Recreational home prices sizzle as retirees and young families fight for the right to summer in cottage country

Retirees are competing with young families for the right to summer in cottage country, according to a new report.

In Ontario, the battle is especially intense thanks to low inventory levels, which pushed prices for a single-family home up 7.2 per cent to $393,253 this spring compared to the previous year, according to a new report by Royal Le Page Thursday.

“With the youngest baby boomers a decade away from retirement, and their older peers well on their way, we are seeing robust demand for cottage, cabin and chalet-style retirement properties,” said Phil Soper, chief executive officer of Royal LePage in a press release.

But sales fell in the province 7.9 per cent primarily due to the low housing stock.

“In Muskoka, we are seeing people in their 50s and 60s cashing out with significant amounts of money, as well as those who are coming into money and want to get out of the rat race,” said Bob Clarke, sales representative, Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka.

The real estate brokerage expects prices in the province’s recreational regions to rise a further 8 per cent over the next twelve months to $424,905, despite fears of flooding and wet weather.

The landscape is different at the other end of the country in British Columbia where prices were virtually flat and sales fell 22.5 per cent compared to the previous year.

The downturn in the province’s residential market has spilled over to the recreational market, while lacklustre economic activity in its key source markets of Alberta and Saskatchewan also contributed to the slowdown.

“While sales are down, buyers from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Vancouver are still active in the Okanagan region,” stated Mark Walker, sales representative, Royal LePage Kelowna. “Despite a slowdown in the Alberta economy, there are some positives that help offset the challenges we see.

Alberta saw a price increase of 10.2 per cent, mostly due to an 11.4 per cent increase in the Canmore region.

Recreational property regions in the Prairies decreased in both price and sales, with 6.3 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively. Royal LePage cites the region’s softer economy as the primary driver for this downturn.

Overall, recreational property prices in Canada have grown 5 per cent by spring compared to the previous year, to an average price of $411,471.

However, every province except Quebec saw a decrease in sales, where spring flooding did little to dent sales activity rising 6.3 per cent during the period. Royal LePage attributes the increase to the province’s low unemployment rate, which sat below 5 per cent for the first time since 1976.

“We are also noticing a surge of buyers between the ages of 40 and 60 looking to enjoy the cottage lifestyle and spend more time with the family,” said Dominic St-Pierre, vice president and general manager, Royal LePage, for the Quebec region.

Atlantic Canada and particularly Halifax remain cheapest, with a 5.9 per cent price increase and an aggregate price of 257,965. The real estate agency predicts only a 0.7 per cent price increase next year.

Adil Dinani, real estate advisor at LePage, sees changing interest rates as potential catalysts for the market.

“Oxygen for any real estate market is low interest rates. They generally boost consumer confidence,” said Dinani. “And people are more likely to get into the market if they have the financial capacity to do so.”

He also predicts a shortage of buyers in the higher end of the market, typically homes over $2 million, while the lower and middle ends of the recreational market will stabilize.

To conduct the study, Royal LePage polled 48 realtors and brokers specialized in recreational homes, who in turn collected data such as median prices and unit sales for their respective regions.

-Calgary Herald/ Nicholas Sokic

Calgary’s income, employment, diversity and more: Breaking down the city’s population statistics

The City of Calgary released updated profiles of communities across the city on Thursday, using data gained from the 2016 federal census. The data represents the most up-to-date statistics available that can be used to characterize the population of Calgary’s 200 residential communities and 14 wards.

Postmedia analyzed and broke down some of the highlights:

Population

Calgary’s population in 2016 was 1,222,390. Ward 11, which encompasses communities such as Acadia, Lakeview and Mission, held the highest population in the city when broken down by ward, with 98,785 residents. It was followed closely by Ward 4, home to Beddington Heights, Brentwood, Dalhousie and other northwest communities, where 98,495 people listed their home address that year. The area with the fewest residents was Ward 7, home to the downtown and East Village, Sunnyside, Tuxedo Park and the University District, with a population of 65,070.

Income

Calgary’s most affluent region was Ward 6 — home to southwest communities including Springbank, Glamorgan and Coach Hill — where the median household income before taxes was $124,453 in 2015, the year before the collection of the data. Not far behind was Ward 14, which encompasses areas such as Chaparral, Deer Ridge, Lake Bonavista and Midnapore. The deep southeast ward had a median household income of $121,359, compared to the city’s overall median figure of $97,329. Ward 9, which includes Forest Lawn, Inglewood and Ramsay, had the lowest reported income, at $71,740.

