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Canadian Markets Heat UP

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 09 May 2000 00:00

Weather isn't the only thing that is getting warmer in Canada these days. Across the country, real estate markets are heating up and housing prices are on the rise. A strong economy and solid employment rates have strengthened demand in most communities. Many Canadians may have been spurred into real estate purchases by rumblings of interest rate hikes.

Disillusionment with technology stocks has contributed significantly to revitalized real estate markets. After a lengthy haul as an unattractive investment when compared to high-return stocks and funds, housing is now seen as a safe haven from the rollercoaster ride stock markets have taken investors on.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the federal housing agency, reports the end of the stagnant real estate markets of the nineties and it says markets will improve this year and in 2001. CMHC predicts that sales of existing homes will hit record levels, rising slightly to 335,700 this year and 343,200 in 2001. The average Multiple Listing Service selling price is expected to increase from the 1999 value of $158,082 to $164,300 in 2000 and $170,500 in 2001.

Over the next five years, CMHC calculates that new home construction will benefit from favourable economic conditions, rising migration and consumer confidence. New housing starts in Toronto will reach 37,000 this year, representing half the homes built in Ontario. CMHC expects housing starts will also increase in Montreal and in Vancouver, where housing was depressed by the Asian economic downturn and the "wet condo" fiasco.

But CMHC does not forecast smooth sailing in every real estate market in Canada. Increased housing starts predicted for the Atlantic region this year reflect the positive effects of megaprojects but CMHC says the market will slow in 2001 as benefits from megaproject spending subside. Although Prairie markets are expected to remain at relatively high levels in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, concerns are that Alberta's high condominium inventories may cool that market this year. During 1999, Ontario experienced its highest new home levels since 1989 but increases are expected to move at a more moderate pace in 2000 and beyond.

The real estate adage about 3 things determining real estate value -- location, location, location -- still seems to hold true in Canada's spring markets. Instead of across-the-board, double-digit increases, specific neighbourhoods in an area experience greater price increases than others. If you are home shopping in these multiple-offer locations, make sure you are up to date on price trends so that you do not get swept into a bidding war for a home that does not reflect local real estate patterns.

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