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Joanne Paulson: As Alberta draws people west, why aren’t Sask’s low real estate prices doing the same?



“What’s the average price of a detached home?”

That’s the question the Government of Alberta asked Torontonians on one of its subway ads, in an attempt to lure Hogtown residents to Cowtown or E-Town.

The answer: Toronto $1.4 million. Edmonton $490,000.

My answer: Try Saskatoon and subtract a full million bucks. If, of course, you can find a house at all.

Before I get into that, here’s another Alberta ad, because I can’t resist twists on old jokes:

“An engineer, accountant and plumber walk into a province. They all get jobs.”

I have no idea whether this sort of thing brings results, but at least it IS an idea, one that just might attract innocent easterners to the west. Could it work for Saskatchewan?

Because we need more people. Our government regularly crows about our growing population, and in overall numbers, that’s true. But we are also losing people we can’t afford to say buh-bye to, and a bunch of them are headed for, yes, Alberta. As it has been and perhaps always will be.

This “more people needed” point was made at a recent Saskatchewan-wide panel hosted by the Saskatchewan Realtors® Association, entitled State of Real Estate.

One of the participants said, “We have a population problem. We have a density problem. We should be welcoming far more people to this province.”

Chris Guérette, CEO of the SRA, was in full agreement with this comment, and wondered why people are not moving here when our real estate prices are among the most affordable in Canada.

They are also the most stable, and stability is also an attractive quality.

As interest rates soar, prices are plummeting in most jurisdictions, and that’s scary. Not happening here. The province’s benchmark price rose three per cent year-over-year to $324,900 in October. Saskatoon set another record high benchmark price at $371,600, a 4.4 per cent increase. Regina was up 0.9 per cent to $317,800.

Guérette noted that some people in our market have been profoundly affected by rising rates; for example, she has heard of people selling homes and moving in with other family members. It’s not working out well for everyone.

Even so, “Our prices didn’t decrease … at all,” she said. At least so far.

In fact, “Our prices continue to increase slightly … because we are different from the markets that overheated,” she said. Yet we remain the most affordable.

The story behind that stability, as I’ve babbled on about before, is largely low inventory. Even as sales in Saskatoon fell 12 per cent year-over-year, they remain above pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, inventory is down almost 33 per cent from the 10-year average.

Allow me to emphasize that. Thirty-three per cent.

Regina sales are up one per cent on the year, but up 26 per cent from the long-term average, while inventory is down 18 per cent.

“Throughout the province, we’re seeing not as many sales under the $500,000 mark because that’s where the inventory is lacking,” Guérette said.

So herein lies the conundrum. We have a remarkably stable housing market and economy, considering inflation and the state of, well, everything. We are overflowing with industries powering along. We need labour. It is, comparatively, affordable to live here.

This is not the Saskatchewan of yesteryear, when we were still trying to build a strong and diversified economy.

Yet we are not seeing substantial in-migration, even while there is a dearth of affordable single-family homes.

Where is the disconnect? Regarding inventory, it could be that the market is still catching its breath after two hot years of Covid-era buying. But does that explain a 33 per cent drop in houses for sale?

As to the in-migration issue, please don’t tell me it’s winter. Alberta’s winters are almost as gross as ours in recent years, and Manitoba’s are easily as bad. And have you ever witnessed a Newfoundland and Labrador snowstorm? Jobs and shelter are still more important than weather.

I would also find it hard to believe that potential new residents would not move here only because of a lack of housing selection.

Guérette and the housing industry are grappling with this odd state of affairs, hence convening a discussion on it. Meanwhile, she says, we need to embrace all newcomers with open arms.

“When they choose Saskatchewan, we need to say, ‘Yes. Where do you want to go? What do you need?’ ” she said.

In that vein, on the real estate development side, is it possible to change tracks from “If you build it, they will come” to “When they come, we’ll build it for them?”

In the interim, while struggling to figure this out, a clever advertising campaign extolling our many virtues may not be the worst idea ever. All other ideas welcome.

