Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Energy revival fuelling boom
Province set to regain status as national leader
By Tamara Gignac
Calgary Herald December 27, 2011

Albertans know all about the B-word: boom.

For much of the past decade the economic pace was blistering, led by massive projects in the oilsands. The result was scores of high-paying jobs, a red-hot real estate market and an influx of thousands of new migrants.

The party was good while it lasted.

But in 2008, Albertans were blindsided by another B-word: bust.

A collapse in energy prices, the result of the U.S. financial crisis, took the steam out of Alberta's once-buoyant economy.

The oilpatch shelved or cancelled billions of dollars worth of projects, jobs evaporated virtually overnight and ordinary Albertans struggled to pay their mortgages.

But after sputtering for much of the past three years, Alberta appears poised to regain its position as Canada's economic juggernaut.

All signs suggest prosperity is sweeping the province. Unemployment is low, cash registers are ringing and the energy sector is once again on a hiring spree.

It begs the question: is Alberta headed for another overheated economy?

Economists are certainly bullish when it comes to the province's prospects.

The Royal Bank of Canada predicts Alberta's rate of growth - four per cent this year and 3.9 per cent in 2012 - will outpace all provinces except Saskatchewan.

"Oilsands megaprojects will continue to generate tremendous economic activity and will be a boon to Alberta's economy for years to come," says RBC chief economist Craig Wright.

"The boom entirely emanates from the private sector - the source of an astounding 116,000 new jobs this year," Wright said.

Improved employment prospects have translated into a record quarter for Sharlene Massie's local recruiting firm, About Staffing.

Alberta is bucking the national trend, a welcome relief from the hiring freezes of recent years.

As long as there's continued growth in oilsands production and Alberta's unemployment rate holds steady at about five per cent, the good times should continue, Massie says.

But she admits the spectre of an overheated economy could spoil the party and usher in a labour shortage similar to that of 2006.

In the worst-case scenario for employers, Alberta's jobless rate would return to levels seen in the last boom, driving skilled and unskilled wages to unprecedented levels.

"We're not there right now. We're comfortable," Massie says. "There's enough jobs out there and every-body's happy. Let's hope we can stay this way."

A report this year warned that a looming labour shortage is the Achilles heel of the provincial economy and that industry should brace for a chronic scarcity of workers in the years ahead.

It comes as Calgary's oilpatch, and the rest of the natural resources sec-tor, is set to lead the nation with the highest projected salary increases in the year ahead.

But boom or bust, Alberta's shifting demographics will probably require a new approach to labour issues in the coming years, suggests Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Adam Legge.

The province has repeatedly looked to the federal government to change immigration policies so Alberta can hire the workers it needs.

There's expected to be a short-age of everything from tradespeople and health-care workers to financial service employees, retail staff and public-service jobs.

"We're going to face a labour shortage whether we have a strong economy or not because there aren't enough workers to backfill the retiring baby boomers," says Legge.

He says he believes inflation pressure associated with rising labour costs could prove troublesome for Alberta.

"As soon as you see wages being driven up - as they are right now - people have more spending power and are able to bid up prices on everything from houses to goods and services," Legge says.

"The Bank of Canada will want to keep an eye on Alberta because we will have stronger inflation in our economy than the rest of Canada."

A heated labour market is only one indicator of Alberta's changing economic fortunes.

Figures from Statistics Canada show a three per cent increase in retail sales in October compared with the month before - the largest increase in Canada.

It comes as more Albertans purchase new vehicles, electronics and clothing - a welcome prospect for retailers, who saw cash register receipts dwindle during the recession.

Discretionary spending is also on the rise in the province.

Recent reports suggest people are choosing to dine in restaurants more frequently, purchase a morning latte or even fly away on a holiday.

Alberta's housing industry also got a much-needed boost in 2011.

"The strength in our economy, combined with affordability levels that outperform most major centres, will continue to attract migrants to the city and spur further growth," says Sano Stante, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board.

