April brings a slight inventory decline 

 

There have been no significant changes occurring in sales activity, but the number of new listings coming onto the market continues to ease relative to 2018 levels.

The decline in new listings was enough to start chipping away at overall inventory levels, which have eased slightly compared to last year.

The slight adjustment in supply levels has helped support further reductions in the months of supply, which was 4.6 months in April. While this level still represents oversupply in our market, it does reflect improvement from the nearly seven months of supply that we saw at the start of the year.

“Demand remains relatively weak in the resale market. However, if supply levels continue to adjust, this could help reduce the amount of oversupply and eventually support some price stability,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

As of April, the total residential benchmark price in Calgary was $415,900. This is slightly higher than last month, but still nearly five per cent lower than last year’s levels.

Citywide sales were 1,547 units in April, two per cent higher than last year’s levels. Year-to-date sales remain nearly six per cent lower than last year and are 26 per cent below longer-term averages.

“Sales have been improving mostly in the lower price ranges, causing tighter supply conditions in that segment.  This will likely have a different impact on price trends in the lower price ranges depending on location,” said Lurie.


HOUSING MARKET FACTS

Detached

  • Detached sales improved by nearly three per cent in April compared to last year, due to gains in homes priced under $500,000. However, with 930 sales, activity still remain 24 per cent below long-term averages.  Recent gains were also not high enough to offset pullbacks earlier in the year, causing year-to-date sales to fall by over five per cent.
  • Improving sales did not occur across all districts. In April, there was growth in the North East, North West, South and South East districts of the city. Despite some signs of sales improvement, overall sales activity remains well below 10-year averages throughout every region in the city.
  • April detached inventories citywide continue to remain just above levels recorded last year. Months of supply remain relatively unchanged at four months.
  • The amount of oversupply has varied significantly depending on the area of the city. Months of supply has only risen in the City Centre, South and West districts of the city.
  • Despite some of the adjustments occurring in the detached sector, overall April prices remain lower than last year’s levels across all districts. Year to date, the largest year-over-year declines occurred in in the City Centre, North West and South districts.

Apartment

  • Despite the affordability of apartment condominiums, sales activity continues to fall across the city and in most districts. There have been 714 apartment condominium sales so far this year, the lowest level since 2001.
  • The decline in new listings has started to outweigh the sales decline, causing inventories to ease. As of April, resale apartment condominium inventories totaled 1,546 units, 16 per cent lower than inventory levels last April.
  • The easing inventories have also caused the months of supply to decline to just above six months. While this is still a buyers’ market, this trend could help ease the downward pressure on prices if it continues.
  • Apartment condominium prices in April totalled $250,400, comparable to last month, but over two per cent below last year’s levels and nearly 17 per cent below 2014 highs.

Attached

  • Attached sales activity improved compared to last year’s levels for the second straight month, almost offsetting the declines occurring in the first two months of the year.  Year-to-date sales were 1,113 units, nearly one per cent below last year’s levels, and 14 per cent below long-term averages.
  • Year-to-date sales have improved in all districts except the City Centre, North West and West.
  • Improved sales and easing listings have helped prevent further inventory gains in this sector and overall months of supply have trended down to five months.
  • Following several months of prices trending down, semi-detached benchmark prices in April rose over the previous month. However, prices remain over five per cent below last year’s levels at $395,300.
  • Row prices were $284,900 in April, over five per cent below last year’s levels.


REGIONAL MARKET FACTS

Airdrie

  • Stronger sales in March and April offset earlier declines, causing year-to-date sales to total 363 units, similar to levels recorded last year. New listings continue to decline, causing April inventories to ease compared to last year. Months of supply remain elevated at five months, but this is a notable improvement compared to last year, when months of supply was over six months.
  • Rising sales and easing inventories helped prevent further price declines in April compared to March. However, overall, April prices remained nearly four per cent below last year’s levels. Prices have eased across all property types, with the largest year-to-date decline in the apartment sector at eight per cent.

Cochrane

  • Despite improving sales in April, year-to-date sales in Cochrane eased by six per cent compared to last year. However, new listings have also eased, helping reduce some of the inventory in the market.  While inventories and months of supply remain elevated, for the first time since June 2018, the months of supply fell below six months.
  • Some improvement with oversupply has likely prevented further monthly declines in prices. As of April, total benchmark prices remain over three per cent below last year’s levels for a total of $415,100.

Okotoks

  • Despite some recent improvements in sales, year-to-date sales activity slowed compared to last year. New listings have also eased, but it was not enough to prevent further inventory gains, keeping months of supply above five months.
  • The amount of oversupply has impacted prices. April residential prices totalled $406,700. This is nearly four per cent below last year’s levels. Price declines were slightly higher in the attached sector, with a year-over-year decline of nearly five per cent.

