WATERLOO REGION — The housing market in Waterloo Region seemed to land in a Goldilocks zone last year — sales were not too hot, not too cold, and the prices increased, but not too much.
Stability is the word that Mark Wolle, president of the Kitchener Waterloo Association of Realtorsuses to characterize the year-end housing market statistics, which were released on Wednesday.
Wolle foresees that stable pattern continuing in 2015. "There isn't any evidence of a housing bubble here that we can see," he said. "It's moderate growth, and in my mind, it is sustainable."
House sales in 2014 year got off to a sluggish start because of a polar vortex that brought a lot of snow and subnormal temperatures, but the market recovered as the year progressed.
It ended on a seven-year high in Kitchener and Waterloo, with 6,564 residential sales, an increase of three per cent from the 6,371 homes that sold during the previous year.
The bad weather "pushed everything back a little bit," but as temperatures improved, so did the sales, Wolle said.
The year-end sales were down somewhat in Cambridge. In that part of the region, 3,013 homes were sold, a 2.7 per cent decline from the year before.
But Kay Hoshoian, president of the Cambridge Association of Realtors Inc., said in a press release that it was still a strong year and the third year in a row that annual sales topped the 3,000 mark in that part of the region.
In Cambridge, house sales were lower in the month of December, with 154 homes changing hands, compared to 189 homes the previous December. But that was a record-shattering month in 2013, Hoshoian said. Last month was more or less average, she added.
In Kitchener and Waterloo, December sales were strong, with 314 existing homes changing hands compared to 283 in the same month of 2013.
The resale prices were up right across the whole region.
In Kitchener and Waterloo, the average price of houses sold throughout 2014 was up four per cent from the previous year, to $336,302.
Prices were up in Cambridge as well, where houses sold for an average of $309,806 in December, a 3.9 per cent increase compared to the same month in 2013. The prices "reflect strong consumer confidence," the Cambridge realtors' association said.
Wolle said price increases of between three and four per cent can be characterized as moderate and steady. That is one of the reasons he doesn't think this region needs to worry about the burst of a housing bubble.
"Most of the discussions of a housing bubble are in the larger cities that have maybe more of a speculative market," he said. "Where you might have housing bubble is where there have been huge swings in the pricing."
He also says prices in this region are reinforced by a diverse economy, with the universities and colleges bringing in skilled workers who tend to stay and buy houses.
Wolle said the light rail transit line is also bringing a lot of investment into the region, and that translates into construction activity, jobs and stability. Investors wouldn't be putting the money into the region if they didn't see the potential, he added.
That is coupled with the progress of the technology sector, with Google moving into the Breithaupt Block building and other technology companies also growing, he said.
"It's exciting to be in a region that has such great potential," Wolle said. "There is such diversity in the economy."
Wolle said the low interest rates are also continuing to draw first-time buyers into the housing market.
He expects more of the same for 2015. As long as interest rates stay competitive, "we foresee that the market should at least stay stable."
Realtors are also excited about the future potential of fast GO transit service between Waterloo Region and Toronto, he added. The province has committed to the idea of two-way, all-day service to and from Toronto and that should further boost investments in this region.
"There are no signs that point to anything but an increase and at least a stable market," Wolle said.