‘Unprecedented’ demand driving real estate sales and prices in Canmore

It was just minutes after a new listing for a $ 1.15 million home in Canmore, Alta went online, when real estate agent Jill Law’s phone started buzzing.

Three days and 31 screenings later, she had received 11 offers for the property, including one from a family that wrote a personal letter to the seller and included a family photo.

It appears to be the best “bid” in an emerging real estate market with more listings and properties being sold above the asking price.

Real estate professionals, market watchers and longtime residents say a combination of factors are at play, including the pandemic and low interest rates. But the surge in sales and prices are a cause for concern in the community – which still sees itself as a place where families can raise their children, rather than an exclusive playground for the privileged.

The average property price in Canmore is $ 1.1 million, according to the Alberta Real Estate Association’s reference price.

“Sales have increased, inventory has decreased,” said Dan Sparks, one of Canmore’s busiest real estate agents who has sold Bow Valley homes for 20 years.

This house on Grotto Road received 11 offers in three days. The offer chosen is believed to be several thousand dollars above the $ 1.15 million price tag. The family wrote a personal letter to the seller and added a family photo. (Google Maps)

But there are fewer houses for sale. There are currently around 100 houses on the market. If you factor in the number of sales, the result is a one-month offer that is well below the usual five to six month offer at this time of year.

What does it all mean? To put it mildly, it’s a seller’s market.

“We have had exceptional sales across the Canmore area, but the deals and supply have not kept pace,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist at the Alberta Real Estate Association.

“And that’s what is causing some of the price gains that we’re seeing in this market.”

And some of those prize wins have been astronomical.

A condominium hotel unit in Canmore recently sold for $ 50,000 above the $ 600,000 price tag. The seller bought the device in 2016 for $ 350,000. (ReMax Alpine Realty)

Kelly MacMillan of ReMax Alpine Realty says she just sold a hotel condominium for $ 50,000 above the asking price.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo, which has the potential to generate nightly hotel revenue, was listed for $ 600,000. The sellers bought the property four years ago for $ 350,000.

“There was an opportunity to take advantage of the market,” said MacMillan.

“You are very happy,” she said of her customers.

Pandemic pushes demand

Sparks calls it COVID fatigue. Despite taking calls from people in Toronto and Montreal – and even a family in Germany – a large chunk of buyers are people from Calgary and Edmonton who have been stuck at home for over a year looking for a change of scene. he says.

Real estate agent Dan Sparks says buyers from Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal have bought or are considering buying homes in Canmore due to the pandemic. He says people have the flexibility to work from home permanently and choose the resort as their base. (Bryan Labby / CBC)

“They have been working from home for a while and can continue to do so. And when they can, they will do it where they want,” he said.

MacMillan agrees.

“Canmore, especially leisure markets where people are finding they don’t have to be where they work. They have the flexibility to work from home.”

Affordability of housing

As the inventory decreases, so do the opportunities to find a traditional single-family home. According to Sparks, only two homes were listed for less than $ 1 million last week – and only five were on the market for less than $ 1.5 million.

Sparks served for several years on the board of directors of Canmore Community Housing, a municipal company dedicated to creating affordable housing for people and families.

A townhouse project with 10 residential units is under construction and is expected to open in early 2022.

Construction has begun on a 10-unit townhouse project on Lawrence Grassi Ridge in Canmore, Alta. It is being built by Canmore Community Housing to increase the availability of affordable housing in the mountain town west of Calgary. (Bryan Labby / CBC)

There are already 150 people on the waiting list to buy or rent a property.

“It’s basically just fingers in the perineum,” said Sparks.

“Canmore housing affordability will always be an issue. We will just keep working on it.”

The average Canmore condominium price is now $ 500,000.

New development, cheaper living?

Canmore City Council recently approved a number of changes to the latest development plan for the Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) on the east side of the parish.

One of the changes is the proposed requirement that the contractor include 20 percent of affordable or subsidized housing – twice as much as proposed by TSMV. A spokesman for the developer says the company is still reviewing the impact of the changes and withholding comments until the plan returns to council on May 11.

The proposed zoning plan for the Three Sisters Mountain Village in Canmore calls for 20 percent of future development to meet the city’s needs for affordable housing. The plan will be discussed again on May 11, 2021. (Bryan Labby / CBC)

The mayor says that while it will be years for these units to become available, the council had to act now.

John Borrowman says young families have left the ward for years because they can’t afford to stay.

“We bleed the next generation like this for years,” he said.

“If we don’t do something to ensure that affordable housing is a big part of our future, the city will … it will only be a place for the very rich.”

New housing options, slow acceptance

The city recently said it would consider building or legalizing secondary suites in existing neighborhoods. Homeowners are offered financial incentives to add so-called “additional housing units”.

So far, only three homeowners have applied for the $ 20,000 grants.

A recently completed secondary suite in a new $ 1.4 million duplex in Canmore. The city is allowing “additional housing” in existing neighborhoods and is offering grants of up to $ 20,000 to help homeowners add the suites and expand the community’s affordable housing stock. (Bryan Labby / CBC)

Dale Hildebrand is a local real estate agent and contractor. He recently sold two maisonettes that were listed for $ 1.2M and $ 1.4M. One includes a separate one bedroom suite.

Hildebrand’s next project is in the early stages, but he hopes to convert several residential lots near the city center into 16-18 townhouses. Some are specifically built for employers to buy for their employees.

“You can … rent them out to your employees at a subsidized price,” said Hildebrand.

However, as demand remains strong and prices rise, the market may be too hot for employers to consider housing workers.

Infill dwellings are increasing in density in some of the older neighborhoods in Canmore, Alta. Two single-family homes will be replaced with three maisonettes, which are expected to sell for $ 1.2 to $ 1.4 million each. (Bryan Labby / CBC)

It’s a problem for the church that has struggled with recruiting.

“It’s harder for young people to find affordable housing,” said Michel Dufresne, director of the Job Resource Center for Banff and Canmore.

“It also makes it harder for small businesses to provide this shelter to their employees. It becomes a bigger problem when you have to buy a million dollar home to accommodate five people,” he said.

“It is very expensive.”

Bryan Labby is a corporate reporter at CBC Calgary. If you have a good idea or tip for a story, you can reach them at [email protected] or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.