Aboriginal identity

In 2016, nearly 35,200 people living in private households across Calgary identified as Aboriginal. First Nations populations accounted for 15,500 people, followed by Metis at 18,480 and Inuk at 355 (365 people identified with multiple Aboriginal identities). More than 1,100 people cited a knowledge of at least one Aboriginal language, with Blackfoot and Cree being the most common.

Ethnocultural diversity

Wards 5 and 10, both in the northeast, had the highest proportion of people who identify as visible minorities compared to the overall population of each region. More than 80 per cent of those in Ward 5, encompassing areas such as Falconridge, Martindale and Saddle Ridge, identified as a visible minority. In Ward 10, which includes Abbeydale, Marlborough, Mayland Heights and Rundle, the tally was 58 per cent of the population. About 36 per cent of those in Calgary as a whole identified as visible minorities, with the most common ethnicities being South Asian, Chinese and Filipino.

Immigration

More than 89,600 immigrants moved to Calgary between 2011 and 2016. For immigrants who reside in the city, Asia was the most common region from which newcomers emigrate, with 226,330 people across Calgary. The Philippines, India and China account for 34 per cent of the city’s immigrant population when it comes to country of origin. There were also 46,260 refugees across the city.

Language

Ward 5 had the biggest population that spoke neither English nor French, with 5,845 people, or seven per cent of the area’s inhabitants. The northeast ward also had more than 51,000 people who spoke a different language at home most often, with Punjabi, Urdu and Filipino leading the way. There were more than 90,000 French speakers across the city as of 2016, including 1,200 who spoke French only. With more than 10,000 French speakers, southwest Ward 8, encompassing Sunalta, Mount Royal and Killarney, had the highest population with the ability to speak both of Canada’s official languages.

Education

Of more than 996,000 people 15 or older, more than 60 per cent of the population said they own a post-secondary degree, certificate or diploma (one-third of Calgarians achieved that at the bachelor level or above from a university), while about one-quarter of the population held only a high school diploma. Wards 7 and 8 were the most educated regions in Calgary, both with 71 per cent of their respective populations who listed a post-secondary degree, certificate or diploma as their highest academic achievement.

Employment

Nearly three-quarters of Calgarians 15 and older were in the labour force — either working or actively looking for work — as of 2016, with an unemployment rate of 10 per cent across the city. Ward 12, in the deep southeast, and Ward 8 each registered the lowest unemployment rates by section of the city, at eight per cent.

Transportation

By and large, Calgary remains a driving city. More than three-quarters of the population said they get to work everyday by way of a vehicle, such as a car, truck or van, including 71 per cent who are in the driver’s seat themselves. Just 16 per cent, or about 96,500 people, get to work by taking a bus or CTrain, while five per cent walk and two per cent said they ride their bike. Ward 13, in the deep southwest, had the highest percentage of people who use public transit to get to work, at one-fifth of the population. More than 40 per cent of Calgarians said their commute to work takes anywhere from 15 minutes to about half an hour, while 34 per cent said it takes half an hour to an hour to arrive at work.

Housing

In Calgary, 29 per cent of the population said they rented a home in 2016, compared with 71 per cent who owned the property where they lived. Owners indicated they spent nearly $1,600 per month on housing, while renters spent more than $1,300 each month. Ward 2, a northwest area home to communities such as Arbour Lake, Citadel and the Hamptons, had the highest proportion of homeowners, at 89 per cent, compared to renters. By contrast, 56 per cent of those living in the inner-city Ward 8 were renters, the highest percentage in the city. Ward 7 was an even split between renters and owners. Just over one-fifth of Calgarians said they spent more than 30 per cent of their household income on housing in 2016.

-Calgary Herald/ Sammy Hudes

 

May 2019: Sales activity improves for second consecutive month

Sales growth in May was met with a decline in new listings. This combination eased the pressure on inventory levels, which finished the month at 7,467 units, a decline of 12 per cent compared to last year.

Improving sales relative to inventory levels caused the months of supply to ease to just under four months. While still oversupplied, this is an improvement from the five months of supply recorded last May.

Citywide sales in May totalled 1,921 units, 11 per cent higher than last year’s levels. However, sales remain 10 per cent below longer-term trends. This sales growth was primarily driven by homes priced under $500,000.

“While sales activity remains low based on historical activity for May, the easing prices have brought some people back to market, while also preventing some others from listing their homes,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“This has started to push the market towards more balanced conditions. If this trend continues, it could limit some of the downward pressure on prices.”

Citywide benchmark prices totalled $423,100 in May. Prices have shown some signs of improvement month-over-month but remain four per cent lower than 2018 levels.

HOUSING MARKET FACTS

Detached

  • Detached sales in May totalled 1,182 units. This is a 12 per cent increase over last year, but still 13 per cent below long-term averages. The improvement in sales was driven primarily by gains in homes priced under $500,000.
  • Sales activity increased across most districts in May. However, year-to-dates sales have only increased in the East, South and North East districts of the city. Citywide sales remain one per cent lower than last year’s levels.
  • New listings in May pulled back significantly from previous year’s levels. Combined with an improvement in sales, this resulted in inventories declining from 4,504 units last May to 3,921 units this month. This is the first time since May 2017 that year-over-year inventories declined.
  • Easing inventory and improving sales caused months of supply to ease to 3.3 months. This is still elevated compared to historical levels, but represents an improvement compared to levels from the past year.
  • Prices have remained relatively stable over the past few months, with some modest monthly improvements. However, the oversupply scenario has left prices four per cent lower than last year and seven per cent lower than 2014 highs.

Apartment

  • The improvement in monthly sales was not enough to offset previous declines. Year-to-date apartment sales sit at 1,030 units. This is seven per cent lower than last year and 28 per cent lower than longer-term averages. Easing sales were met with fewer new listings, reducing the market inventory. This pushed months of supply to just over five months.
  • If the reduction in oversupply continues, it will eventually help limit price declines. However, this market remains oversupplied and prices continue to edge down.
  • May benchmark prices totalled $246,900, 0.6 per cent lower than last month and nearly three per cent lower than last year’s levels. This is resulting in a total price adjustment of over 17 per cent since 2014.

Attached

  • Attached sales activity continue to improve in May. Year-to-date sales improved by two per cent, making this the only sector to record a year-to-date improvement. Improvements occurred throughout most districts of the city, apart from the City Centre, North West and West districts.
  • New listings have also pulled back relative to sales. This is causing inventories to ease compared to last year and months of supply to trend down.
  • Benchmark prices remain five per cent lower than last year’s levels but have seen some modest gains on a month-to-month basis. Despite some signs of improvement, prices remain 10 per cent lower than 2014 highs.

REGIONAL MARKET FACTS

Airdrie

  • May sales activity remained similar to last year, pushing year-to-date sales to 514 units. This is slightly higher than last year’s levels. At the same time, there has been a sharp pullback in new listings coming onto the market. This is causing inventories to decline and the market to move towards more balanced conditions.
  • Despite some oversupply reduction, prices struggled to improve following declines last year. The May benchmark price in Airdrie was $331,900, similar to last month, but nearly four per cent below last year’s levels.

Cochrane

  • Year-to-date sales in the area remain slightly slower than last year, but higher than activity recorded throughout the recession. The number of new listings is continuing to ease, which is starting to reduce inventories from the highs recorded last year.
  • Supply is starting to adjust in this market, but conditions continue to favour the buyer, which is weighing on prices. May benchmark prices totalled $404,700, just below last month and over four per cent less than last year’s levels.

Okotoks

  • Year-to-date sales of 208 units are similar to last year’s levels, but lower than long-term averages for the area. Like many other areas, new listings continue to ease, enough to chip away at inventory levels. This has caused months of supply to fall below four months.
  • The reduction in the amount of supply compared to sales is helping limit any further downward pressure on prices. Overall benchmark prices of $408,200 remain five per cent lower than levels recorded last year.

-CREBNOW

Bank of Canada senior deputy governor discusses health of housing market at Calgary Chamber

Ongoing weakness in Alberta’s housing market “can be explained by adjustment over the past five years to continuing challenges in the energy sector,” said Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, during a recent speech at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“Alberta and other energy-intensive regions have been on an economic roller coaster over the past few years. This has led to painful adjustments for many of you here and has also weighed on Canada’s bottom line,” said Wilkins.

“When it comes to the energy sector, we expect the current adjustment to continue. Between 2014 and 2016, energy investment dropped by 50 per cent. In April, based on discussions with companies, we estimated that investment in this sector would drop another 20 per cent before stabilizing. Investment should average around $40 billion over the next two years – that’s still 15 per cent of total investment in Canada.”

Outside of Alberta, she said the housing market has been a concern in other areas of the country as well, but signs of stabilization are emerging.

