Norma and Alan Kehoe said leaving the beauty and friendships of Cape Breton wasn’t easy.
Norma and Alan Kehoe said leaving the beauty and friendships of Cape Breton wasn’t easy.
But living near grandchildren in Cochrane was a strong enough pull to make the move west and purchase a home in the Fireside area of the town just west of Calgary.
“We love Cochrane. We love the closeness to the mountains and to the city without having to be in it,” said Alan Kehoe.
“(Cochrane is) an older community but it’s growing quickly.”
The couple, who take possession of their 1,430-square-foot house next month, are among the home buyers driving a real estate boom in towns and cities surrounding Calgary.
According to new data from the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), the 725 home sales in the first six months of the year in Cochrane nearly equal the record 754 purchases in the entire record year of 2014.
Much the same can be said for Airdrie to the north of Calgary, where the annual average number of home sales — 1,300 — has already been exceeded.
The benchmark price for a single detached home in Airdrie was $432,700 in June, 15 per cent higher than the previous year.
But the average price of a detached home in Airdrie so far this year is $411,011, well below the $500,183 in Calgary, according to CREB.
“My record sales in previous years were surpassed by May this year,” said Natalie Bethiaume of CIR Realty, who specializes in Airdrie.
Lower lot prices are a draw for buyers, she said, in the city that’s nearly doubled in size since 2009 to a population of more than 70,000.
“None of us saw this market coming. When COVID-19 really became a concern, all the predictions were this market was going to tank, but the opposite happened,” said Berthiaume.
The COVID-inspired trend to work from home has made places such as Airdrie more attractive, she said.
Echoing that is Cochrane CIR realtor Kendra Watt, whose town’s population has grown by 30 per cent in the past five years to more than 34,000.
“Working from home gives people the flexibility to live farther from the city centre . . . We’ve seen a significant increase in people moving from Calgary since the pandemic,” said Watt.
“And your money goes further here than Calgary — it always has.”
Over the past six months, prices in Cochrane were four per cent higher than they were in same time frame in 2020, says CREB.
Even so, it remains attractive to people from much costlier locales in the area such as Canmore, said Watt, where the benchmark price of more than $1.15 million has shot up by 17 per cent since last year.
“We’re seeing quite a few Canmore people coming out,” she said.
It’s a demand that’s seen Watt and her associates “run off our feet — it’s certainly been at least double the production of 2020.”
But that means the market has been playing catch-up from the first months of the pandemic, said Watt, when sales slowed.
But now, that late-pandemic surge has meant more expensive building materials and a less predictable time frame for construction, said Watt.
“So, instead, people come to the resale market, which is something we haven’t seen before,” she said.
That’s also meant more cash purchases as buyers seek to stake a more solid claim in a competitive sellers’ market, added Watt.
Both Berthiaume and Watt say at least 10 per cent of their more recent buyers also hail from out of province.
“That’s more so than previously. People are retiring to spend their summers here and are cashing out in expensive places like Vancouver and southern Ontario,” said Berthiaume.
“They don’t even blink at our prices. They see the value here.”
But the surging demand for life outside the city limits has taken its toll on affordability, says CREB.
Okotoks south of Calgary has seen its benchmark price for single family homes climb to $508,200 last month, an increase of nearly 14 per cent from the year before and seven per cent since the start of 2021, they say.
“Record sales and low inventory have caused the months of supply to remain just above one month,” states the latest CREB report.
“The low level of inventory relative to sales has persisted in this market since the third quarter of last year, causing steady gains in prices, especially for detached homes.”
Okotoks’ population has grown by eight per cent in the past five years, to 31,569 in 2020.
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Blackstone Inc. BX-N said Monday it has no interest in investing in single-family homes in Canada, laying to rest speculation the giant global asset manager would scoop up hundreds of Canadian houses and turn them into rental properties.
After Blackstone announced plans in May to establish a Canadian office in Toronto, rumours abounded that the private equity firm would unleash its firepower, gobble up homes and increase competition for individuals and families looking to buy homes. The typical home price across the country has climbed 50 per cent over the past two years and real estate investors have come under scrutiny for their role in ramping up competition and driving up prices.
But Blackstone’s head of real estate Americas, Nadeem Meghji, said that is not in the cards for the company’s Canadian expansion.
