It may not surprise you that CREA stands for the Canadian Real Estate Association. But it would surprise me if you knew anything they did for you!
For all of you MLS-junkies out there, CREA is the organization that owns and operates www.realtor.ca (formerly www.mls.ca) and owns the trademark for the word “realtor” – yep, it has a trademark! For anyone who has sold a home through a realtor, you will understand the power of the MLS and its ability to bring qualified buyers to your home. This map gives you an idea of just how many people are looking at mls.ca – and how those numbers are increasing!
We are fortunate in Canada to have such a well-managed, organized, central database for real estate listings across the country, and to have monitoring in place to ensure the information being presented is accurate.
CREA also lobbies our federal government for real estate changes that help Canadians. This includes the introduction of the Home Buyer’s Plan in 1992, which allowed any first-time home buyer to use up to $20,000 of their own RRSP money tax-free toward their down payment. In 2009, CREA lobbied to increase this number to $25,000.
This year, CREA is again lobbying for changes to that program. They are looking to tie the maximum amount you can withdraw to our national inflation rate so the next generation can receive the same value out of the program.
They are also lobbying for a new rule that would allow anyone who just underwent a major life change (marital breakdown, death of a spouse or job relocation are the three scenarios cited) to be able to withdraw from their own RRSPs for a downpayment, even if it is not their first time purchasing a home.
Another welcome change that CREA is pushing for is to allow investors who sell a rental property to avoid paying capital gains tax on their profit if they are reinvesting that capital into another rental property. Currently, capital gains tax is payable at your personal tax rate on 50% of your profit when selling any property that is not your primary residence.
In other news, the recently released real estate statistics for May indicate continued strength in the spring market. The Home Price Index (HPI – see my previous blog post for a full explanation of this new analysis tool) for single-family homes in Calgary rose to 181. It started the year at 170, so that is already an increase of 6.5%. The number of single-family sales for the month of May was 1,710 (compared to just over 700 in each of December and January) – we haven’t seen a number that high since 2007, other than one month in 2009, so it certainly has been a busy marketplace of late!
Apartment-style condo HPI prices have risen 5% this year while the number of sales for May was 386, up from 179 in January. Townhome prices haven’t fared quite as well this year, rising only 2.4% so far, though sales are strong at 289 for May, up from 126 in January.
It’s been a strong year for real estate in Calgary, but, as the Calgary Real Estate Board’s chief economist said in her last statement, “we are not out of the woods in terms of economic risks.” I believe there are some excellent buying opportunities out there, but buyers do need to be prudent and consider all of the factors – including comparable sales and pricing trends – before making a decision on a property.
If you have any questions about this information or would like more community-specific statistics, please drop me a line.