“ESCALATING TARIFF ACTIONS BY THE UNITED STATES AND CHINA, AND RELATED TENSIONS, HAVE UNDERMINED TRADE AND BUSINESS INVESTMENT. AND HOUSING, A LINCHPIN OF THE RECOVERY SINCE THE CRISIS, SLOWED SHARPLY.” – CAROLYN WILKINS, BANK OF CANADA SENIOR DEPUTY GOVERNOR

“The greater Vancouver market, which had been quite frothy, is still adjusting,” she said. “This follows changes in mortgage financing rules, past increases in interest rates, and the provincial and municipal measures aimed at discouraging speculation and foreign buyers.

“Weather likely affected the Toronto area in recent months, and, while we need to see more data, that market is showing signs of stabilizing.”

Wilkins said Canada’s economic performance had been relatively solid until recently, but the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 have set it back.

“As you here in Calgary know all too well, there was the drop in oil prices last autumn and ongoing transportation constraints,” she said. “Escalating tariff actions by the United States and China, and related tensions, have undermined trade and business investment. And housing, a linchpin of the recovery since the crisis, slowed sharply.”

In its April forecast, the Bank of Canada predicted economic growth in Canada will slow to 1.2 per cent this year from 1.8 per cent in 2018.

“Slower growth isn’t all about trade uncertainty and the global slowdown. This outlook also takes into account the effect of lower oil prices and transportation constraints in energy-intensive regions,” the forecast report reads. “Growth excluding these energy-related factors would be 0.3 percentage points higher. The outlook also accounts for the housing slowdown, which has been deeper and more prolonged than expected, particularly in the greater Vancouver and Toronto areas.”

-Mario Toneguzzi

‘Easy as pie’: Why criminals look to Canadian real estate to launder their money

News that some $5 billion was laundered through British Columbia’s real estate market in 2018 comes as no surprise to experts, as Canada’s weak money-laundering laws make it an attractive spot to park ill-gotten cash.

Kevin Comeau, author of a recent C.D. Howe report on money laundering, says people in corruption-prone states who seek to hide the source of their wealth can’t just buy a big house in their community, so they often look to cache it abroad.

“Autocracies, kleptocracies, developing and transitioning nations — they’ve got corruption from politicians and they’ve got crime from drugs and human trafficking. They can’t keep that money in their own country without the risk of it being confiscated by someone closer to power,” Comeau said.

They often start by mixing ill-gotten gains with legitimate proceeds — from a restaurant or other cash business — and depositing them in a bank.

“What’s a bank to do? Go down and start counting the dishes?” he asked.

The funds are then funnelled through a series of shell companies and trusts registered in tax havens such as the Seychelles or British Virgin Islands. These states have tiny corporate taxes and, like Canada, offer anonymity by allowing the real, or “beneficial,” owner to go undisclosed.

With some of the weakest money-laundering laws among liberal democracies, Canada stands out as a place to launder cash, said Comeau, a retired lawyer and member of Transparency International Canada’s working group on beneficial ownership transparency.

Houses, mansions and whole floors’ worth of condominiums can act as a kind of bank account in bricks-and-mortar form, with the purchase made by a numbered corporation, incorporated in Canada by an offshore lawyer and owned by layers of shell companies in various tax havens.

“It’s easy as pie,” said Comeau. “You can do it in about five minutes and you don’t have to disclose anything.”

International money launderers typically leave the properties vacant, driving up real estate prices and hollowing out neighbourhoods, said Garry Clement, former national director of the RCMP’s Proceeds of Crime Program.

Renting the property out would involve a cheque or email transfer, which usually necessitates an account at a Canadian bank for the receiver and leaves them exposed to anti-money-laundering screens.

“For organized crime lords, $5 million is pocket change,” Clement said, noting the lack of incentive for rental income.

The property ownership timeline is typically medium- to long-term, rather than the quick cash turnarounds available through casinos and luxury car purchases, he said. “Most of it’s for parking money.”

Last year some $7.4 billion overall was laundered in B.C., out of a total of $47 billion across Canada, according to Thursday’s report by an expert panel led by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney.

“But Ontario is notorious for being a money-laundering front,” Clement said, adding that other provinces are far from immune.

More than $3 trillion in dirty money entered the international finance system last year, according to Comeau.

In a September report from the C.D. Howe Institute, he recommended tightening the regulatory regime with a publicly accessible registry of beneficial ownership and mandatory declarations of beneficial ownership, alongside meaningful sanctions for false declarations.

The British Columbia government introduced legislation last month aimed at preventing tax evasion and money laundering by shining a spotlight on anonymous real estate owners, making the province an anti-money-laundering “leader in Canada,” he said.

-Calgary Herald