Windsor Star

Economy dragging down housing in Windsor-Essex

- BY DOUG WILLIAMSON STAR STAFF REPORTER

Windsor-Essex home prices and sales are down from a year ago, making it one of the most affordable housing markets in Canada but offering little comfort to those forced by job losses to sell and move.

“The thing is we've had a lot of houses on the market,” said Mark Imeson, president-elect of the Windsor Essex County Real Estate Board.

Imeson, who has been in the real estate business for 23 years, said he hasn't seen this combinatio­n of permanent job loss and high unemployme­nt which is hammering the city's struggling real estate market. “This time is very special.”

Monday, the Canadian Real Estate Associatio­n reported that the average house price in Windsor was $164,503 in August — down five per cent from the same month last year, and the fifth lowest among 25 cities surveyed. Housing values also declined in Vancouver, Victoria, Cal- gary and Edmonton.

In August, 418 homes were sold in Windsor-Essex for $68.7 million, down 21.8 per cent in dollar volume and 17.7 per cent in units sold compared to a year ago. Year to date sales of 3,332 homes locally were worth $537.2 million, a 9.7 per cent decline in dollar volume and 8.1 per cent decline in units sold.

REAL ESTATE BOARD

Imeson said the silver lining of affordabil­ity means it's often cheaper to buy than rent. He has a four-bedroom home with two baths listed for $99,000, and recently heard about a home on Lincoln Road selling for $45,000.

“Windsor's one of the last places in Canada where (buying) is less than rent.”

Imeson blamed the slump in prices on our 10 per cent unemployme­nt rate and the loss of good-paying factory jobs, and said the city economy must diversify. In previous years the housing price drop would happen after a strike, for example, but eventually the market would recover. This time around it's a different story.

“They're leaving the city and they're not coming back,” he said of displaced workers.

“I think uncertaint­y in the auto sector would play a role,” added Gregory Klump, the CREA's chief economist in Ottawa.

The national decline in sales comes after four months of record MLS listings in Canada, the CREA said. At one point there were more than 50,000 homes listed for sale until dropping to 47,657 in August.

CREA president Calvin Lindberg said 2007 was a record year for real estate sales in Canada, and now the market is stabilizin­g. The most expensive place to buy a house still is Vancouver with an average price of $557,114.

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