New Brunswick

Record sales and prices for Fredericton real estate in 2020

After raising concerns about slow sales at the start of the pandemic, business turned around in a huge way for Fredericton realtors last year. Data from the Fredericton Real Estate board for 2020 show sales were up 7.9 per cent from the previous year and prices were up 10.3 per cent, to an average of over $207,000.

Low inventory helps sellers, poses challenges for buyers

Courtney Case and Matt Wakefield bought a home in Beaver Dam last fall after Wakefield was transferred to Base Gagetown for work. (Submitted by Matt Wakefield)

After raising concerns about slow sales at the start of the pandemic, business turned around in a huge way for Fredericton realtors last year.

Data from the Fredericton Real Estate board for 2020 show record sales and prices.

Things started to pick up in April, said RE/MAX agent Jason Munn, and it's been busy ever since.

The number of houses sold was 2,660. That represented an increase of 7.9 per cent over the previous year.

For some people the timing was right, said Munn, others moved for work and some were enticed by low interest rates or New Brunswick's low COVID-19 case counts.

Munn also noticed a lot of young buyers who decided they didn't want to rent anymore if they were going to be "stuck at home" because of pandemic restrictions. 

Homes sold for an average price of over $207,000. That was up 10.3 per cent from 2019.

Rebecca Steeves of RE/MAX says buyers are looking at houses they think they can afford and the next thing they know the house has sold for $10,000 to $20,000 above the asking price. (Submitted by Rebecca Steeves)

Houses are regularly selling for $10,000 above the list price and it's become the norm to have multiple offers and bidding wars, according to RE/MAX agent Rebecca Steeves and Exit agent Josie Livingstone.

Livingstone said one home listed for about $200,000 ended up selling for about $240,000.

Many buyers are getting frustrated, she said.

Rudy Morales sold his home in 2020 and has been trying to buy another one since.

Morales was looking for a larger home for his family.

They expected to have time to find a new place while their old home was on the market.

But multiple offers came in within a couple of days and it sold in no time.

"We were happy," said Morales.

Since then they've been living in an apartment.

Steeves says this home in New Maryland was recently purchased sight unseen by a couple from Ontario. (Submitted by Rebecca Steeves)

Every time they find a home listed for sale that they like, there's already an offer on it, he said.

"It's tough," said Morales.

But he hasn't given up. They are pre–approved for a mortgage, he said, and ready to move quickly when they find something they like.

The market conditions may be good for sellers, but low inventory makes things challenging for buyers, said Steeves.

"Right now in the Fredericton area, there's around 200 listings, but there's 280 realtors. So, anybody that has a realtor, they're ready to pounce on it."

Many people are making decisions to buy based on when they can see the home online, said Steeves. 

An interior shot from a home in New Maryland that was recently purchased sight unseen. Steeves says it was designed by the seller, Dane Butler, of MacDonald Builders. (Submitted by Rebecca Steeves)

Besides photos and 3-D tours, they're also asking for follow-up video calls, said Munn.

And they're relying heavily on reports from home inspectors.

Steeves said she tries to be "a real black-hat thinker" and as blunt as possible about issues she spots to avoid having unhappy customers.

A buyer from British Columbia was thinking of making an offer on one home, she said, but its foundation was "caving in."

She told them she didn't think they'd want that home, but if they did, they should expect to spend about $40,000 on a new foundation.

Matt Wakefield and Courtney Case bought a new home in Beaver Dam last fall.

Wakefield is in the military and was being transferred from Borden, Ont., to Gagetown.

They were 36th on the waitlist for housing on base.

They relied on a realtor to scout homes for them. Most of those available were in flood prone areas, said Wakefield.

And each time they found a listing they liked, it would quickly disappear.

Josie Livingstone of Exit Realty says some buyers are getting frustrated trying to find a place, but they have few options because the price to build has gone up, too. (Submitted by Josie Livingstone)

They'd been looking for a while and Wakefield's transfer date was just a couple of days away when they found a home they liked and made an offer.

The couple used all of their savings for the down payment.

"It was just a huge gamble," said Wakefield. "I didn't know what I was getting myself into."

The realtor didn't miss any major issues, he said, but the house was smaller than he thought it would be and some small details weren't obvious from their remote video tour. 

"You miss out on details like scratches in the walls and how the lighting looks and how much land you have and how noisy it is by the road. You miss out on a lot of things, but you get the bare necessities."

Philip Drost looks into the challenges of trying to buy a house during a pandemic. 10:09
A record year for home sales in Fredericton has made for a busy year for real estate agents. 8:25

Corey Demerchant and her husband decided last winter that they wanted to move to New Brunswick. The pandemic delayed their plans a bit. They put their house in Ontario on the market last summer and it sold a day later. It took them two-and-a-half months to find their new home. 

"Buying a house in a different province is very stressful," said Demerchant. 

"I'm surprised my marriage lasted."

The most challenging part, she said, was the emotional roller coaster.

"There were so many we really liked. And we inquired about them and they were already gone. You get really excited and hopeful. You really get your heart set on a house and you find out you can't have it."

They ended up spending a little more than they'd budgeted for, but were still able to buy mortgage free and are very happy with the end result.

It was "like Christmas morning," said DeMerchant, when she got here and saw the home in person.

"It couldn't have worked out better. We're in a beautiful house and a great area."

With files from Philip Drost

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