New home prices in the Calgary region were on the rise in January.

Statistics Canada reported Thursday that its New Housing Price Index for the Calgary census metropolitan area was up 3.3 per cent from a year ago and it had also increased by 0.5 per cent from December.

Nationally, the NHPI rose by 2.2 per cent on an annual basis and by 0.1 per cent month-over-month.

“The combined metropolitan region of Toronto and Oshawa, as well as the region of Calgary, were the top contributors to the advance. Builders indicated that market conditions were the primary reason for higher prices in Toronto and Oshawa, while increased material and labour costs contributed to higher prices in Calgary,” said the federal agency.

The largest monthly price advance in January occurred in Charlottetown at one per cent.

In Winnipeg, where the pace of the annual increases has been accelerating over the last several months, year-over-year prices were up 5.9 per cent in January, which was the biggest increase in the country, said Statistics Canada.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Calgary region building permits rise from last year – $392.3 million in January

The value of building permits in the Calgary region neared $400 million in January, according to Statistics Canada.

The federal agency reported Thursday that permits in the Calgary census metropolitan area reached $392.3 million for the month, down 0.4 per cent from December but an increase of 29.4 per cent from January 2012.

In Alberta, total building permits of $1.2 billion were down 5.5 per cent on a monthly basis but up 24.3 per cent year over year.

The residential sector in the province saw building permits reach $713.8 million which was an increase of 6.7 per cent from the previous month and a hike of 20.4 per cent from last year.

The non-residential sector in the province saw building permits reach $458.1 million, down 19.7 per cent from December but up 30.9 per cent from January 2012.

Statistics Canada said municipalities across the country issued building permits worth $5.8 billion in January, up 1.7 per cent from December. But year-over-year it was down 4.3 per cent.

In the residential sector, the value of permits increased 17.6 per cent to $3.8 billion in January, following six consecutive months of decline. However, that sector was off 8.9 per cent compared with a year ago.

Construction intentions in the non-residential sector fell 19.2 per cent to $2 billion. Year-over-year, it increased by 5.9 per cent.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

New tallest building: Council approves twin towers at 56 and 42 storeys

Council unanimously approved zoning for a twin-skyscraper project that will give downtown Calgary a new tallest building — “a very big jewel,” one alderman said Monday.

Brookfield Office Properties has planned 56- and 42-storey office towers on the downtown block where the Bay parkade stands and where the Calgary Herald’s former building is being demolished.

“We’re getting an entire city block built right on the LRT, and it’s going to be an extraordinary development,” Ald. Druh Farrell said.

The first tower, a glass box with corners that curve and taper inward toward its crown, will stand 11 metres taller than The Bow.

Some aldermen were uneasy about the future loss of short-stay parking when the parkade gets demolished for the second phase, although Brookfield does plan to add some replacement parking in its own office parkade.

The underground parkade at 225 Sixth Ave. S.W. will be designed with several special features for cyclists. Brookfield will offer cyclists their own entrance/exit ramp, as well as storage lockers, showers and a bike repair facility for riders.

About three per cent of workers in Brookfield’s other Calgary towers — Bankers Hall, Suncor Energy Centre and Fifth Avenue Place — commute on two wheels.

Only about 15 per cent drive solo to work in the Brookfield buildings, Farrell said.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Mortgage fraud hits ‘eye-opening’ level in Canada

Consumer credit company Equifax uncovered roughly $400 million worth of mortgage fraud in Canada last year, an “eye-opening” number industry experts estimate represents only a fraction of the cheating taking place in the country’s real-estate market.

Atlanta-based Equifax says many financial institutions are tightening lending and as a result, deceit in the property market is rising. According to a report the company released Tuesday, two-thirds of all the fraud it sniffed out last year was real-estate related.

“Mortgages are the biggest bang for the buck,” said John Russo, vice-president and legal counsel for Equifax Canada Inc. “So when credit gets tougher to get, that leads to more people falsifying documents, giving false pay stubs, inflating their income, kind of fudging things to get a home.”

The $400 million in mortgage fraud represents only a sliver of the roughly $1 trillion in total residential mortgage credit outstanding at the moment in Canada.

But it rose sharply in 2011 from 2010 in dollar terms, increasing 150 per cent, according to Equifax data.

The figure is “eye-opening,” Russo says, because that’s just the amount Equifax flushed out on its own for its clients. “There’s a lot more out there that just goes under the radar and is not seen and not caught.”

Often tracking strong housing markets, mortgage fraud occurs nationally but is more concentrated in large urban areas in Quebec, Ontario, Albert and B.C., according to the Criminal Intelligence Ser-vice Canada, a federal agency which shares intelligence between police forces.

Numerous criminal groups across Canada are involved in a wide range of mortgage frauds at varying levels, the CISC says, sometimes with the help of industry insiders such as property agents, mortgage brokers and lawyers.

One growing trend is people setting up fictitious identities, building up credit for those fake people and then using the credit to borrow.

Equifax says that five years ago, it had identified 300 such fictitious identities in its national database. Now there are over 2,500.

Using mortgage fraud to further other criminal activity is also common. Criminals are buying properties to open marijuana-growing operations, to trade drugs and to launder money. An increasing number are getting caught and there’s been a dramatic increase in criminal and civil forfeiture cases as a result, said Andrew Bury, a lawyer specializing in loan-security enforcement at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Vancouver.

“They’re grabbing these properties left, right and centre. And over and over again they’re crashing into the mortgage companies, the banks, [who are saying] ‘Wait a second, we have a mortgage on that property.'” Lenders are losing big sums while governments reap the rewards of the seizures, Bury said.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Calgary resale housing market sets all-time record for average sale price – February 2013 MLS sales eclipse prices set in boom of July 2007

Calgary’s resale housing market set an all-time average sale price record in February, eclipsing the mark that has stood since the boom in July 2007.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, the average MLS sale price for a single-family home during the month was $518,452, up 10.32 per cent from last year while the average price for overall MLS sales in the city was $457,119, up 7.49 per cent year-over-year.

The previous single-family home record high for average sale price was $506,671 in July 2007 and it was $452,589 in July 2007 as well for overall MLS sales in the city.

“Calgary’s housing market remains one of the most affordable in Canada and while other major centres have recently been experiencing slower sales activity Calgary is among the top markets in Canada for demand growth,” said Cody Battershill, a realtor with RE/MAX House of Real Estate.

“Alberta incomes continue to lead the country. This is all-around good news for the city as we continue to welcome a steady stream of new Calgarians to be a part of the energy that is Calgary. The city remains an amazing small, big city with one of the highest standards of quality of living in the world and unmatched economic opportunity across all of Canada.”

Total MLS sales of 1,711 in February were a 5.36 per cent hike from a year ago while single-family home sales rose by 0.83 per cent to 1,209.

In the condo apartment category, sales rose by 21.83 per cent to 279 but the average sale price dipped by 0.71 per cent to $287,829.

And in the condo townhouse sector, sales were up 13.78 per cent to 223 and the average sale price increased by 8.49 per cent to $336,406.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald