Thursday, June 14, 2018

Are Fort McMurray Home Prices Going Up?

Are Home Prices Going Up?

Can I sell my home more now than last year?

Is it a good time to buy?

You may be wrestling with whether to buy, sell, or wait. If that sounds about right these are pretty crucial questions to have answered, because having the best information tends to lead to better decision-making.

We wrote last year about 8 signs of recovery to look for, and those signs are now ubiquitous (confidence has returned, as well as jobs, etc). Then, on January 1st this year we took a peek into the 2018 real estate market.

Both pieces hinted at a more balanced future, and the market has indeed very much found balance since those blogs were published.

In today’s post, I’ll catch you up on what’s been going on with the Fort McMurray real estate market in the meantime, and I’ll attempt to answer those huge questions[note]The interpretations of any MLS® data used are my own and don’t reflect the opinions of the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board or its members. There is plenty of my opinion in here, but the data we are using is super accurate[/note]. This way, whether you are thinking of buying, selling or sitting on the couch, you’ll have some good info to factor into your decision making.

Prices Finally Low Enough

It’s my opinion, from looking at the data, that at some point late last year, aggregate prices reached a point which triggered behavioural changes in a large number of actors in the marketplace (sellers & buyers): In the fall, sellers began listing their homes at a slower pace than of late, and towards the very end of the year, demand picked up somewhat.

To see what I mean, let’s compare the monthly rate of new listings Sep-April for 2015/16 vs the same period 2017/18 in the following chart:

[caption id="attachment_29076" align="aligncenter" width="851"] Chart 1: New Listings (Monthly) Over Time [/caption]

As you can see, the rate of new listings[note]The total monthly count of properties listed that meet the following criteria: All homes without condo fees. Also, not including vacant lots, mobiles & modular homes. The data covers only the following areas: Abasand, Beacon Hill, Dickinsfield, Downtown, Eagle Ridge, Grayling Terrace, Henning Ridge, Parsons North, Prairie Creek, Stone Creek, Thickwood, Timberlea, Waterways and Wood Buffalo[/note] was down approximately 10% since in the September 2017 to April 2018 period compared to September 2015 to April 2016.

Similarly, we can check out sales activity over the same periods:

[caption id="attachment_29077" align="aligncenter" width="894"] Chart 2: Sales (Monthly) Over Time[/caption]

Albeit from a very low base, the number of transactions in the period September 2017 to April 2018 has increased by approximately 29% versus the period September 2015 to April 2016

A Balancing Act

The Fort McMurray housing market is generally in balance.

Let’s recap:

  1. In Q4 of last year the market reacted to lower prices
  2. In Q1 of this year, we entered what’s called a balanced market.

We can actually go a little further:

3) Today, there are just the right amount of sellers and buyers in the marketplace to support current prices.
4) Generally speaking, sale prices are no longer falling.

I'll explain...

3) Just the right amount of sellers and buyers: Today we have 521 listings on the market. In the last 30 days, we have seen 93 sales. This gives us 521/93 = 5.6 months of inventory. This right around the magic number for a balanced market. Another ratio we look at is the new listings to sales ratio. In May, there were 198 new listings, and 108 sales. This is approximately a 2:1 ratio. Guess what? That’s also a balanced market indicator!

4) Generally speaking, sale prices are no longer falling. In a small market like ours hard to identify the moment that prices stopped falling (because one or two outliers can affect the statistics), but we more-or-less know that that moment is in the past. For example, we haven’t been pricing in decreases in value over time into our new listings, and they’ve been selling well. In some cases our specialist listing agents have recently sold homes for prices above what we would have anticipated back in the winter months. Please beware though, before drawing any conclusions about the value of your own home: We’re just talking in general terms, and as you will see in the next section, it’s a much more complex picture than (prices are no longer falling).

So...Are Prices Going Up?

In a word, “no”.

But it’s complicated.

Let’s have a look at the following table:

[caption id="attachment_29078" align="aligncenter" width="623"] Table 1: Months Of Inventory (Absorption Rate) Calculations for Different Price Ranges (Market for Permanent Homes Without Condo Fees)[/caption]

If you were reading carefully earlier, you’ll know that the magic number for a balanced market is about 5.5 months of inventory. What we can glean from the table above, is that the market for expensive homes is in a totally different place to the market for entry-level homes!