But along with an economic boom comes social challenges, as cities and smaller communities struggle to meet infrastructure pressures caused by an influx of new workers.

Todd Hirsch, senior economist with ATB Financial, says he doesn't expect to see a repeat of 2006, when "people lived in tents by the river" due to lack of affordable housing.

"I think you can call this a 'mini-boom,' at least relative to everywhere else in the country and even the industrialized world," Hirsch said.

"(But) if we did see a major collapse in Europe or a real calamity, that could knock the stuffing out of oil prices pretty quickly."

Hirsch is keeping an eye on developments with the Keystone XL project. The $7-billion Alberta-to-Texas pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. has been held up by a political battle in Washington.

The fate of Keystone XL could be a "harbinger of a more challenging environment" for Alberta's energy industry, he says.

"My feeling is this is not just one project we're talking about. It indicates we are in a whole new world in which putting pipelines in the ground is not going to be as easy or straight-forward as it was in the past."

So far, the province's fortunes have been mostly insulated from global economic turmoil relative to other regions.

But some observers, like Leonard Waverman, wonder if sluggish growth for Alberta's biggest trading partner - the United States - will eventually hit home.

The dean of the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business chooses a weather analogy to characterize Alberta's economic prospects in 2012.

"I'd suggest we have an economic chinook," Waverman says. "One must remember that chinooks are very capricious. They come in and move out very quickly."

But even as Alberta prepares for a new round of prosperity and good times, some still struggle to make ends meet after the recession.

During the past three years, Alberta recorded the country's second-highest increase in food bank usage, according to a recent HungerCount survey.

Talk of an economic boom is probably meaningless for the many house-holds still trying to find a way out of the last economic bust, says Kathryn Sim, a spokeswoman for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank.

"We're seeing people bouncing back and they are coming to us as donors, which is lovely to see," she says.

"But it's hard to dig out of the hole. It's taking a longer time for people to get out of the situation they found themselves in when the economy crashed."

Photo By: Larry He's So Fine


The 15 most outrageous home sales of 2011
By Morgan Brennan
Forbes Dec 25, 2011

The U.S. housing market is still in the pits, closing another year marked by falling prices, lackluster sales volumes and a steady stream of foreclosures. For the rich and famous, though, it’s been a year of record-breaking purchases.

We sorted through the biggest, splashiest home sales of the year to bring you a recap of the 15 we deem the most outrageous.

One of the biggest purchases of the year just closed: an US$88-million penthouse condo in New York City’s billionaire-coveted 15 Central Park West. The 6,744-square-foot apartment, which hit the market in November, sold less than six weeks later to Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the 22-year old daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitriy Rybolovlev, reportedly for the full US$88-million asking price.

It is the highest individual transaction in Big Apple history and the second-largest transaction in the U.S. for 2011. Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel, a New York City-based real estate appraisal firm, explained to my colleague Luisa Kroll recently, “This sale is an outlier. It works out to be about $13,000 per square foot, the highest on record, for anything, that has ever occurred.”

The pricey pad belonged to former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill, who purchased it with his wife in 2007 for US$43.7-million — less than half of what it just sold for. The Weills plan to donate the proceeds to charity and Rybolovleva plans to reside there while attending university in the area. Despite Miller’s insistence that the gargantuan 15 CPW sale is an anomaly, there were two other pricey purchases in New York City this year, both for US$48-million apiece.

California’s real estate market welcomed several huge sales as well. The year’s largest individual transaction was the US$100-million purchase in March of a 25,500-square foot Silicon Valley mansion called Palo Alto Loire Chateau. Russian venture capital billionaire Yuri Milner reportedly plans to use the nine-figure compound as a secondary residence. The Levi Strauss estate, with its humble 2,050-square foot abode, in nearby Atherton sold to an unknown buyer for a hefty US$53-million in September.

