Purchasing/Living in a Condominium

October, 30 2023 Published by Manitoba Chapter - By Alan Reiss

The Reiss Report: Condo Real Estate Blog

From the CCI Manitoba Fall 2023 Condominium News and Views Magazine

In its second quarter report, the Bank of Canada indicated it may hold off on increasing its key interest rate again from the current five per cent. This is due to evidence indicating the economy is cooling and there has also been a cooling in Canada’s housing market and prices. This cooling continued in the third quarter. While a rate hike has not been conclusively ruled out, it does not appear there will be any further increases in the prime lending rate this year. However, do not expect rate cuts any time soon.

Housing affordability

In a RE/MAX national condominium report released in early October that was based on the first eight months of 2023, other than outliers such as Calgary and Edmonton, where sales and prices have increased, the report’s examination of a number of other major markets in the country (not including Winnipeg) shows a slower market compared with 2022, with no expectation that it will change in the last quarter given the higher interest rate environment and Canadians being challenged by affordability issues such as rising costs of food and fuel.

The report says “affordability remains a top concern in most markets across the country.” Despite some softening in overall values, the report found that carrying costs are proving prohibitive for many buyers at today's interest rates. RE/MAX Brokers in several markets noted that current qualifications for mortgage financing are a roadblock to home ownership, given that the need to pass a “stress test” — to prove you can afford payments at a qualifying interest rate — adds another two per cent to already high posted rates. Not surprisingly, the most active areas in every market are often those where affordable condominiums can be found. “First-time buyers and investors remain most active in condominium markets, with lower price points doing well virtually across the board,” the report says.

If Winnipeg were included in this report, it would fall in line with other major markets with its decrease in sales activity in 2023 compared with 2022 — though it is less affected due to its more affordable, lower condominium prices. 

So sellers and buyers are beginning to adjust to higher financing costs and be more optimistic that the market will continue to stabilize in the fourth quarter and believe they will have less uncertainty to contend with. This is especially the case after the rate increases that occurred in 2022 and well into 2023 that were an integral and impactful part of the real estate market recently.

How is the Winnipeg condominium market adjusting? It appears to be doing quite well in the third quarter. Let's bear in mind that Winnipeg and its surrounding rural market have some of the most affordable condominium prices in the country. The Winnipeg condominium market also has a clear advantage, as has been well documented in prior condominium market updates, in that it has a distinct competitive and comparative advantage versus the higher-priced, single-family home market.

In Manitoba, where no tax relief is provided as it is in other provinces for first-time buyers on land transfer taxes (Alberta has no land transfer tax), condominium purchases below and around $200,000 have a real advantage in this regard. Why? Manitoba land transfer taxes rise much more rapidly over the $200,000 threshold at a rate of two per cent. For example, up to $200,000, land transfer taxes are $1,650, whereas for another $100,000 in value, at the $300,000 level you will be required to pay the provincial government another $2,000. Land transfer taxes cannot be added to your mortgage, as they are an upfront charge when you purchase a home or condo. Therefore, first-time buyers are challenged with no equity built up from an existing ownership property to help them cover this additional cost in their purchase.

Third quarter results

Let's take a closer look at the numbers and results for the third quarter. Despite another quarter point increase in the Bank of Canada overnight lending rate in July, this did not result in dampening sales, as they were able to eclipse 200, as predicted in my last report. Sales were down six per cent from a strong performing July 2022 and previous pandemic years but well ahead of 2019.

Worth noting is the percentage of sales converted from the new listings coming on the market. In July, the rate was 63 per cent, less than two percentage points off single-family home sales. This is an important performance metric and one noticed last year when condominiums were reaching a similar level to the much busier and sought-after single-family properties. In CREA’s recently revised national forecast for the remainder of 2023, it says sales to new listings ratios have dropped off from 70 per cent earlier in the year to 50 per cent now. Our local market is not experiencing that fall off. Better affordability is clearly one of the primary reasons we are not following this national trend.

The August condominiums sales-to-new listings ratio of 73 per cent is even that much better than July and shows demand holding firm. It was one percentage point higher than single-family home sales. The stronger conversions of listings to sales resulted in the highest-ever August average sales price of $279,055. August also shows how summer months can be very solid, with condominium sales of close to 200. August 2023 outsold August 2022, albeit only by the slightest of margins. Nevertheless, sales in comparison to even busier August months during the pandemic years are not far off them in percentage terms.

September concluded the third quarter in good order, with 169 sales, equalling September 2022 and only 10 sales behind the five-year average for that month. A 64 per cent conversion of sales to new listings paved the way for the highest September monthly average sales price recorded — $272,513. That’s two per cent above 2022 and nine per cent higher than the five-year average.

One out of every four sales in September was in the $200,000-to-$249,999 range, with the second most active price range of $150,000-to-$199,999 making up 19 per cent of total sales. Only August was a departure from these two leading price ranges in the third quarter, with the $250,000-to-$299,999 price range eking out one more sale than the next lower bracket and therefore helping push the average sales price to $279,055.

Active listings for October sat at 449, down 13 per cent from August 2022 and 27 per cent from the five-year average. On an annual basis, with nine months complete, the condominium average sales price is just under $260,000, two per cent below the same period in 2022. However, it is well above previous years, in which the average sales price hovered around $240,000. 

Year-to-date perspective

Year-to-date condominium sales are at 1,555, a 14 per cent decrease from 2022 and 23 per cent off the record-shattering year of 2021. This result remains, however, in a solid third place heading into the fourth quarter. These sales represent 15 per cent of total MLS® sales, with single-family homes by far the dominant selling property type, with a 70 per cent market share.

Condominium listings entered on the MLS® this year are down six per cent from 2022 and 15 per cent over the five-year average. The uncertainty around higher interest rates and the economy, despite the better-than-expected job numbers, has not been conducive to spurring on new listings and that has kept the condo market relatively tight, with less choice than in previous years.

To no one’s surprise, Osborne Village remains the MLS® area with the highest condo sales, at 140, well off last year’s pace of 168. A distant second place is downtown, with 78 sales, much lower than last year’s 102. The same pattern emerges again in the third most active MLS® area of Linden Woods. It reached 75 sales in 2023, well behind the 114 sold in 2022.

River Park South, which is another active condo MLS® area, has the exact same number of listings and sales as 2022 – 83 and 66 respectively. This works out to a high 80 per cent conversion rate. Outside Winnipeg, the two leading condo sales areas of Morden/Winkler and Steinbach are countering the downward trend in a number of MLS® areas within Winnipeg this year with strong results and impressive conversions of listings to sales. Morden/Winkler has the fourth-highest sales of any Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board MLS® area at 67, while Steinbach has 55 sales. Last year, these areas generated just 51 and 44 sales. In Steinbach, 96 per cent of the 57 listings entered on the MLS® sold this year.

Speaking of conversions, the overall conversion of condo sales to listings this year is 64 per cent, with the average days to sell at 34. It was 70 per cent in 2022, with condos being on the market for an average of 25 days.

In conclusion

The third quarter held its own with 2022 and delivered some high monthly average sales prices, which are more on par with the peak months in 2022. The MLS® Home Price Index, which is the best gauge of price trends in any Canadian real-estate market, shows how the condo apartment benchmark price has been on an upward trajectory since March 2023 and ended September at $227,600. This price level is only $3,000 behind the peak condo Home Price Index benchmark apartment price established in July 2022.

With three months to go until the year end, there are some encouraging signs to build on from the third quarter and I will look forward to breaking down the results for the entire year in January 2024.

Alan Reiss is a director of CCI Manitoba and a condo specialist realtor for RE/MAX PROFESSIONAL.


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