What’s impacting Manitoba’s mortgage market?

Winnipeg-based brokerage owner says the region is still witnessing strong activity

What’s impacting Manitoba’s mortgage market?

The early months of 2020 were an eventful period for every mortgage professional across Canada, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work-from-home revolution and a gathering economic storm leading to a rapid readjustment of business plans and work models.

For Caily MacGregor (pictured), two rapid shifts in focus took place almost simultaneously. That January, becoming a new owner of One-Link Mortgage and Financial along with two other people required the Winnipeg-based mortgage professional to view business from a brokerage standpoint, rather than continuing a solely broker-centric approach.

Just weeks later, the second focus adjustment arrived, with the emergence of the pandemic precipitating one of the most profound transformations in day-to-day work that the mortgage industry has ever witnessed.

MacGregor was able to weather that storm by embracing technology and maintaining the same relentless focus on educating and guiding clients as before, with that dedication and expertise helping her emerge as one of Canadian Mortgage Professional’s Rising Stars for 2021.

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“My mindset was [focused] on technology – to be able to work from anywhere and not miss a beat,” she said. “Learning to adjust my business to be super-efficient using Zoom and utilizing my computers so that my whole system’s the exact same whether I’m at the office or at home – I think that was the biggest change that helped me.”

The average house price in Manitoba has continued to climb steadily during the pandemic. This June, that figure stood at $346,943, an increase of 13.5% over June 2020, with the number of properties sold rising to 2,099 – up 4.2% over the same month last year.

That average price is dwarfed by skyrocketing figures in red-hot markets like Ontario and British Columbia, although MacGregor noted that intense competition and bidding wars had been a prominent feature of the Winnipeg market throughout the year.

“The issue that we’re seeing is houses going for $100,000 and over with 20 competing offers and that kind of thing,” she said. “That’s where clients are losing out and getting frustrated. They think they’re putting their best foot forward, and then they’re getting outbid.

“That’s more frustrating: not necessarily the house prices, but more the competition for houses.”

MacGregor said that she had not experienced significant or consistent problems in qualifying first-time homebuyers for mortgages, other than when using the stress test to qualify a single person on an application.

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That said, while recent data tabled in Parliament revealed that the federal government’s first-time home buyers program had had more of an uptake in areas outside the country’s hottest markets, use of that program has been negligible among MacGregor’s clients. “It has not caught on here at all from what I’ve seen,” she said.

There’s been little sign of the “urban exodus” that’s pervaded other markets like Toronto and Vancouver, although MacGregor noted that purchases of second homes, particularly in more rural areas, had risen significantly.

“We’re obviously a smaller urban centre and not as concentrated and downtown as you would see in Toronto and Vancouver,” she said. “That’s not really the way the city is built here.

“A lot of people are wanting to purchase cabins, but they’re not necessarily giving up their homes in Winnipeg to do that. You’re not seeing the exodus as much as people buying a cabin as a second home.”

MacGregor said that the market is unlikely to return to the same frantic pace that typified 2020 and the first half of this year, although she said that business is likely to remain steady and strong for the foreseeable future with interest rates not expected to rise until well into 2022.

“I think that as things open up, people will focus on seeing family,” she said. “When things open up, people spend their money going out with family or friends or something like that, rather than focusing on buying houses.

“I think it’ll remain steady for the remainder of the year, but once the interest rates start increasing, we may see a sit-back approach. But we’ll see – nobody has a crystal ball with COVID around.”