-CREB

Job market weakness and lending restrictions a common thread in 2018’s housing market

As oversupply continues in Calgary’s housing market, December prices eased by one per cent compared to last month and are over three per cent below last December.

“Persistent weakness in the job market and changes in the lending market impacted sales activity in the resale market this year,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“This contributed to elevated supply in the resale market, resulting in price declines.”

December sales totalled 794 units, a 21 per cent decline over the previous year. Overall year-to-date sales in the city totalled 16,144 units. This is a 14 per cent decline over 2017 and nearly 20 per cent below long-term averages.

Inventory levels in December sat at 4,904 units. This is well above levels recorded last year and 30 per cent above typical levels for the month. Elevated resale inventories in 2018 were caused by gains in the detached and attached sectors.

Throughout 2018, the months of supply remained elevated and averaged 5.2 months. This contributed to the annual average benchmark price decline of 1.5 per cent. Price declines occurred across all product types and have caused citywide figures to remain over nine per cent below the monthly highs recorded in 2014.

“Both buyers and sellers faced adjustments in expectations this year. Sellers had to compete with more choice in the resale market, but also the new-home market,” said CREB® president Tom Westcott.

“With less people looking for a home, it became a choice between delaying when to sell or adjusting the sale price. However, buyers looking for more affordable product did not find the same price adjustments that existed in some of the higher price ranges.”

 

HOUSING MARKET FACTS

Detached

  • Detached sales declined across all districts in 2018. With citywide sales of 9,945 units, activity remains 21 per cent below typical levels for the year.
  • Detached inventories were higher than last year’s levels for each month of the year, including December. Slow sales caused the market to be oversupplied through most of 2018.
  • Detached benchmark prices totalled $481,400 in December, a one per cent decline over last month and a three per cent decline over last year. Overall, 2018 prices declined by 1.5 per cent compared to last year.
  • Prices have eased across most districts in 2018. The largest declines this year have occurred in the North East, North West and North districts.

 

Apartment

  • Apartment sales totalled 2,663 units in 2018. While the decline is less than other product types, levels are 22 per cent below long-term averages.
  • The apartment condominium sector has struggled with oversupply for almost three years and 2018 was no exception.
  • However, supply has been easing, as inventories this year averaged 1,584 units, one per cent below last year’s levels.
  • Despite slowing supply growth, the market remained oversupplied, causing further price declines. In December, benchmark prices were $251,500, over two per cent below last year. Annually, prices have declined by nearly three per cent for a total decline of 14 per cent since 2014.
  • Price declines this year have ranged from a high of nearly six per cent in the East district to a low of two per cent in both the City Centre and North West districts.

 

Attached

  • Declines for both row and semi-detached product resulted in 2018 attached sales of 3,536 units, a 15 per cent decline over the previous year and 14 per cent below long-term averages.
  • Slower sales activity prompted some pull-back in new listings, but this was limited to the row sector. Row new listings declined by four per cent and semi-detached new listings rose by nearly 15 per cent in 2018.
  • Despite some adjustments to new listings, inventory levels remained elevated, keeping the market in buyers’ market territory and putting downward pressure on prices.
  • In December, the semi-detached benchmark price totalled $397,500. This is a monthly and year-over-year decline of 0.8 and 3.8 per cent, respectively. Recent price declines have caused this sector to erase any of the gains that occurred last year, as 2018 prices remain just below 2017 levels. Overall, annual prices remain 1.4 per cent below 2014 peak levels.
  • Row prices have also been edging down. As of December, row prices were $288,400, a 1.5 per cent decline from last month and nearly four per cent below last year’s levels. Overall, 2018 prices remain two per cent below last year’s levels and nearly 10 per cent below previous highs.

 

REGIONAL MARKET FACTS

Airdrie

  • In 2018, the Airdrie housing market was distinctly marked by oversupply and signs of buyers’ market conditions. Compared to last year, inventory levels and months of supply have been significantly higher, combined with lower levels of sales. This has led to downward pressures on the benchmark price for detached homes.
  • Annual residential sales exhibited a year-over-year decline of 14 per cent and were almost 19 per cent lower than activity over the past 5 years. This consistent decline was observed across all product types.
  • Supply in 2018 was at record-high levels, with new listings achieving a new year-to-date peak for most of the year. Inventories have also been continuously increasing throughout this year and are 12 per cent higher than in 2017. Months of supply have increased steadily and averaged 5.6 months in 2018.
  • Persistent oversupply has resulted in a decline in Airdrie prices.  In 2018 detached benchmark prices averaged $369,042, over two percent below last year

 

Cochrane

  • Declining by 64 units, 2018 sales in Cochrane were lower than the previous year. However, an annual count of 599 sales remains comparable to activity over the past three years.
  • In 2018 there were 1,288 new listings, the highest on record.  Elevated new listings and easing sales resulted in rising inventories and months of supply that averaged nearly 7 months.
  • Elevated supply has caused detached prices to trend down over the second half of the year, however, it was not enough to offset earlier gains.  In 2018, detached benchmark prices have remained comparable to last year.

