Cost drives city home sales

By Scott Larson, The StarPhoenix December 12, 2013 - The most sought-after residential properties in Saskatoon are houses on the city's west side and in older neighbourhoods, according to Re-Max's latest Canadian Housing Market Outlook report. Homes listed for sale in those areas spent the shortest time on the market this year, at 29 days and 36 days respectively.

"It is all about affordability," said Larry Stewart of ReMax Saskatoon.

"It is the price range," Stewart said. "In some of those older areas, you can get in for $300,000. You can't even touch that in the new areas."

Proximity to the city centre is also a factor driving sales, he said.

"A lot of people want to be closer to amenities and closer to the core of the city. A lot of these newer areas are getting to be miles away from anywhere."

The report said Saskatoon's total home sales in 2013 were expected to finish the year slightly ahead of 2012 levels, at 4,200 units.

Listings in the $300,000 to $450,000 price range are sparse, which has resulted in multiple offers being relatively common in some areas of the city like Nutana and City Park. The report said modern apartment-style units, ranging in price from $275,000 to $400,000, in areas such as Evergreen and Stonebridge, are popular with young singles and couples.

"But you can still get a two-bedroom condo for under $200,000 (in other areas),"Stewart said.

At the high end of the spectrum, executive homes are forecast to post double-digit gains in sales as properties valued from $750,000 to $ 1 million have already surpassed sales levels recorded for all of 2012.

"We see a lot more million-dollar houses going in the last year," Stewart said.

The province's solid economy is also attracting buyers from across Canada and the world, most of whom are purchasing homes for their own end use. Stewart said Re-Max has a special team focused on foreign buyers.

Average prices are expected to climb by four per cent to $345,500 by the end of the year, which is more moderate than last year's pace, and in line with forecasts. The report predicts homes sales in 2014 will hold steady at 4,200 units. Average prices should climb three per cent to $356,000 by year end 2014 as consumer confidence will remain high.

"The condominium market is expected to experience healthy demand, with modest price gains on new inventory, while the resale side remains relatively flat," the report said.

Stewart has some advice for young first-time buyers looking to get into the market.

"Get a good credit rating so you can get a mortgage," he said. "Secondly, I would buy something that you can live in and fix up, then sell in a couple of years and buy something different."

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