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Fort McMurray housing market sees highest number of sales in first quarter since 2014

Fort McMurray’s housing market saw its highest sales quarter since 2014, according to the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board.

'There is more confidence in the market,' says real estate agent

From left to right, Caedon, Shawn, Andrea and Aubrey Bergen. Andrea Bergen says it took months for her family to find the right home. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Fort McMurray's housing market is surging as the region saw its highest sales quarter since 2014, according to the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board. 

This year's first quarter saw 297 home sales, a  jump from last year's Q1 total of 231, and nearly double the number from 2016 when 146 homes were sold. In 2014, 410 homes were sold in the first quarter.

Fort McMurray is seeing low inventory, meaning homes are seeing multiple offers.

Melanie Galea, real estate agent for RE/MAX Fort McMurray, said she thinks there are a few reasons for the increase in sales: people are tired of renting and interest rates are low.

"There is more confidence in the market," said Galea. She noted that she's seeing multiple offers on properties over $600,000. 

Galea said the higher sales and lower inventory means buyers may need to be patient when buying a home.

"I'm scouring the market for my buyers all the time," said Galea. "You have to be ready." 

For one of Galea's clients, Andrea Bergen, the search for a home took months. 

Bergen said it was hard to find a home, because "they're being snapped up really quickly and in multiple offers." 

She said her family was looking for more space as she was working from home in her kitchen, which was not an ideal situation. 

Bergen looked at more than a dozen houses over several months, trying to find the right fit, but she said the market was "picked over." 

When she finally came across a foreclosure in Wood Buffalo Estates that fit her criteria, she moved fast and put in an offer that night. She moved in with her family in mid-March. 

"It was amazing," said Bergen. "We had a five-year-plan of being able to buy a house here and we did it in half that time." 

Andrea Bergen moved her family into the new home in mid-March. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Galea attributes some of the uptick in home sales to the pandemic. She said people are looking for more space to work from home and more space for kids to play in the backyard. 

"I think we're finally seeing that stabilization in the market," said Galea.

Katie Ekroth, president of the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board, said the sales show more buyer confidence in the market. 

She said Fort McMurray is leaning toward a seller's market, but only because inventory is low.

"We've got so many people that are not in a position to be able to sell because they bought during the high boom time, they owe more than what they could sell it for today," she said.

Ekroth said last year around this time, sales slowed significantly because of the pandemic. 

"Prices are still at an all time low, interest rates are staggeringly low," said Ekroth. She added she expects more people start to buy in anticipation of changes to the mortgage stress level test.

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