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Real estate, home renovations boom during pandemic

“If a house is in good condition and priced according to the market, we often see multiple offers happening,” said Doris Wyatt, realtor with Re/Max Elite and Robertson Real Estate.
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In St. Albert 1,100 single-family homes have been sold in 2021, year-to-date, with an average selling price of $485,100, according to Re/Max. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

The real estate and home renovation markets have been booming since COVID-19 came and kept everyone in their home, industry experts have said.

Doris Wyatt, realtor with Re/Max Elite and Robertson Real Estate, said the last two years have been “exceptional” in the real estate market.

“The last two years, 2020 and 2021, have been very active, busy years. Inventory levels are certainly down in St. Albert as well,” Wyatt said.  

Buyers are flocking to the market because of the historically low interest rates, Wyatt said. First-time buyers are entering the market with lower payments and families are up-sizing their homes and taking advantage of the low rates.

“You’ve got a bit more buying power,” Wyatt said.

St. Albert has faced a low supply of housing, Wyatt said, with new communities such as Erin Ridge North and Jensen Lakes still in the build-out phase. As low interest rates cause high demand for housing, the result is higher prices and less selection for buyers.

In St. Albert 1,100 single-family homes have been sold in 2021, year-to-date, with an average selling price of $485,100, Wyatt said. In all of 2020, there were 834 single-family homes sold in St. Albert, with an average price of $462,179.

“This equates to an approximate increase of five per cent in the average cost of a single-family home in St. Albert,” Wyatt said.

Right now, inventory levels for single-family homes is low, with only 106 active single-family homes available, down from 169 at this time last year.

And while condos aren’t as hot as single-family homes, they are still selling in the city.

So far in 2021 there have been 296 condos sold with an average selling price of $282,000, Wyatt said. In all of 2020 there were 221 condos sold in St. Albert with an average selling price of $253,598.

Currently there are 92 available condos for sale in St. Albert and last year at this time there were 110 for sale.

In St. Albert anything in the $450,000 to $500,000 range goes very quickly, but even homes in the higher price ranges are selling fast.

When the pandemic hit, many people who were renting felt like it was time to move into home ownership, and those who already owned were spending so much time at home many looked to move into a bigger space.

While working from the kitchen table or basement seemed like a temporary change from the pandemic, nearly two years in, some employees are realizing they may be working from home for much longer and are looking to get a comfortable office or more space to work.

Demand is so high Wyatt said multiple offers are fairly common.

“If a house is in good condition and priced according to the market, we often see multiple offers happening,” Wyatt said.

Tara Borle, lead mortgage broker with Mortgage Architects, said many buyers are taking advantage of the low interest rates.

“The rates were at historical lows, which I think helped steam everyone buying these houses,” Borle said.

“They've climbed up a little bit over the last few months. They're still really good, but I think the historical rates helped with people wanting to get in. We were giving out 1.59 [per cent] for a five-year lock-in rate at one point,” Borle said.

Those who already own homes, Borle said, are trying to take advantage and switch their higher rates down to the lower rates, which is keeping mortgage brokers busy.

Around 60 per cent of those who come into Borle’s office want to buy a new home, she said, and the remaining 40 per cent want a new rate on the mortgage of the house they already own.

On the other side, Borle said some people who have really struggled with COVID-19 financially are coming in to refinance their homes or find money to pay off credit cards.

“That's the other side that we're seeing, too, and that's a sad side,” Borle said.

While the real estate market has been hot, home renovations have been booming, too.

Doug Walton, from Nest Builder, said business has increased since COVID-19, and the company has doubled the number of renovations in the community.

Walton said any contractor right now is likely booked from mid to late 2022 with such high demand for renovations.

People are spending more time at home during COVID-19 and they are feeling like they need extra space in their homes for their offices, Walton said.

“They have the extra money because they haven't been traveling, and they want to put it into their home because that's where they're spending majority of their time. So that's driven a lot of the renovation increase,” Walton said.

COVID-19 has caused financial woes for many and Walton said many are still being budget conscious when they renovate their homes.

Instead of buying a new home, many are choosing to renovate their older homes instead, because they have bigger backyards and larger properties.

Supply chain is a big challenge renovators are currently facing. What used to take six to eight weeks is now taking 12 to 18 weeks, Walton said.

“We just plan accordingly and we don’t start jobs until all materials have arrived,” Walton said.

Overall it has been a good year for builders, Walton said.

“It's been a good year for us and we continue to work at trying to fit everybody in and keep everybody happy.”

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Media based in St. Albert, Alta.
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