 

Okotoks

  • 2018 residential sales in Okotoks were 463 units, a decline over last year and comparable to 2010 activity.
  • Gains in new listings combined with slower sales resulted in rising inventory and excess supply in this market.
  • Despite increased supply and weak sales, detached home prices in Okotoks showed modest increases in 2018. The average detached benchmark price totalled $434,875, which is one per cent higher than last year.

 

-CREB

Calgary home sales slide 14% compared with a year ago

Home sales were down 14 per cent in Calgary compared with a year ago, the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) said in its December 2018 release. (Sheryl Nadler/CBC)

It continued to be a buyer’s market for real estate in Calgary last month, according to the latest numbers from the local real estate board.

The November sales tally in the city was 1,171 units, and for the year so far, 15,349 units sold — a 14 per cent decline over last year and nearly 20 per cent below long-term averages, said the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) said in a release Monday.

Sales figures continue to be depressed in part because of Alberta’s struggling energy sector, said CREB’s chief economist, Ann-Marie Lurie.

“Recent challenges in the energy sector have weighed on consumer confidence over the past month. Combined with weakness in the employment market and further gains in lending rates, this is impacting ownership demand,” she said.

“Higher inventories and weaker sales are resulting in buyer’s market conditions and price declines.”

The citywide benchmark price was $422,600 in November, nearly one per cent lower than the previous month — and more than three per cent below last year’s levels.

New listings dropped by seven per cent in November compared with last year.

Sales dip in most price ranges

Sales so far this year were down in all price ranges, except for homes priced below $200,000, which now accounts for nearly six per cent of all sales.

The largest decline in sales has occurred in the $600,000 to $999,9999 range, CREB said.

“In any market, affordable product is always desirable,” said CREB president Tom Westcott.

“For buyers, it may mean being able to step into a home that was previously unattainable. It also means that sellers need to be keenly aware what is successfully selling in their neighbourhood and surrounding communities.”

In the apartment sector, 2,557 units have sold so far this year, five per cent lower than last year and 21 per cent below long-term averages, CREB says.

Inner-city condos accounted for 48 per cent of that sales activity.

Attached home sales were down 16 per cent year over year at 3,344 units sold, and 14 per cent lower than the long-term average.

Oversupply weighs down prices

CREB says oversupply is continuing to weigh down prices in this sector, with the benchmark price for a semi-detached home at $400,700 — a year-over-year dip of 3.3 per cent.

Detached home sales in Calgary were down in all districts in November, with 679 units sold — 21 per cent below typical activity for the month.

The benchmark price for a detached home was $486,000 in November — down three per cent over last year, and nearly seven per cent below the monthly highs recorded in October 2014.

Digital devices in the classroom: A learning aid or a toxic distraction for kids?

While some schools are introducing iPads as part of their daily curriculum, and others are banning all digital devices entirely; the topic of devices in the classroom is hotly debated, especially as we enter Back To School season.

This recent article that went viral on Twitter recently demonstrates just how divisive this topic can be.

https://twitter.com/nick_kapur/status/1032687436185436166/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1032687436185436166&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fblog.remarkable.com%2Fmedia%2Ff41b71e7a040169fc2ef74601b8bb27d%3FpostId%3Da5efb434809

Many of us feel like the powerful folks in Silicon Valley, the ones who try and feed our kids more technology, are keeping it away from their own children.

So, are access to digital devices good or bad for helping kids learn in the classroom? Or is the answer more nuanced than that?

We took a look at the pros, cons and recent research to find out:

Why exposure to digital devices in the classroom is a good thing?

Whether we agree with it or not, technology is a big part of our lives and school-aged children today are very much digital natives: They grow up with technology rather than learning the skills as an adult (like many of us in the older generations who are more aptly named “digital immigrants.”)

In the US more than one of three middle school students report using smartphones (39%) and tablets (31%) to do homework according to a 2012 study commissioned by Verizon.

Much of the world that they already have, and will, interact with is digital. This includes the inevitable use of technology in their future careers. So why not have it as part of their education?

