Resale housing prices have gone through the roof, setting new and multi-family sectors last month, the Calgary Real Estate Board says.

The average residential selling price topped out at $177,245 in February, up 2.7 per cent over the previous record set in November 1999.

Condominium prices also are the highest they've ever been, at $143,297 - smashing last November's record and up 16 per cent over February 1999.

But the reason for the increase could be as simple as a flurry of activity at the high end of the market, Ted Zaharko, broker-owner of Royal LePage Foothills, said Thursday.

"It's throwing off the average price in a disproportionate way," he said.

Richard Corrievau, senior market analyst for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, agreed with Zaharko's assessment.  Combined, the residential sale price of condominiums and single-family homes has gone up 8.9 per cent for the first two months of the year compared to the same months last year, but he's reluctant to change the forecast" yet.

"I don't think we're seeing this set a trend for the entire year at this point.  We'll see pretty strong price growth, but not in this range," said Corriveau.

He's calling for a four per cent increase in the average price for the year.

Both Corriveau and CREB president Greg Luedtke said the higher-priced home sales have affected the averages, even in the multi-family market where a couple of Eau Claire condominiums sold last month.

Comparing February 2000 and February 1999, 29 per cent of the sales this year were homes over $200,000, compared with 22.75 per cent at the same time last year.  And while 57 homes over $300,000 sold in February 1999, 95 sold last month.

Another factor is the number of new homes sold through the real estate board, they said.  Although the number has remained about 100 year-over-year, the average price of new homes has risen enough to raise the averages.

Zaharko said the rising number of high-priced home sales isn't likely a result yet of the improved economics of the oil industry.

"I believe that what hasn't hit the city yet is the impact of oil prices, because they're not yet reflected in positive oil stock prices.  I think if that ever happens, wow."

It's likely a combination of the buoyant stock market and high-tech industry, Luedtke added.

"There's a lot of wealth being made or moving to this city - and those people are ready to buy or build high-priced homes," Luedtke said.

Still, while it's "generally a reflection of a pretty good economy," the worry is the affordability factor, said Zaharko.

"It's more and more difficult to find homes in the median price range."

The median price was $161,500 in February, up from January's $157,000.

Bryan Morrow of Re/Max First said the increased prices may just be a case of catch-up with the rest of the large cities across Canada.

"It's not an alarm.  One month does not a market make.  I'd be more concerned if it was a bad economy, but the Calgary real estate market is way under priced anyway."

(Reprinted from the Calgary Herald, February 3, 2000)

Written by: Marty Hope and published in the Calgary Herald.