Affordability, low interest rates, and sound economic fundamentals were the primary factors contributing to ongoing healthy home buying activity in St. John’s in 2013. These favourable underpinnings supported relatively steady demand, despite a further upswing in inventory levels. As a result, home sales in St. John’s are expected to finish the year at 3,650 units—in line with traditional levels, though off the 2012 pace by just under six per cent. While momentum has eased, average price continues to make considerable gains, propped up, in part, by new home sales and strength in the upper-end segment. By year end, average price is forecast to reach $302,500, advancing six per cent over 2012’s record of $285,529. First-time buyers led the charge once again in 2013, seeking out single-family homes and bungalows priced between $200,000 and $300,000 throughout the city and its suburbs. Activity in this segment proved brisk, while the mid-range (priced over $350,000) experienced some softening, given a greater supply of inventory and a reduced sense of urgency.
Newfoundland’s economic engine fired on all cylinders in 2013, leading the nation and driving GDP growth ahead by six per cent, as crude oil production rose and conditions improved for large-scale mining projects. While growth is expected to return to more modest levels in 2014, several major developments will serve to prop up confidence and demand in both the resale and new home sectors. These include: ramped-up work at both Muskrat Falls/Lower Churchill and the Hebron Offshore Oil Field, supporting further employment growth; a strengthening natural resources sector, marked by the completion of the Long Harbour nickel-processing facility and subsequent upswing in production; as well as increased production at the Direct Shipping iron-ore project and the Iron-Ore Company of Canada’s Phase II Expansion. Conversely, the enthusiasm of those at the entry-level price points has been re-invigorated, as buyers impacted by tightened lending restrictions last year made their return to the market in a more positive position in many respects. The upper-end segment also proved quite vibrant, as St. John’s thriving oil and gas sector continued to support high-level jobs. Actual sales over $650,000 have posted double-digit growth, and even when adjusted for year-over-year price appreciation, the momentum has held steady with 2012’s respectable performance.
Overall, Newfoundland & Labrador should see unemployment contract in 2014, falling to 11.5 per cent. Strong gains in earnings continue to support buying intentions—a significant factor behind the highest provincial homeownership rate in Canada at 77.5 per cent (2011 Census). St. John’s, in particular, remains an attractive draw. The city recorded a 5.5 per cent increase in its population from 2006 to 2011. Significant announcements continue to improve the region’s prospects—from the proposed underground mine expansion at Voisey’s Bay to the extension to White Rose, as well as promising exploration discoveries that serve to boost confidence in the area’s long term potential. There’s no question the outlook is bright. In the interim, Newfoundland is expected to post a more tepid economic gain of 1.4 per cent in 2014, on the heels of 2013’s enviable advance.
Next year, buyers and sellers in St. John’s and surrounding areas should see similar conditions to those in place at year end. An oversupply of product will place greater consequence on setting fair value, as buyers become increasingly sensitive to pricing. Purchasers will need to be realistic in their pursuits, however, as most homes continue to realize 98 per cent of list price. Unprecedented inventory of new homes will necessitate a gradual correction in prices in that segment, if absorption rates are to improve. Condominium sales are forecast to ease in 2014, as the market approaches saturation. Many new projects have been delayed, re-worked or cancelled, as builders on the multi-unit side take pause. Investors were active over the past 12 months and will continue to seek out promising opportunities. The upper end of the market is anticipated to remain stable. Regardless of price point, market conditions will underscore the timeless adage ‘location, location, location,’ as sought-after pockets post better-than-average activity. Multiple offers, for example, were still evident on well priced product in Churchill Square and Paradise, where the Outer Ring Road has driven tremendous growth. Areas around the University will also prove buoyant as the student population continues to rise, while ongoing revitalization in the downtown core bolsters its appeal. Absorption should improve moving in to the second half of 2014, although buyer’s market conditions will persist through year end. Sales are expected to remain on par at 3,650 units, while average price rises five per cent to $317,600.
Once again RE/MAX leads the market share in the St. John’s real estate market for the first half of 2013. Not only does RE/MAX have the largest market share in St. John’s, but RE/MAX has the biggest share of the Canadian real estate market and is the most trusted real estate agency in Canada. RE/MAX Canada has over 18,500 agents working at more than 700 offices. So if you’re looking to sell, or buy, or both, look to the name that means success. Look to RE/MAX.
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Demand for housing in St. John’s remains healthy, particularly among first time buyers, despite a decline in year-to-date sales. Buyer’s market conditions and the best choice of product in years have buoyed the entry-level segment, along with wage gains, economic growth and rising consumer confidence levels. Affordability continues to be favourable, with increased earnings offsetting the more moderate price growth of late. Most young home buyers are now active from $200,000 to $250,000. Those buying new construction will have to ante up more—typically between $230,000 and $280,000 to start—as the price of new construction has risen at a greater rate. Those on a tight budget will find that homes listed below $200,000 are few and far between and tend to sell for close to full price, if listed at fair market value. Some even generate a rare multiple offer.
To illustrate the supply issue, only 34 homes have sold year-to-date under $175,000, accounting for just 10 per cent of all sales, and only 39 listings under that price point are currently available. Given that, buyers at the lowest end of the price spectrum will have to act more quickly. The housing mix in St. John’s continues to favour the single detached home, particularly in the first-time buyer segment.
Of the 34 homes sold under $175,000, only three were condominiums. Entry-level condominium product remains limited in St. John’s, as builders continue to focus on the mid-range—units priced between $250,000 and $350,000. While condominiums are gaining traction with younger buyers, they remain only a small portion of entry-level sales. Condominiums now start from $165,000 to $175,000 for an older, 650 to 750 sq. ft. walk-up unit on Thorburn Rd., Dalton Ave., and in Pleasantville.
With the current oversupply of homes listed for sale in St. John’s, buyers remain in the driver’s seat. That, along with historically low interest rates, continues to serve as a significant impetus.
Detached homes can be found from $169,000 for an older bungalow requiring work, located on the peripherals. Older homes are most popular. Most sought-after are properties priced between $210,000 and $250,000 in established neighbourhoods such as Cowan Heights, Mount Pearl and Paradise. Most buyers are realizing their choice location, with little need to compromise. Those that must choose are opting to spend a little more, if necessary.
Solid demand among first-time purchasers is expected to carry over in to the spring market, with new financing criteria expected to have little impact. In fact, look to sales in the entry-level segment to prompt greater activity in the move-up range in the months ahead. February year-to-date sales were 11 per cent off year-ago levels, with 359 sales recorded, while average price continued its ascent at $255,512, up just over five per cent.
Full RE/MAX Media Release for the First Time Buyers Report 2011