According to a study by the IT Trade Association, educators say that developing technological skills with their students is important preparation for joining the workforce later in life.

Students need to be device and mobile literate for their careers, and the students themselves seem to concur; with nine out of ten agreeing that using technology in the classroom would help prepare them for the digital future.

Alongside this is the importance of promoting good digital citizenship. Using the internet effectively, responsibly and safely are important skills which should be developed by parents, educators and school counselors.

Do digital devices in the classroom help kids learn?

While the argument for digital device education and experience seems strong, is this sort of technology in the classroom actually beneficial to learning?

As Vawn Himmelsbach, Education Technology writer, points out; there are seemingly lots of reasons why online digital devices help in the learning environment. Not only do students have access to a vast world of information and learning materials but that this kind of technology allows students to learn at their own pace through individualized instruction.

Also, rather than just passively learning in the classroom, kids become more much interactive with the teacher thus they become more of an advisor or coach as the kids explore their learning more independently.

Lastly, using online polls, quizzes and similar activities could help engage all students, including those who are normally shy and wouldn’t always raise their hand in class to participate.

It’s no wonder that, in a recent survey, around 75% of educators think technology has a positive impact in the education process.

While this sounds promising, and there are clear advantages to having technology in the classroom, the current research in this area suggests that we should be cautious with how we use it and that learning can just as quickly be hindered by these same devices.

What the research says:

While some devices can be of benefit, there’s a plethora of research also suggesting that many of these devices, especially laptops, distract from learning. Not only for the student using the device but for those around them.

In one particular study they found that, regardless of the duration, any laptop use negatively affects students learning in terms of information recollection. This is backed by the fact that multitasking and distraction devices affect our ability to study, as we outlined in our recent article on “How to stay focused while studying”.

This is certainly true when the device allows for browsing that isn’t relevant to the studies. But another study reported that, even when the device allows for relevant information browsing and school-related apps and sites, that this isn’t helpful for learning either.

When it comes to devices like iPads, which have growing popularity in classes for much younger students, the results seem much the same.

While people (students and educators alike) report enjoying having them in the classroom, there is much concern around the potential to be distracted by them.

It’s also worth noting that handwriting, rather than typing, is very beneficial to information processing, focus and memory. Read more about it in our recent article on the benefits of handwriting.

We also recently explored the latest trend of embracing doodling in the classroom as well. Which is shown to have similar benefits.

Conclusion? It’s not the device, it’s the distraction.

Being able to use digital devices efficiently is an important part of education for young digital natives and there seems to be lots of good arguments for the benefits of these technologies to aid learning.

However, many of these devices are proving to be too distracting and come with platforms and apps that are inherently designed to be addictive and steal your focus.

This is what drives our philosophy at reMarkable. We created a new type of device as a protest to the distractions that surround us every day. A digital tool designed to reclaim our thoughts and focus. Setting a new direction for human-friendly technology.

-Medium

27-storey luxury hotel unveiled for downtown Calgary

Calgary is getting a new luxury hotel.

Inspired by hotels in London and New York, PBA Land and Development chief executive Patricia Phillips said The Dorian will combine a local feel with British flair.

Construction of the hotel at 525 5th Avenue S.W. will begin in June. The 27-storey hotel will have 300 rooms with a main-floor restaurant, conference facilities, fitness facility and a top-floor restaurant-lounge with an outdoor patio.

“We can help do more than get this city back on its feet, we can help it rise to even greater heights,” said Phillips at a downtown press conference Thursday.

The $100-million hotel is to open in the fall of 2020 and will employ more than 150 people.

The hotel will cater to two distinct markets, said PBA senior vice-president Andrew Boblin. The Marriott Courtyard in the lower portion will appeal to “discerning business and leisure travellers” who are price-conscious, while the upper-level Marriott Autograph Collection is for travellers expecting “experiential luxury.”

The Dorian is the first project in the local initiative Calgary Rising, which is working to stimulate Calgary’s economy through private infrastructure projects. According to Phillips, the hotel will also support local businesses by using local soaps, linens and food.

“We’ll be buying and displaying works by local artists, photographers and sculptures. We’ll be playing music from local musicians and DJs,” Phillips added.

Arjun Channa, director with the Calgary Hotel Association, said numbers have been improving lately as the city emerges from the economic downturn of 2014.

“There is definitely an uptick. … With the exception of a couple of months this year, overall the year is looking very promising,” said Channa.

Calgary Economic Development CEO Mary Moran said the hotel is a perfect match for the city’s aspiring, young demographic, while Calgary Tourism CEO Cindy Ady said the project will boost tourism.