Joanne Paulson is a Saskatoon author and freelance journalist who has been covering real estate, off and on, for more than 25 years. Do you have a fascinating real estate story to share? Get in touch at

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Former B.C. Realtor has licence cancelled, $130K in penalties for role in mortgage fraud



The provincial regulator responsible for policing B.C.’s real estate industry has ordered a former Realtor to pay $130,000 and cancelled her licence after determining that she committed a variety of professional misconduct.

Rashin Rohani surrendered her licence in December 2023, but the BC Financial Services Authority’s chief hearing officer Andrew Pendray determined that it should nevertheless be cancelled as a signal to other licensees that “repetitive participation in deceptive schemes” will result in “significant” punishment.

He also ordered her to pay a $40,000 administrative penalty and $90,000 in enforcement expenses. Pendray explained his rationale for the penalties in a sanctions decision issued on May 17. The decision was published on the BCFSA website Wednesday.

Rohani’s misconduct occurred over a period of several years, and came in two distinct flavours, according to the decision.

Pendray found she had submitted mortgage applications for five different properties that she either owned or was purchasing, providing falsified income information on each one.

Each of these applications was submitted using a person referred to in the decision as “Individual 1” as a mortgage broker. Individual 1 was not a registered mortgage broker and – by the later applications – Rohani either knew or ought to have known this was the case, according to the decision.

All of that constituted “conduct unbecoming” under B.C.’s Real Estate Services Act, Pendray concluded.

Separately, Rohani also referred six clients to Individual 1 when she knew or ought to have known he wasn’t a registered mortgage broker, and she received or anticipated receiving a referral fee from Individual 1 for doing so, according to the decision. Rohani did not disclose this financial interest in the referrals to her clients.

Pendray found all of that to constitute professional misconduct under the act.

‘Deceptive’ scheme

The penalties the chief hearing officer chose to impose for this behaviour were less severe than those sought by the BCFSA in the case, but more significant than those Rohani argued she should face.

Rohani submitted that the appropriate penalty for her conduct would be a six-month licence suspension or a $15,000 discipline penalty, plus $20,000 in enforcement expenses.

For its part, the BCFSA asked Pendray to cancel Rohani’s licence and impose a $100,000 discipline penalty plus more than $116,000 in enforcement expenses.

Pendray’s ultimate decision to cancel the licence and impose penalties and expenses totalling $130,000 reflected his assessment of the severity of Rohani’s misconduct.

Unlike other cases referenced by the parties in their submissions, Rohani’s misconduct was not limited to a single transaction involving falsified documents or a series of such transactions during a brief period of time, according to the decision.

“Rather, in this case Ms. Rohani repetitively, over the course of a number of years, elected to personally participate in a deceptive mortgage application scheme for her own benefit, and subsequently, arranged for her clients to participate in the same deceptive mortgage application scheme,” the decision reads.

Pendray further noted that, although Rohani had been licensed for “a significant period of time,” she had only completed a small handful of transactions, according to records from her brokerage.

There were just six transactions on which her brokerage recorded earnings for her between December 2015 and February 2020, according to the decision. Of those six, four were transactions that were found to have involved misconduct or conduct unbecoming.

“In sum, Ms. Rohani’s minimal participation in the real estate industry as a licensee has, for the majority of that minimal participation, involved her engaging in conduct unbecoming involving deceptive practices and professional misconduct,” the decision reads.

According to the decision, Rohani must pay the $40,000 discipline penalty within 90 days of the date it was issued.



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Should you wait to buy or sell your home?



The Bank of Canada is expected to announce its key interest rate decision in less than two weeks. Last month, the bank lowered its key interest rate to 4.7 per cent, marking its first rate cut since March 2020.

CTV Morning Live asked Jason Pilon, broker of Record Pilon Group, whether now is the right time to buy or sell your home.

When it comes to the next interest rate announcement, Pilon says the bank might either lower it further, or just keep it as is.

