Housing prices pick up

After two quarters of declines, housing prices have started to rebound. The average single house in Whitehorse was $442,400 in the second quarter of 2012, according to the latest numbers from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

After two quarters of declines, housing prices have started to rebound.

The average single house in Whitehorse was $442,400 in the second quarter of 2012, according to the latest numbers from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

That’s up $24,800, or 5.9 per cent, from the beginning of the year.

In addition, between April and June there were $94.7 million in real estate transactions in Yukon, a record-high for the territory.

“They’re certainly significant stats, but I think a lot of it is explained by the events of the day,” said Terry Bergen, a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Whitehorse.

He cautioned about reading too much into the quarterly numbers.

“It’s very difficult to use those stats at face value, especially in this market now,” said Bergen. “We have these fairly large condominium complexes that all close in a quarter, whereas the sales may have taken the last year or year and a half to happen, so they skew the information.”

The condo sales total in the last quarter – 80 transactions – was one for the record books. Prices are also higher than ever. The average condo unit in Whitehorse now sells for $299,800.

Although condo prices haven’t seen much of a decline, Bergen said he’s seen sales level off a bit.

“There’s been a slowdown in sales but they’re holding their own at this point,” he said.

In the last few years, Whitehorse, like many other cities across the country, has seen a huge surge in condo development.

But after several boom years, the market seems to be coming back to earth. Thanks to high prices, a precarious economy and tighter mortgage rules, there has been a softening of prices and a slowdown in new construction in both Vancouver and Toronto.

And Whitehorse is no exception, said Bergen.

“I would say we’re very much mirroring the national trend,” he said.

While prices for single-family homes in Whitehorse were up slightly in the second quarter, and sales were strong, Bergen doesn’t foresee prices trending up any further.

“I would say the housing prices peaked probably a year ago,” he said

In 2011, prices for single-family homes topped out at slightly more than $455,000.

But, barring some sort of economic calamity, Bergen doesn’t see a crash on the horizon either.

“We still have a very strong economy,” he said. “We do have operating mines, we have a lot of good things happening.”

The biggest reason for the levelling out of prices is that Whitehorse now has a handle on its lot shortage, said Bergen.

“I would say the city, despite our unhappiness with them and their slow rate of doing things, I think they finally sorted out the shortage problem,” he said.

A few years ago, when the city released lots in Takhini, people were buying lots from the city, then turning around and reselling them with a $50,000 premium, said Bergen.

That didn’t happen this year when lots were released in the new Whistle Bend subdivision.

Of the 90 single-family lots that were released, only 10 have sold, along with one of five multifamily lots.

However, all 14 duplex lots in the subdivision were snapped up in the land lottery.

It wasn’t unexpected, said John Cole, manager of client services for the Yukon government, the branch that ran the land lottery.

“We find that when we originally do lotteries, the first uptake is a little on the light side but as the subdivision develops and fills up, then the activity picks up,” he said.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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