“One in 10 Calgarians make their living in tourism … . This is a shining new example of where Calgary is heading as it goes into the future,” said Ady.

STEPHANIE BABYCH

Calgary Herald

Canadian home sales fall to lowest level in five years

Canadian home sales fell to the lowest in more than five years in April, as tougher mortgage qualification rules deterred buyers.

The number of homes sold last month declined 2.9 per cent from March, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday from Ottawa. Declines were recorded in about 60 per cent of cities tracked including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

It was a disappointing start to the busy spring selling season for realtors that suggests markets are still struggling with tougher rules that require borrowers to prove they can afford to cope with higher interest rates. Policy makers made the changes along with other steps, such as foreign buyers taxes, to put the brakes on a surge in price gains last year that some fear could be a danger to the financial system.

The drop in April is the third monthly decline this year, with sales down over 20 per cent since December. The new mortgage qualification rules kicked on Jan. 1.

“This year’s new stress test has lowered sales activity and destabilized market balance for housing markets in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland,” CREA economist Gregory Klump wrote in the report. “This is exactly the type of collateral damage that CREA warned the government about.”

Even with the drop in sales, prices are still holding up. The benchmark index climbed 0.6 per cent on the month, and is up 1.5 per cent from a year ago.

The number of new homes listed for sale also declined 4.8 per cent in April.

-Bloomberg News

TD Bank drops 5-year variable mortgage rate as competition among big lenders heats up

TD Bank is joining a rival bank in offering a highly discounted variable mortgage rate as competition among Canada’s biggest lenders heats up.

The Toronto-based bank said Tuesday it’s lowering its five-year variable closed rate to 2.45 per cent, or 1.15 per cent lower than its TD Mortgage Prime rate, until May 31.

TD’s special rate follows last week’s move by the Bank of Montreal, which discounted its variable mortgage rate to 2.45 per cent until the end of May.

Canada’s lenders often offer special spring mortgage rates as homebuying activity picks up, but Robert McLister — founder of rate comparison website RateSpy.com — said last week that BMO’s special discounted variable rate was the biggest widely advertised discount ever by a Big Six Canadian bank.

TD’s discounted rate on Tuesday brings its variable mortgage rate offer in line with BMO’s.
“TD is not lying down,” McLister said Tuesday. “Mortgage growth is the lowest since 2001, you’ve got interest rates going up, and less people getting mortgages because of that… They have the ability to match this rate and still make money.”

TD spokeswoman Julie Bellissimo says its special five-year variable rate applies to new and renewed mortgages, as well as the variable rate term portion of certain TD home equity lines of credit.

“We are confident this is a strong offer for new and renewing customers, while ensuring we remain competitive in a changing environment,” Bellissimo said in an emailed statement.

The moves come amid slowing mortgage growth. The Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday that national home sales volume sank to the lowest level in more than five years in April, falling by 13.9 per cent from the same month last year. The national average sale price decreased by 11.3 per cent year-over-year.

Home sales have slowed due to various factors, including measures introduced by the Ontario and B.C. governments to cool the housing market, such as taxes on non-resident buyers.

Other headwinds for mortgage growth include higher interest rates and a new financial stress test that makes it more difficult for would-be homebuyers to qualify with federally regulated lenders, such as the banks.

As of Jan. 1, buyers who don’t need mortgage insurance must prove they can make payments at a qualifying rate of the greater of two percentage points higher than the contractual mortgage rate or the central bank’s five-year benchmark rate. An existing stress test also stipulates that homebuyers with less than a 20 per cent down payment seeking an insured mortgage must qualify at the central bank’s benchmark five-year mortgage rate.

The tighter lending rules are making it harder for homebuyers to qualify for uninsured mortgages, and shrinking the pool of qualified buyers for higher-priced homes, CREA’s chief economist Gregory Klump said in April.

Meanwhile, Canada’s largest lenders all raised their benchmark posted five-year fixed mortgage rates in recent weeks as government bond yields increased, signalling a rise in borrowing costs.

In turn, the central bank’s five year benchmark qualifying rate — which is calculated using the posted rates at the Big Six banks — increased last week to 5.34 per cent. This qualifying rate is used in stress tests for both insured and uninsured mortgages, and an increase means that the bar is now even higher for borrowers to qualify.

As well, since July, the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates three times to 1.25 per cent, putting added pressure on consumers. But a rising interest rate environment also means that the margins — or profit made on loans — on mortgages for banks will improve if interest rates rise. Rising interest rates also drive up demand for fixed-rate mortgages, and banks may discount variable mortgage rates in an effort to balance the books, according to McLister.

-Calgary Herald