The Spelling Manor, a Los Angeles manse formerly known as America’s most expensive home for sale, secured a buyer this summer after nearly three years on the market. The hulking 56,500-square foot Holmby Hills estate was listed for $150 million, and ultimately sold to yet another 22-year-old billionaire heiress, Petra Ecclestone, the daughter of Formula One founder Bernie Ecclestone, for a more reasonable US$85-million. Like Milner, Ecclestone has no plans to reside there full-time, and will split time between the palatial crash pad and one in London.

But while US$85-million may seem like an exorbitant sum to throw down on what essentially will be a pied a terre, David Kramer, the Hilton & Hyland agent who represented Ecclestone for her L.A. purchase, says the wealthy British family consider it a good investment. “If you say to someone who has billions of dollars, ‘Hey I’ll get you 43% off of a landmark home that in a good market really would be a US$100-million or more home, they will say let’s do it.”

Many real estate experts, Kramer and Miller included, chalk up increased interest in the home market among the big-money set to the same thing: perceived bargains. The weak dollar coupled with depreciated home prices (even at the high end) have translated into investment opportunities, particularly for rich foreigners looking to hedge fortunes in brick and mortar assets.

All of the headline-grabbing sales that have transpired this year have led to even more high-profile properties hitting the sale block. A plethora of trophy homes are available like Manhattan’s US$90-million Woolworth Mansion, Guess co-founder Armand Marciano’s US$63-million Beverly Hills compound, a US$60-million private resort in Indian Creek, Fla., and the less expensive but equally noteworthy US$12.5-million former Sinatra estate called Farralone. A US$175-million ranch in Jackson, Wyo. also came to market this year.

“I am seeing unique, special properties that no one ever would have thought would come on the market,” says Kramer. “These are properties that, like a piece of art, can and will never be duplicated. They can be considered part of people’s collections.”

South Florida’s luxury market has welcomed big spenders, too. Miami clocked four transactions priced at roughly US$20-million or higher this year. The most recent, the sale of the Setai South Beach’s palatial penthouse for US$21.5-million, is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a Miami Beach condo unit. The Thai-inspired apartment, which had belonged to Netscape founder Jim Clark, had been listed for $27 million. Another Russian billionaire, Roustam Tariko, coughed up US$25.5-million for a Star Island estate, the highest price paid in Miami since 2006.

“We have had an influx of rich people that have come to the city recently,” says Farid Moussalem, a ONE Sotheby’s International Realty agent who represented the buyer of Sunset Island’s Villa Tranquilla estate. The property was sold by American billionaire George Lindemann for US$19.8-million this summer, about 34% off the initial 2009 asking price of US$30-million. “I don’t think this is over; I think next year we will see more of these kinds of high-end sales,” says Moussalem.

Some ritzy residences didn’t find buyers this year until their asking prices were drastically cut. Oracle’s Larry Ellison, No. 3 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, picked up Porcupine Creek in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for US$42.9-million, 43% off the initial US$75-million asking price; fertilizer billionaire Alexander Rovt scooped up New York City’s Sloane Mansion an hour before its foreclosure auction for roughly US$33-million, or about 48% off the initial US$64-million ask price. Perhaps the biggest high-end discount sale of the year was Le Reve, a massive Versailles-like compound just north of Atlanta, Ga., that finally sold this summer for US$9.5-million. It had been originally listed at US$45-million.

Also making our roundup were two infamous foreclosures, both repossessed by lender Bank of America. Patricia Kluge’s Albemarle estate in Charlottesville, Va., once listed for US$100-million, was taken by the bank in February for US$15.26-million; and San Francisco’s St. Regis penthouse, once listed for US$70-million, earned the title of most expensive bank-owned property when it was sold back to the bank by former owner-developer Victor MacFarlane in lieu of foreclosure. That penthouse found a buyer just recently for US$28-million.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Downtown office space fills up at record rate
Central core vacancy drops to 5.7 per cent
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald December 22, 2011

Demand for Calgary downtown office space reached new heights in 2011 with record leasing activity.

