, but levelling off in the second half of 2014 when rates are expected to firm slightly.

However, even then the expanding economy will likely continue to support housing, the association said in an update to its December forecast.

The association now forecasts sales in 2014 will total about 463,700 units, slightly below the 475,000 projection in December but still above last year's 457,893 sales.

The national average price for a home sold last month was $406,372, up 10.1 per cent from a year ago, boosted by sales in the pricey Vancouver market. February's increase in home resales broke a streak of five straight monthly declines.

TD Bank economist Diana Petramala says Canada's housing market is moderating, although that hasn't been reflected in prices - as yet. She says that will likely happen next.

"Overall, sales are likely to continue at their current, sustainable pace while rising listings (of homes for sale) will help deflate price pressures over the next few years," Petramala said.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix