© Geraldine Brophy
Real estate signs scatter the Carberry's Road area in Corner Brook on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — Corner Brook deputy mayor Donna Luther says the decline in housing sales in the city is not indicative of what is actually happening.
According to Ken Brown, the western director on the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Realtors, housing sales were down 28 per cent in Corner Brook during the first quarter of 2013. Over the course of a year, that would equate to between 60 and 70 less houses sold, according to the realtor.
Although, he is waiting on number from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Brown believes the trend has continued now beyond the first half of the year. He expects it could be later this year or into 2014 before it rebounds.
Luther says statistics don’t always tell the story when it comes to such issues. Sometimes, there are positives within negatives, she said.
“I don’t want to look at it as doom and gloom, we are dying here,” she said. “I want to think there are other options available to people, something that has been fairly new in the city— having new apartment complexes available to us.
“With the bad comes the good. I refuse to believe this city is dying. I will never accept that. We have a vibrant city.”
The deputy mayor said many of the senior population have been moving into the apartment complexes and condominiums that have become available. She said it has even led to some people returning to the city in their retirement.
Luther reports there was an additional 60 units in the city this year. There were 13 new housing starts, for a total of 21 units, and West Valley Gardens brought an extra 39 units. It is slightly less than the additional 68 new units per year Corner Brook has averaged since 2006.
The deputy mayor said one of the biggest obstacles identified in the real estate market is affordable housing, and she says the city has been making strides to help address that. In its request for proposals for the Wheelers Road subdivision, a mosaic-style plan was suggested.
“It would give us houses that are affordable — on the lower-end market — as well as an apartment building in there, plus some higher-end houses,” she said. “You will have a combination of a bunch of different options for people within that subdivision, and hopefully that will address some of the affordability issues.”
Luther said she would certainly like to see more housing starts, and for the real estate market to pick up. However, she said there is a balance within the overall industry.
Meanwhile, Brown said the decrease is alarming.
The realtor said there is a great uncertainity when it comes to the local economy, which in turn impacts the real estate market. He characterized that as the biggest contributing factor.
“If the mill makes a decision either to stay in operation or otherwise, at least we know,” he said. “We saw that in Stephenville and Grand Falls, that the communities do survive. It is just the uncertainty.
“Also, the other major employer, the hospital. That being delayed (construction of a new facility), the uncertainty around that.”
Private sales are also growing more popular whether it is on their own or through propertyguys.com. Private sales are not included in the statistics provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but Brown said the property guys sales listed on the multiple listing service system would be.
The realtor said the excluded property sales would not be enough to skew what the statistics show.
He also said changes to qualifications for mortgages, fewer discount rates, and a slow increase in mortgage rates, impacts the market.
“If you don’t have entry people coming into the market, it will spread throughout the whole market,” he said. “You need the new buyers to keep the market going.”
Brown don’t think there has been a reduction of houses on the market, just sales. He said prices have dropped only slightly — a reflection that houses are on the market longer than normal.
He expects the trend to continue until later this year or early next year.
Brown is awaiting numbers for the second quarter to see if the trend has continued, but he believes it has.
Homeowner has house on market for about a year-and-a-half
Steve Huxter was looking to do a quick flip on his house, but the quick part of that did not materialize.
The Corner Brook man is not too concerned about not being able to sell his home on Bannisters Road, despite it being on the market for about a year-and-a-half. He is still living comfortably there, and is not feeling any immediate pressure to move.
However, when he listed the house with a local realtor, he didn’t expect it to take this long to sell. He said the interest has been fairly consistent, but the offers just haven’t materialized.
“I think a lot of people have been looking for that property with an income value — an apartment in it,” Huxter said. “That seems to be what the majority of people are looking for.”
The pressure of a slow market has not made him drop the price of his home, mainly because he does not need to sell the place.
“It is kind of a flip for me, more than anything,” he said. “I took something that was really old, and I did a lot of renovations on the inside. I just have it on the market, and I’ll see what happens.”
Huxter said his agent has also told him the market is slow this year, but he is staying optimistic.