A report by CBRE Ltd., published Wednesday, says the downtown market saw net absorption - the change in occupied space - of close to 2.6 million square feet in Calgary in 2011. That pushed the overall central core vacancy rate down to 5.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of this year from 7.0 per cent in the third quarter.

A year ago, the downtown office vacancy rate was 13.0 per cent.

"The fourth quarter capped a stellar year for Calgary," said Greg Kwong, executive vice-president and regional managing director for Alberta for CBRE. "The delivery of The Bow in 2012 will mark the continuation of our momentum and will symbolize the bright future that lies ahead for Calgary.

"Office demand was high again this year for the same reasons as 2010. The oilsands sector is booming again and related companies are leasing space to accommodate expansion. . . . We should get at least one more new building announced next year."

The Bow and its nearly two million square feet of office space will be home to energy giants Encana and Cenovus.

On Tuesday, the owners of Eighth Avenue Place announced they were going ahead with the second tower on the downtown site, a 40-storey, 850,000squarefoot office building that should be ready for occupancy in 2014. A 49-storey, 1.1 millionsquare-foot office tower exists on the site of the old Penny Lane complex.

Oxford Properties is in the pre-leasing stage for a proposed 25-storey, 615,000-square-foot tower.

Susan Thompson, business development manager of real estate for Calgary Economic Development, said the downtown office market is primarily driven by the oil and gas industry. "And we've seen fairly strong growth in that category this year. They're obviously growing and looking for more space," Thompson said.

"Every indication is there that it will continue to grow in the new year."

In its report, CBRE said the overall Calgary office market, including the suburban category, saw its vacancy rate drop to 7.1 per cent in the fourth quarter from 8.0 per cent in the previous quarter and 13.2 per cent in late 2010.

CBRE said the Calgary industrial market added 900,000 square feet of space this quarter, the most since the fourth quarter of 2008 as developers look to take advantage of economic growth in the region.

The overall availability rate in Calgary's industrial real estate market rose to 4.9 per cent in the fourth quarter from 4.3 per cent in the third quarter.

In its National Office and Industrial Trends Fourth Quarter 2011 Summary Report, CBRE said total absorption of office space across the country was just under eight million square feet, up from five million square feet in 2010.

The vacancy rate for Canadian downtown offices fell from 6.3 per cent last quarter to 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter. The suburban market, however, saw vacancy rise by 10 basis points to 10.7 per cent, the second quarterly increase this year.

"Despite the apparently never-ending problems in Europe, the Canadian commercial real estate market continues to move forward, albeit slowly," said John O'Bryan, vice-chairman of CBRE.


22-year-old buys $88-million apartment in New York City
Agence France-Presse
Dec 21, 2011

NEW YORK — The daughter of a Russian billionaire has broken New York real estate records by paying $88 million for a huge Manhattan apartment, Forbes magazine reported.

Yekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of former fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev, paid full asking price for the multiroom spread at 15 Central Park West, the magazine reported Monday, saying this was a record for an individual transaction in a city renowned for pricey property.

The record was previously owned by Sanford Weill, a former chairman of Citigroup.

Forbes quoted a representative for Rybolovleva, 22, saying she had “signed a contract to purchase an apartment at 15 Central Park West… Ms. Rybolovleva is currently studying at a US university. She plans to stay in the apartment when visiting New York.”

She is a resident of Monaco and has lived in the principality and in Switzerland for the last 15 years, the statement said.

Rybolovlev is one of the small group of Russians who became fabulously wealthy during the post-Soviet privatization of the economy and are known as oligarchs. He is the former owner of fertilizer business Uralkali.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Financial Post · Dec. 15, 2011

Canada’s housing market is still chugging along steadily as sales activity nudged higher and prices continued to climb in November, data from the Canadian Real Estate Association said Thursday.

Sales activity rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in November, compared with the month before, as about 35,000 houses changed hands.

The national average price increased 4.6%, but that is the smallest increase since January.

