Canmore real estate sees growing interest from American buyers

As Calgary's real estate market struggles, Canmore is seeing growing interest from American buyers — which is causing some concern about the potential impact on locals.

'Lock-and-leave' purchases a potential concern for Alberta mountain town's housing prices

Christopher Vincent of Sotheby's Realty says 'lock-and-leave' vacationers make different purchases than locals, targeting for instance this $1.5-million active listing in Canmore. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

As Calgary's real estate market struggles, Canmore is seeing growing interest from American buyers — which is causing some concern about the potential impact on locals.

Real estate agents are fielding more calls from south of the border each week, and a few sales have closed.

"The exchange rate was definitely of interest to us," said Cecilia Padilla, a buyer from Texas. 

"We feel that it's a small window of opportunity that the U.S. dollar gives us more buying power and it's not always going to stay like that." 

She and her husband passed over Telluride, Vail, and Aspen and decided on a Canmore property.

"We've always felt the Canadian Rockies are one of the most beautiful places in North America and we feel very lucky to be able to buy a home up there right now."

Developers are noticing as well.

"They're not necessarily Americans, they are Canadians that have properties in the States," said Teresa Mullen, marketing director for Spring Creek, a multi-facility housing development. 

She said she's noticing those Canadians choosing to buy in places like Canmore rather than the U.S.

'Lock and leave vacationers'

Not everyone thinks there's a looming problem.

Christopher Vincent, Sotheby Realty's vice president of sales, points out Americans are "not coming by the bus-full."

Vincent said "lock-and-leave" vacationers make different types of purchases than locals.

"There's a decent amount of product out there right now that I think we can absorb any kind of outside buyer."

The low Canadian dollar is drawing foreign investors to high-end vacation homes in Canmore, experts say. (Sotheby's International Realty Canada)

But there is some concern about a potential "push-pull" between locals looking to find an affordable place to live, and an increase in outside investment.

"There's a downward pressure then on the housing market in general, whether that's staff accommodation or entry level rental or entry level purchase," said Joanna McCallum, a town councillor and the chair of Canmore Community Housing Corporation (CCHC).

No 'magic wand'

McCallum said Canmore's real estate market is already in crisis for the low-to-medium range.

"It's just not something that can be solved with a magic wand, it [needs] an integrated approach," McCallum said, adding that the group is trying to bring together businesses, the municipality, and the provincial government to work on solving the issue.

McCallum said the CCHC has a 48-unit apartment building in the works for the Three Sisters area, and there are 60 units in Palliser with a zero per cent vacancy rate. 

Town council is also considering a proposed 90-unit building downtown to be rented at market rate.

The municipal development plan also includes measures to bring in secondary suites, and that goes to public hearing later in March.