We can talk all day about how the market is, in general, balanced, but it doesn’t mean much until you drill down into the different parts of the market. For example, the same thing is happening in the markets for condos and mobiles: The market is fairly active (and in some areas low on inventory), but once you get up past certain price points, things quite suddenly get a lot trickier for sellers and easier for buyers.

“Why is this?” I hear you ask.

Well, I think there are at least two things at play here that are negatively impacting demand in the higher price ranges. Firstly, while I did mention earlier that confidence has returned, I think it has done so in a limited way. Everyone and their dog seems to be willing to buy a home for under $500k, but ask them to shell out $900k on a luxury home and they’ll go back to asking questions about the economy and future. Secondly, it seems that though the oil market is now clearly entering a growth cycle, mortgage rules and interest rates have significantly reduced (in a fairly permanent way?) people's’ buying power.

Another word of caution, is that this table is based on just a month’s data, and sales and inventory are like shifting sands.


Over the last year we have witnessed a lot of change in our marketplace. Inventory is down, sales are up, and prices are relatively stable for many housing types/price ranges.

Sections of the market remain oversupplied, while others (for example lots), are moving much quicker now than they have in four years.

We get asked often about whether prices are rising, and also whether we think they will. Our answers to those two questions are “it’s generally a balanced market” and “we can’t predict the future, but it's generally a balanced market right now”, respectively.

There are probably some limited parts of the market (e.g. entry level single-family homes), where we might recommend a higher list price today than we would have, say 3-6 months ago, but these are the exceptions, not the norm.

Is it is a good time to buy a home in Fort McMurray? Well as always, that’s really personal to YOU. But in general terms, my answer is that it likely isn’t a bad time to buy. It certainly isn't compared to the past.

For anyone pondering the future, I’ll leave with a few themes - just some things to point out…

  • Towns/cities across the province are split between balanced markets and buyer’s markets (prices falling)
  • Provinces across the country are mainly split between balanced markets and buyer’s markets (prices falling)
  • The oil market is no longer oversupplied but global investors have not returned to the oil sands. Two pipelines are getting built.
  • We were surprised that so few rebuilt homes were listed for sale, but there are a vast number of condos about to be finished. The fraction of which will be listed for sale is...well...unknown.

THANK YOU for reading/following. If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with friends: I really hope this helps you and them out!

Are Fort McMurray Home Prices Going Up? was first seen on The A-Team YMM

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of June 1)

It’s time for another edition of our weekly column from the A-Team. Here is some important news for this week.

The McMurray Métis bought a nine-acre plot of land in order to build a cultural center:

McMurray Métis Buy Land From Province, Plans To Build Cultural Centre

On Friday, Minister of Infrastructure Sandra Jansen was in Fort McMurray to sign the papers, making the sale, worth $809,670, official.

“You don’t have the sense of ownership on a piece of leased land that you do on a piece of land you can call your own,” she said.

Since 1992, the McMurray Métis has been leasing their land from the provincial government, however, all the buildings in the area were destroyed in the Horse River Wildfire. The original ask of around three acres quickly grew to nine. Via

The land will also be used by the local Metis, specifically for housing and offices for their industry partners.

[caption id="attachment_29023" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Credit:[/caption]

In other news, the Council approved a new Emergency Management Bylaw this week, according to Laura Beamish of Fort McMurray Today:

Council passes Emergency Management Bylaw

The bylaw includes provincial recommendations the municipality was given based on assessments after the May 2016 wildfires.

“It really is that catalyst to get us moving forward in taking charge of our future and allowing a framework for us to have a very robust, all encompassing governance that will enable our emergency management organization to really capture those things that are needed,” said RMWB Fire Chief Jody Butz.

“This bylaw puts emphasis on planning mitigation, prevention and recovery,” he said. “It keeps the conversation around emergency management relevant.” h/t

They bylaw also establishes an Emergency Advisory Committee, and sets roles for region leaders.

Lastly, the Federal Government has announced support to small businesses in the area to help them recover from the 2016 wildfire:

Feds provide over $485K to support small businesses

On Monday, Minister of Innovation Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, Navdeep Bains, announced they would be providing approximately $485,000 to two programs in the RMWB.

“These investments will help local businesses access the tools and resources they need to recover and grow as they meet the evolving needs of the region. We are pleased to collaborate with our community partners to help local businesses expand knowledge, develop skills, and access the capital they need to prosper,” said Mayor Don Scott.

Business Link has been able to provide advice to over 250 entrepreneurs and develop partnerships to deliver educational events in the region. read more at

The program has thus far provided more than $1 million to small businesses over the years.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.

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