Year-to-date sales remained in line with 10-year averages as 432,048 homes have been resold so far in 2011, up 2.1% from year-ago levels.

The sector is showing some signs of slowing down, however, as the number of newly listed homes declined 3.4% between October and November.

That said, actual national home sales figures (not seasonally adjusted) in November actually moved 7% above the 10-year average, the fourth-highest level on record for the month.

“National sales activity picked up late last year, and November’s results suggest that a similar trend may be playing out again this year,” Gregory Klump, chief economist with CREA, said in a release.

Interest rates are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, so the housing sector will be closely watched for signs of excess, he said.

“That said, current trends for resale housing and new home construction suggest that tightened mortgage regulations are working as intended and fostering economic stability,” he said.

Photo By: Travis Atwood

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Improve the dark, dingy look of a carport
Wide-spaced trellis planted with vines adds interest
By Suzanne Rowe
The Montreal Gazette

Here lives a beautiful young family.

I chose this house mostly because of its carport. People don't quite know how to improve this dingy space.

Aside from the obvious option to convert it to a garage, a less-expensive alternative is to close off the right side and the back with horizontal stained wood planks leaving a door for the backyard. My option is to build a widespaced trellis from ceiling to ground all the way to the back. Stained white and decorated with one natural climbing vine, these psychological walls will provide a perception of privacy while adding ornamental value. A white enclosed ceiling would complete the newer and cleaner area. Adding two hefty square posts on each side of the car port will redefine the structure and give it visual strength.

I've also incorporated two similar posts right under the floating triangular shaped roof, giving it a sense of solidity, depth and interesting architectural detail. The screen door has to go into retirement.

A tall wooden flower box stained the same tint as the bricks would bring a different texture to the facade. A smaller shallower one could also do the trick just fine if respecting the width of the window above.

If, in the future the roof requires replacement, using a colour similar to the bricks would give the optical illusion that the house is taller. A very dark chocolate brown for the roof could be appealing if the front door is also painted the same colour in a semi-gloss finish.

A walkway from the street is a good addition to the one near the driveway. Two big square slabs would be placed side by side to form a rectangle. They would be repeated all the way but leaving in between a gap of about one third of the size of one tile. To soften the lines, tiny mosslike ground cover would spread throughout the spacing and bloom with miniature white flowers in June. A hedge consisting of lovely white Campanulas perennials would great their guests to their lovely home.

On the left half and in front of the foundation, the lawn will be removed to form a rectangular-shaped flower bed.

Three evergreen shrubs could be planted to furnish the new area under the triangular roof area and at the same time hide the awkward brick transition.

On the left corner, three pyramidal evergreens frame one side of the house while making it look wider.

A handsome shrub on a stem is at its best when displaying its snowball-shaped clusters of flowers. Any small ornamental tree with white flowers would do.

For a different and more dramatic look - budget permitting - an evergreen Juniperus Scopularum "Tollenson's Blue Weeping'' would steal the show.

Vegetation (from left to right):

- (3) Thuja Occidentalis 'Smaragd' (evergreens)
- (1-3) Heuchera 'Palace Pur-ple' (perennials)
- (3-5) Hemerocallis X Hy-brida 'Apricot Beauty' (perennials)
- Weigela Samba (shrub)
- (3) Taxus X Media 'Hicksii' (evergreens)
- Campanula Carpatica (per-ennials, white, hedge)
- Arenaria Verna (ground cover)
- Tropaeolum Majus (an-nuals, flower box)
- Viorna on stem (small ornamental shrub)
- Parthenocissus Quinque-folia (climbing vine)

Monday, December 12, 2011


Luxury home sales spike
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald  December 10, 2011

Calgary's luxury home market has seen a spike in demand this year, with sales in the upper-end approaching the record levels of 2007.

Brendan Hughes, a realtor with Re/Max Real Estate (Central) in Calgary, said sales in the higher-end market are a sign of a good economy in the city. "It's vibrant and it's growing. Jobs are being created. People are moving here."

