Fort McMurray is seeing a sharp increase in property foreclosure claims, according to new numbers from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.
For the seven-month period from April 1 to Oct. 31, Fort McMurray's courthouse has seen 105 foreclosure statements of claim. That's almost double the number seen in the 2016-17 fiscal year, and four times what the court saw in 2015-16.
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Foreclosure statements of claim are court documents, usually filed by a bank to begin repossessing a property from a borrower who has fallen behind on mortgage payments. The process isn't complete until a judge rules and issues a foreclosure order.
The oilsands capital has seen a rough couple of years.
Ever since oil prices started to slide in the fall of 2014, Fort McMurray has been dealing with layoffs. After a difficult 2015, a wildfire roared into the city in May 2016, devouring 1,595 buildings and structures containing 2,579 dwelling units.
At $3.5 billion in damage, the fire was the costliest insured disaster in Canadian history, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Andrew Weir, president of the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board, said he's been seeing more foreclosures in the market.
"Foreclosures have been up since the oil downturn, with the layoffs, and of course a lot less people being in town," Weir said. "There were people that unfortunately had themselves overextended and maybe lost their job."
Weir said foreclosed properties tend to be priced "aggressively," which puts pressures on the rest of the market.
Real estate board data shows the average sale price for a single-family home in October was $573,726.
That's down 12.2 per cent from the same time last year. Having said that, Weir said he's seeing more home sales recently, which might be a positive sign.
Lance Bussieres, co-owner of Re/Max Fort McMurray, said he hasn't seen as many foreclosures as people are talking about. He said he cautions buyers from immediately picking them up because foreclosed properties aren't always the deal they're made out to be.
"Everybody thinks that a foreclosure is a great deal," Bussieres said, adding that he has his doubts.
He said buyers who look carefully may find comparable properties "that are maybe priced more aggressively than the foreclosures."
Looking at foreclosure orders in other Alberta cities, Calgary has seen the most in the period between April 1, 2015 and Oct. 31 of this year, at 1,362. Edmonton has seen 894 foreclosure orders in the same period.