Is consumer confidence really down in Alberta?

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A new report suggests consumer confidence dropped to its lowest point in Alberta last week, but agents on the ground can’t say the same.

Nano Research found consumer confidence in the country’s largest oil-producing province fell to 49.2, putting it behind every other Canadian province for the first time since 2008. Much of that decline was attributed to concerns over oil prices, which have more than halved since June.

“The people who aren’t looking for properties now might be worried about their jobs, but there are a lot of people looking,” says George Bamber, a broker and owner in Calgary. “Sales are pretty good. If you look at statistics from the Calgary Real Estate Board, they’re down, but you have to look at where they’re down. Maybe the upward market is feeling pressure but low- to mid-market is good. Interest rates are all-time lows, banks are competing for business.”

Indeed, Calgary’s luxury market reported fewer sales over the year-to-date period in January than during the same period in 2014. The mid-priced market, however, saw sales rise over that same period. Ron Pollock, a sales rep in Edmonton, said he’s been witnessing the same trend.

“Our high end homes were slow before this glitch in the oil prices,” he says. “There are so many sectors of the Alberta economy that are doing just fine. This is not nearly like what we had in 2007 and 2008, and that had a broader effect on different parts of the economy. This is largely due to just the oil industry and, for the most part, it’s only to do with the new developments in the industry. Old style producers are doing just fine, they’re even drilling more wells.”

Bamber, too, points to past recessions that were far worse. Unlike now, he says, banks refused to lend to certain buyers in 2008, creating a much scarier real estate environment.

“We’ve seen tough times before and the market just rebounds,” he says. “But we’ve got low, low interest rates and people have hopefully saved money and built up equity in their homes.”

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