Calgary

Small town realtor says COVID-19 may have city dwellers looking for wider, open spaces

It seems small town real estate is doinig well this month. A realtor says the attractions are more space and less COVID-19. 

It seems small town real estate is doing well, and two of the attractions are more space and less COVID-19.

A for sale sign is pictured in this file photo. A small town real estate agent says business has been steady these last few weeks, despite the economic conditions. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Jennifer Handley is a real estate agent in Nanton, a town about an hour drive south of Calgary. 

She is also the town's mayor.

According to her, the Nanton housing market is hot right now.

"We haven't been able to catch our breath that's for sure, for about three of four weeks," Handley said. 

Handley said when COVID-19 hit Alberta back in March, sales were halted, not unlike any other real estate market.

But since the middle of May, she has sold about 15 houses — a pretty big number when you consider the size of the rural market in a global pandemic.

I think there is that appeal that we are a little bit isolated from what's going on in the city.- Jennifer Handley, Nanton mayor and realtor

And a big chunk of the buyers are coming to the town, which has a population of 2,300, from Calgary. They're telling Hanley they want out of the big city. 

"They felt, especially if they were living in a condo apartment and they wanted to sell their place there, come here and not be as close to people — and we've heard that story time and time again," Handley said. 

While Calgary is still considered the hot spot for COVID-19 cases in Alberta, Handley said there have been no cases reported in Nanton. There were just 14 cases in the entire municipal district where the town is located, as of Sunday.

"I think there is that appeal that we are a little bit isolated from what's going on in the city," Handley said. 

Anne-Marie Lurie is with the Alberta Real Estate Association, which tracks data in rural areas.

Lurie said she's not surprised by Handley's experience.

"The trend has been the same in areas like Airdrie as well, where their numbers improved much more in June than what we saw in the city." 

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, Airdrie's sales rose above last year's levels this June, following declines from the previous three months. Inventories were also below last year's levels as well. 

Other small municipalities in the Calgary region also saw sales improve slightly (Cochrane) or remain stable (Okotoks), despite the economic conditions. 

Lurie said something to keep an eye on is a shift in consumer demand preferences .

"If people aren't having to come into the office as much what does that mean?" she said.

"Do we see people considering living in different, more further out places? So I'm really curious to see if there are any fundamental shifts that will come with you know, essentially COVID-19."

For now, small town realtors like Handley are happy to ride the rural real estate wave for as long as it sticks around. 

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