First-time buyers trigger sales surge

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  • Low interest rates and lower prices ushering in a market recovery

      By Carla Wilson, Times Colonist; With files from Canwest News ServiceMay 27, 2009

    First-time home buyers lured by lower prices and low interest rates are triggering a chain reaction of sales throughout Canada's housing market, says a leading real estate firm.

    "When first-time buyers stepped out of the market in the fourth quarter of 2008, at the height of the global recession, their absence was profoundly felt," said Phil Soper, president of Royal LePage Real Estate Services.

    Newcomers are "back in force this spring, and with them the beginnings of a market recovery," he said.

    In British Columbia, 92 per cent of potential first-time buyers are motivated by low interest rates, and 96 per cent said dropping home prices will likely encourage them to make a purchase, said a Royal LePage report released yesterday.

    Research shows how closely the housing market is linked to broader economic trends and consumer confidence, Soper said. Across the country, survey respondents said low interest rates, the first-time home buyers' tax credit and their own job security are critical factors in whether they decide to buy.

    Pollara Research carried out an online survey for Royal LePage in April and May of 474 Canadians likely to buy their first home within three years.

    With a 100 per cent response rate, it would have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Data was weighted to reflect Canada's population according to census data.

    In B.C., 40 per cent of newcomers to the housing market are planning to buy a "fixer-upper," the report said.

    Among first-time buyers, 60 per cent are women, the report said. That figure makes sense because women are increasingly participating in all levels of the workforce and increasing their income, said Cameron Muir, B.C. Real Estate Association chief economist.

    Wayne Schrader, CEO of Re/Max Camosun in Saanich, agrees that low interest rates are attracting first-time buyers as they shop in what can be a competitive market, particularly for single-family houses priced at $500,000 or less, an entry level price in the capital region.

    "We are starting to see multiple offers out there," Schrader said. And some homes are selling for above the listing price.

    After dismal sales in winter months, numbers have picked up again, although not to the high levels seen in 2007 when the market was red hot.

    In the past two months, interest has increased for homes in the $600,000 to $900,000 range, he said.

    Dianne Usher, a Royal LePage vice-president focused on the Toronto market, said first-time buyers are a crucial element to the overall housing market because of their "domino effect."

    "When the first-time buyer is out there and active in the marketplace, it creates a first-time seller, a second-time buyer, a third-time buyer, and on up the food chain," she said.

    First-time home buyers occupy between 30 and 35 per cent of the overall market, Usher said.

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