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, so far this year from January to November there have been 25 MLS condo sales over $1 million compared with 19 for the same period in 2010.

Year-to-date, there have been 406 single-family sales at that price point, up from 326 a year ago.

The record number of luxury home sales in the Calgary market took place in 2007 with 431 single-family sales over $1 million and 30 condo sales in that price bracket.

Sano Stante, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board, said there is a lot of confidence in the local real estate market these days.

Many oilpatch executives are showing confidence because of what they see coming up for the future with projects in the energy sector. "Those are the people that are buying these properties. So there's confidence in that realm," said Stante. "There's a fair bit of inventory out there available in that upper range as well. The people who are buying them now are being selective in the upper-end, in the luxury market. There's a lot of good product to choose from and they're selecting only the best deals. So homes in the luxury range have to be priced right to sell in a reasonable amount of time."

According to CREB, the top sale prices for single-family homes in Calgary this year have been $4.525 million in Rideau Park, $3.995 million in Elbow Park-Glencoe and $3.8 million in Aspen Woods.

Top selling condos this year have been $4.1 million in Eau Claire, $2.935 million in Eau Claire and $2.05 million in Victoria Park.

Hughes said one factor in the demand for upper-end product is executives who have been relocated to Calgary. "They like the high-end condo market," said Hughes. "We're also seeing these young professionals - the investment bankers, the lawyers, - they work really hard . . . they're looking at that high end.

"And then there's that investment side of it too. Some people shudder when you mention a million-dollar condo, but compared to a lot of other markets what you get here for $1 million, $2 million, is a lot more than you're getting in some of the other markets. And people see that."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Strong 2012 forecast for city's housing market
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald December 7, 2011

Fuelled by low interest rates and job security, demand for residential real estate in Calgary is on the upswing, says the Re/Max Housing Market Outlook 2012 report published Tuesday.

And the real estate firm says Calgary will be a Canadian leader next year in the annual growth rate for MLS sales.

By year-end 2011, 22,500 homes are expected to change hands, an eight per cent increase over the 20,801 sales reported in 2010, it said.

And the average price in Calgary is forecast to appreciate as well, rising a "modest" one per cent to $405,000 in 2011, up from $401,186 one year ago.

The report forecasts the average MLS sale price will jump by three per cent in 2012 to $417,000, while sales will rise by five per cent to 23,600 units.

Lowell Martens, of Re/ Max Real Estate (Mountain View) in Calgary, said any hesitation on the part of some buyers in the city is more than likely a direct reflection of the uncertainty in the European economic situation.

He said commercial realestate construction taking place in Calgary "tells us the long-term feeling out there is very positive for Calgary."

"We have a very stable market over the next little while. We don't anticipate any big upswings, but at the same time we don't anticipate any big downswings either. It's going to be very stable," he said.

Buyers in the city are cautiously optimistic after more than two years of recession, making their moves while interest rates are at historic lows and housing values are affordable, said the report.

"Single-family homes remain most popular with purchasers, representing close to 60 per cent of total residential sales. Demand is greatest for entry-level product, priced between $350,000 and $450,000," it said. "Con-dominium apartments and town houses have also experienced solid momentum in recent months, with the lion's share of activity occurring from $200,000 to $300,000. Luxury home sales - priced over $1 million - have been particularly brisk, up approximately 25 per cent over 2010 levels."

While global concerns still loom, the market appears to be gaining some traction moving into the new year, said the report. Re/Max said Canadian residential realestate defied conventional logic and outperformed expectations in 2011, posting another solid year of housing activity virtually across the board. The trend is expected to carry forward into 2012 as Canadians "continue to demonstrate their faith in home ownership, despite concerns over the European debt crisis and its impact on the global economy."

"What 2011 proves is that real estate continues to have momentum," said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president, Re/Max of Western Canada, in a statement.

"The economic underpinnings support ongoing demand, particularly as job creation efforts continue and unemployment rates edge down further."

