This article is dedicated to Mark Love, CSG’s founder, first president, mentor and friend. And to the memory of Janine Couglin and family – CSG’s second president and friend.
My name is Jim Malner and I’m a real estate addict! I admit it. I love the business. I love looking at show homes, condo developments and I love talking about it. For 25 years I’ve worked as a real estate marketing consultant for over 50 of western Canada’s largest and most successful builders and developers – ranging from single and multi-family products to resort developments. As the president of Consumer Strategies Group (CSG), Alberta’s longest serving real estate consulting firm, I’ve witnessed three booms, four busts – of various magnitudes – and had the privilege of working on some incredible (and some not so incredible) projects. This industry experience, according to this magazine, gives me some perspective to share monthly real estate insights that might help you make better purchase decisions or just learn about the business.
My response is usually it’s never a “bad” time to buy! Timing and opportunities can always be “good or bad”. However, if you’re looking for your first home “the earliest date possible” is the right time to buy. 
The reason: real estate creates wealth, it’s loved by people seeking financial security and it works based on the proven “time value of money” economic theory.
Over time it is very difficult to lose money on real estate purchased as your personal residence. The forced “savings effect” of a standard mortgage, tax advantages for capital gains, and over 200 years of economic data indicate that owning your home is the best investment you will make for your lifestyle and your future. While economic windfalls or turmoil may swirl around you, owning your home is the easiest way to increase wealth over a reasonable time through “equity creation via forced savings” and “capital appreciation,” due to economic growth and inflation.
Let’s look at today’s environment. If you’re trying to time the “bottom” of our latest down cycle – you missed it. Statistically, it probably occurred in mid 2009. Since then, prices have fluctuated and settled at about 9% lower than peak 2007 levels. Today, it’s fair to say, real estate prices are flat (fluctuating a percent up or down) depending on homestyle. At the same time job creation and real wages are rising again. Only recently have interest rates risen from ridiculous lows and people, the driving force behind real estate consumption, are again moving to Alberta. Just like the previous four recessions, real estate prices will move past previous highs, because these factors form the foundation for a renewed positive cycle. So, I would say “the right time to buy is NOW.”
What should you buy? Well, that’s up to you and your personal situation. Today, Edmonton’s condo market presents great opportunities for first buyers. For instance, The Royal Bank reported February 25th that Alberta is again the most affordable place in Canada to own a home, and condos are by far the most affordable – requiring on average only 27% of income. A surge in new townhome and duplex building has also placed “price pressure” on these home styles making them another great option if you want more space and a yard.
So, don’t sit and wait. The faster you buy, the faster you get the “time value of money” and “equity growth” working for you. And, as history has repeatedly shown, it’s the easiest way to a better financial future and a comfortable lifestyle.