“The best case scenario we’re seeing is obviously a quarter point. I think more just because of the job numbers that just came out, I think more people are just leading on the fact that they probably just gonna do it in September,” he said. “Either way, what we saw in June, didn’t make a big difference.”

Here are the pros of buying/ selling now:

Pilon suggests locking in the rate right now, if you don’t want to take a risk with interest rates going up in the future.

He says the environment is more predictable right now, noting that the home values are transparent, which is one of the benefits for home sellers.

“Do you want to risk looking at what that looks like down the road? Or do you want to have the comfort in knowing what your house is worth right now?” Pilon said.

And when it comes to buyers, he notes, the competition is not so fierce right now, noting that there are options to choose from.

“You’re in the driver seat right now,” he said while noting the benefits for buyers.

Here are the cons of buying/ selling now:

He says one of the cons would be locking in the rate right now, then seeing a rate cut in the future.

The competition could potentially become fierce, if the bank decides to cut the rate further more, he explained.

He notes that if that happens, the housing crisis will become even worse, as Canada is still dealing with low housing inventory.

An increase in competition would increase the prices of houses, he adds.

Selling or buying too quickly isn’t the best practice, he notes, suggesting that you should take your time and put some thought into it.

Despite all the pros and cons, Pilon says, real estate remains a good investment.

According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey for the second quarter of this year, the average home price in Canada is $824,300. That’s up 1.9 per cent from the same time last year, and up 1.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2024.

In the Ottawa Housing Market Report for June 2024, the average price of a home was up 2.4 per cent from this time last year to $686,535, but down 0.6 per cent from May 2024.

Experts believe many potential buyers are still hesitant of jumping into the housing market and waiting for another interest rate cut of 50 to 100 basis points.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the rush that we see in the past, because people are used to more of a conservative approach right now,” said Curtis Fillier, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “I think there’s still a bit of a hold back, but I definitely do think with another rate cut, we’ll probably see a very positive fall market.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Kimberly Fowler



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Real estate stocks soar to best day of year on rate cut bets



(Bloomberg) — The stock market’s worst group notched its best day of the year as a cooler-than-expected inflation report stoked bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates in September.

Shares of real estate companies jumped 2.7% Thursday for their biggest gain of 2024, climbing to their highest level since March as investors snapped up homebuilder, digital and commercial real estate stocks alike. Real estate also was the best-performing group in the S&P 500 Index Thursday, with volume that was around 30% higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Arguably the most significant news to come from the latest consumer price index reading was a pullback in housing-related inflation. Shelter costs rose just 0.2% for the slowest monthly increase in three years. Homebuilders, which have risen 7.1% this year, were up 7.3% for the session, the most since 2022. Shares of D.R. Horton Inc., which is scheduled to report earnings next Thursday, gained 7.3%.

“Housing has really been the last shoe to drop in terms of winning the battle against high inflation,” Preston Caldwell, chief U.S. economist at Morningstar wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Leading-edge data has strongly indicated for some time now that a fall in housing inflation was in the works.”

A rally in real estate stocks is bad news for short sellers who have been piling into the group, which is the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year. To start the week, short interest as a percentage of float hovered near 49% in the SPDR Homebuilders ETF, the highest level since February for the exchange-traded fund, according to data from S3 Partners.

Property owners are rallying as well. Real estate investment trusts, which were brutally penalized during the two-year run up in borrowing costs, advanced by as much as 3%. And the outlook for the group appears to have turned a corner, according Rich Hill, senior vice president and head of real estate strategy and research at Cohen & Steers Capital Management.

“We think this is a compelling backdrop for listed REITs especially as fundamental growth remains on solid footing,” he said, referencing the latest inflation data and rate outlook. “The rally that started in October of 2023 pushing returns more than 20% above their trough looks set to continue if inflation cools and interest rates continue to decline.”

Shares of industrial REIT Prologis Inc., which reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, rose 3.3% to hit their highest level since April. U.S. Treasury yields tumbled, with the 10-year bond falling to 4.2% and the policy-sensitive two-year note slipping to 4.5%.

(Updates indexes and stock prices for market close.)



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