Photo by: Hypnotic Love

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Canadians paying off mortgages early: CMHC
Financial Post Staff  
Nov 29, 2011

OTTAWA — Canadian homeowners are doing a good job of paying off their mortgages early, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which released its third-quarter results Tuesday.

While mortgage repayments can be spread out over 30 years, the CMHC reports that the average amortization period for mortgages insured by the national housing agency is under 25 years, and the loan-to-value ratio of those homes was 80% or less. As of Sept. 30, the outstanding loan amount per household for all homeowner loans was $159,740, slightly above the figure for the previous year.

“CMHC analysis shows that a substantial percentage of CMHC-insured high ratio borrowers are ahead of their scheduled amortization,” the agency said in its report. “Accelerated payments shorten the overall amortization period, reduce interest costs, increase equity in the home at a faster rate and lower risk over time.”

The agency says its mortgage arrears rate is 0.42%, in line with industry trends.

Rules brought in by the federal government in March, in response to historic levels of household debt, which reduced amortization periods on certain mortgages, and limited the amount that can be borrowed when a house is refinanced, cut refinancing activity by 31% from last year, the CMHC said. The agency’s homeowner purchase mortgage insurance showed a year-over-year decrease of 12%.

“The level of household debt remains a concern but there are encouraging signals,” it says. “There has been a significant deceleration in the growth of mortgage credit since March, particularly in recent months, impacting the growth rate of total household credit. Growth in personal loans, lines of credit and credit cards has levelled off in recent months.”

The agency notes general economic conditions have been favourable in 2011, with stable mortgage rates, a healthy housing market and a declining unemployment rate.

“Overall arrears levels and arrears rates have been improving and (mortgage insurance) claims volumes have been lower than expected,” it said. “Given current economic forecasts, it is expected that trends will improve moderately going forward, although both downside and upside risks remain.”

While housing sales have slowed since January, the CMHC expects sales for the year to fall within a range of 423,600 to 470,100 units, and next year’s sales to be somewhere between 406,100 and 509,000 units. Prices should “modestly grow as market conditions are expected to remain in the balanced market range,” it said.

The agency notes it keeps an eye out for bubbles, but so far it sees “little evidence of over-valuation” in the Canadian housing market.

Photo By: *_Abhi_*


Financial Post,  Dec. 6, 2011

Even one of Canada’s leading real estate companies agrees the rising housing market may not appear to make much sense.

But appearances are deceiving and Re/Max says both sales and average prices will continue to climb in 2012.

“Canadian residential real estate defied conventional logic and outperformed expectations in 2011,” the company said in its year-end report on the market.

Re/Max expects 2011 to finish with prices up 7% and the average home across the country selling for $363,000. The market won’t be as robust in 2012 but consumers can still expect another 2% jump in prices.

Sales figure for 2011 are forecast to climb by 3% from a year earlier with 460,000 homes having changed hands by year end. For 2012, expect less than a 1% increase in activity with only an additional 4,500 sales.

“The Canadian housing market has demonstrated tremendous resilience in recent years but 2011 stands out,” said Michael Polzler, executive vice-president of Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Instead of responding to economic concerns both here and abroad with a retreat in sales and prices, residential real estate markets actually experienced an upswing in the volatile third and fourth quarter.”

Re/Max looked at 26 markets across the country and predicts 23 will show an increase in average price for the year. Sales were up in 22 of those 26 markets. The company says 81% of markets studied will see price increases in 2012.

Among the reasons cited for the Canadian housing market’s continued strength against the odds has been population growth which has gone up by 11% since 2000. Re/Max notes by 2031, the country will have 42 million people.

“Population growth and immigration are major factors expected to prop-up housing demand and household formation in the coming years,” says the company.

Condominiums are expected to continue to garner a growing share of the housing market with investment and income-producing properties in high demand. Low vacancy rates are said to have driven those markets in 2011 and those conditions are expected to continue.

Photo By: Bru76