“It’s just not an area that we are focused on in Canada,” he said in a joint interview with Janice Lin, the new head of Blackstone Canada.
The New York-based company, which has US$915.5-billion in assets under management, has been accused of profiting off the 2007 U.S. housing meltdown after it bought swaths of distressed properties and then rented them out to U.S. residents.
Blackstone has said it did not own any single-family homes before the crisis and didn’t foreclose on any of the properties. It has also said many of its purchases were homes that had been sitting vacant and dragging down local property values.
Blackstone has since sold that business and owns a rent-to-own business called Home Partners of America – one of the many players in a growing single-family home rental market in the U.S.
“We don’t have a similar platform in Canada and we don’t have the intention of launching one because, from our perspective, we think there are just more interesting places to deploy capital in the Canadian market,” Mr. Meghji said.
Ms. Lin, a former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board executive, is in charge of Blackstone’s expansion in Canada. She cited the country’s favourable immigration policies and its strong population growth as two key factors that make Canada a winner for Blackstone’s capital.
Blackstone mostly owns warehouses and other industrial space in Canada, as well as a couple of office towers. It also has some investments in apartment building developments. All together, they are worth about US$14-billion, according to Blackstone, representing just a tiny fraction of the company’s global real estate portfolio.
Ms. Lin and Mr. Meghji both said the company will continue to invest in industrial and top office buildings, as well as hotels.
Blackstone has previously said it expects its growth here will be significant. Mr. Meghji would not quantify “significant” except to say he expects growth will be material and Canada could eventually command a larger share of Blackstone’s global real estate portfolio.
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MONTREAL — When Soufia Khmarou moved from Morocco to Montreal in 2009, she thought finding an affordable house for her and her three children was going to be easy.
“I was not expecting this,” Khmarou said in an interview Monday. “What we see, what we hear about Quebec … the reality doesn’t reflect the ad.”
Khmarou appeared next to Manon Massé, a spokesperson with Quebec’s second opposition party, Québec solidaire, who told reporters Montreal’s affordable housing shortage is going to get worse if more money isn’t made available.
Standing next to a construction site of high-end condominiums near downtown Montreal, Massé said, “There are housing units being built in Montreal. But for the families that want to find a place to stay and afford to pay rent each month, there’s a crisis.”
The need for affordable housing will be especially acute after June 30, she said, when most of the leases across the province end. Many families will be forced to remain in or move into homes that are unsanitary or unfit for their needs. Massé said low-income families in Montreal and in the rest of the province are spending up to 85 per cent of their monthly incomes on housing.
Khmarou said she’s been on waiting lists to access subsidized housing for the past three years, hoping to move her family out of a Montreal apartment she said is unsanitary.
“But I don’t have any answers; all I see is more and more people on the same lists,” Khmarou said. “There’s no hope; there’s no low-rental housing that’s being added on the market.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante held a separate news conference on Monday, also to lament the lack of affordable housing in the city. Plante said Montreal has been waiting for the past four years for millions of dollars promised by the federal government to build around 1,200 affordable housing units and renovate an additional 4,700 units.
“We know that there’s a housing crisis — it’s hard on July 1,” Plante told reporters. “To know that there are almost 6,000 units that are taken hostage, that aren’t made available for citizens, it’s unacceptable. It’s been four years, at one point, patience has a limit.
“When we talk about the safety and healthiness of housing units, that’s what’s at stake,” she said.
A coalition of housing committees and tenant associations in Quebec released a report over the weekend indicating a widespread rent increase across the province. The coalition analyzed 51,000 rental listings from February to May and said rents across the province increased by nine per cent between 2021 and 2022, reaching an average of $1,300 per month.
The coalition said that less-populated parts of the province were used to an accessible market but are now seeing strong increases.
Rentals.ca, a Canadian website for apartment rental searches, said the average rent for all Canadian properties listed on its site was $1,888 per month in May — a year-over-year rise of 10.5 per cent. With an average of about $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom unit, Montreal ranked 22nd out of 35 cities. Vancouver, the front-runner, had the same size units listed for an average of $3,495 per month.
The association of homebuilders, called the Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec, said in a report last week that Quebec is missing 100,000 homes, with more than 37,000 families on waiting lists to access subsidized housing.
Paul Cardinal, director of economic services with the association, wrote that “the only way to sustainably reduce real estate overheating is to increase supply.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 27, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press
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