The outlook is great for first time home buyers in the province.
Recently Century 21 did a study across Canada on what people are looking for when they buy a home. The results, although not shocking, show Saskatchewan as a leader in many areas.
“We did a study of what current buyers priorities are when they buy a house,” Canadian Century 21 president Don Lawby said. “All across the prairies, people like community. They are really interested in socializing.”
Lawby is originally from Regina and he understands what the province is like geographically and population-wise.
“I know what the Prairies are like -- There is limited population but people want to socialize and get together,” Lawby said. “When you drive across the Prairies, the small towns all have curling rinks, skating rinks, places to get out of the weather in the winter and socialize.”
According to their survey, 84 per cent of people said the top thing they want when buying a home is money left over to socialize and integrate themselves into the community.
Homeowners would also like to see essential services in their communities, Saskatoon Century 21 agent Gary Busch said.
“Schools and healthcare are probably the two biggest things,” Busch said. “They want to be able to know they have healthcare and a school there or coming soon. That is something we see, especially with the younger families.”
The study also looked at how old people are when buying their first home. Compared to other provinces, the number in Saskatchewan is very low.
“The youngest of Saskatchewan residents own their home by the age of 27.75,” Lawby said. “This is the youngest average of any province in Canada. That says a couple of things -- prices are lower in the Prairies because you don’t have the huge cities with huge infrastructure. People want a home and usually there are more single family detached (houses) than there are in big cities.”
Ontario, on the other hand, has the oldest average age of first-time homeowners, at 30.07.
“That is more than three years different,” Lawby said. “Prices are higher and (houses are) difficult to get into.”
Since the economy across Canada is good, it keeps the market level and the prices are not rising dramatically, Lawby said.
“The thing to remember about Saskatchewan is a lot of people call it a bubble -- in a way we are in our own little bubble but we have an economic engine that is going unlike any other in North America really,” Busch said. “We live in a province that has so many diverse incomes coming in right now.”
The economy in the province is great right now, which means there are more jobs and therefore more homes on the market all the time, he said.
“We are getting a large amount of immigration from China and India to Europe to you name it,” Busch said. “We have a lot of people coming here for jobs and our young people are staying finally. We are seeing a lot of them with very good incomes and good paying jobs and they are buying houses at a younger age than any of the other provinces.”
There are not only jobs being created in the major fields, like mining and construction, but also in retail areas, he added.
“We probably have a very large group of people earning a higher income at a younger age than a lot of provinces would as well and we have really affordable homes,” Busch said. “When you consider three or four per cent interest rates, we are still cheaper than the Ontario and the Vancouver (area), so it doesn’t take them as long to save up their money.”
Another thing home buyers are looking for is a house that is ready to move into, Lawby said.
“I think people also, all across the country, don’t want fixer uppers,” Lawby said.
There are many reasons for this, he added.
“In some areas, people don’t have the skills they had years ago, nor do they have the time nor interest,” Lawby said. “On top of that I think people have paid attention to what the media is saying about interest rates and money. If a home is move in ready, they don’t have to think about what it is going to cost to get it to that stage when they buy it.”
Busch said home buyers want the house finished so they do not have to do work on it themselves.
“That is why the new houses are very attractive to them because it means they don’t have to get trades(people) to do a lot of extra work -- they don’t want to have to hire painters and get basements redone and do a bunch of finishing work,” Busch said. “They don’t mind doing it with a brand new house, because the rest of it is ready to move in.”
They have found a lot of people will pay a little extra to get a new house over a used house, even if the used house has a developed basement and landscaping, Busch said.
“They are looking for that shiny button to call home with the cabinets, granite countertops and hardwood floor,” Busch said. “(A lot of them) can afford a higher mortgage payment but may not be able to afford the extra $20,000 (up front) to do basement development or landscaping. If it does get done for them, they are willing to do that.”
Often people will look at buying a home because it costs close to the same amount as renting, Busch said.
“The rental side of things is very crowded right now and it is very expensive to rent,” Busch said. “When they look at the difference between renting and buying, for not a whole lot different, they can own their home for that kind of money. With the rates we have, they will pick something up and live and pay their own mortgage rather than paying someone else.”
In Saskatchewan, the majority of people are looking for cheaper, single family dwellings, he said.
“The higher priced end homes, those take longer to sell,” Busch said. “The $200,000 to $400,000 homes sell easier because they are more affordable.”
The market should stay fairly level for the next five to 10 years, Busch said.
“It is an engine, once it goes it is hard to slow it down,” Busch said. “If you look long term, we have always had a nice, steady income with the exception of the little spike between 2006 and 2008 there. Our cities have never been growing faster, we have more towns are letting out lots and servicing lots than every before.”