City house prices continue upward movement: Lot costs helping drive increase

By Scott Larson, The StarPhoenix Ocotber 11, 2013 - Two-storey homes in Saskatoon are a hot commodity, averaging almost $400,000, according to the latest The Royal LePage House Price Survey.

A standard two-storey home in the city saw a seven per cent year-over-year increase, rising to an average price of $399,750 in the third quarter.

Detached bungalow prices also made solid gains, jumping by 5.2 per cent to $366,250. Standard condominiums remained relatively flat, edging up by 1.1 per cent to $255,000. In September the average house price in Saskatoon was $345,000.

"A healthy mix of firsttime and move-up buyers has created strong demand for both detached bungalows and standard-two storeys," said Norm Fisher, a broker at Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate, in a news release. "Houses that are priced properly and well-presented are selling quickly."

Fisher said numbers from one quarter to the next vary as samples may differ slightly.

"There is probably more new homes than there typically is so that might push the number up," he said. "But it is clear there is some upward pressure on pricing, although more modest than we've seen in years gone by."The upward pressure is being "fuelled by the fastest growing economy in Canada and one of the fastest growing populations," he said. "People need a place to live."

Cam Skoropat, co-owner of Lexis Homes, said much of the increase for new homes is the rising cost of new lots.

"That is the major driver of new home prices going up," Skoropat said, adding a decent sized lot on a decent street will cost you around $150,000.

"Whereas you could have got (the same lot) for $100,000 three or four years ago."

Fisher said the higher prices for detached homes are also affecting the condo market.

"The standard condominium category has become an attractive entry point for first-time buyers," he said.

But even though there have seen solid increases in sales across all price ranges when it comes to condos, there isn't the same upward pressure on price.

"I think that is because demand was offset by a higher level of supply through the third quarter."

House sales in Saskatoon were sluggish in the first part of the year but have accelerated through the last two quarters and now are almost on par with 2012.

And Fisher doesn't see any major correction on the near horizon.

"Right now everything is working in our favour - we have people coming, we have jobs, we've got a fast growing economy, interest rates are low, rents are high - these are all things that support a fairly strong resale housing market."

National Nationally, the average price of a home in Canada increased between 1.2 per cent and 4.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2013.

The survey showed a year-over-year average price increase of 3.7 per cent to $418,686 for standard two-storey homes, while detached bungalows rose 4.1 per cent to $381,811. During the same period, the average price for standard condominiums rose 1.2 per cent to $246,530. Sales volumes surged in a number of regions, as Canadians re-entered the housing market after sitting on the sidelines for more than a year - marking the end of the most significant housing market correction since the 2008-2009 global recession.

"Canada experienced a significant housing market correction over the last four quarters that most in the nation missed entirely," said Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage.

"Our housing market turned a corner in the third quarter. Buyers returned to the streets in droves, resulting in a sharp increase in home sales. In many cities, there simply weren't enough properties on the market to satisfy demand, which put upward pressure on prices for the first time in 2013," continued Soper.

"We expect this positive momentum to continue through the all important spring market of 2014, buoyed by a combination of pent-up demand, increasing consumer confidence and continued low interest rates."

The survey looks at seven types of housing in more than 250 neighbourhoods from coast to coast.

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