New Brunswick

Canadians wanting scenery, not city life, driving record home sales in small-town N.B.

Home sales in New Brunswick in recent months have been high and not reserved to the larger cities, as people from western provinces ditch large urban centres to buy property in the more rural, scenic parts of the province.

People choosing to live 'where they would usually go on summer vacation' driving rural real estate sales

Markoshi Baladad and his wife, Jas Shukla, moved to the small rural community of Hopewell Cape, N.B., in October 2019. (Submitted by Markoshi Baladad)

As a former Toronto-based nightclub DJ, Markoshi Baladad is accustomed to being at the front end of trends, but he wasn't expecting his move to rural New Brunswick to be one of them.

Baladad's move here happened two years ago, after he and his wife, Jas Shukla, paid a life-changing visit to Hopewell Cape while on a road trip.

"We stopped in Albert County and almost immediately we fell in love with the scenery," he said. "We fell in love with the area."

Within weeks, in a move one friend compared to the plot of the hit series Schitt's Creek, the couple had bought an old house on 10 hectares adjacent to the Bay of Fundy and said goodbye to their condominium in downtown Toronto.

Baladad said the move surprised his friends, and surprised him as well.

"They're still very surprised I'm out in the country because they thought, and I thought, I was going to be a city boy my whole life," he said. 

"I wanted to retire in Tokyo but for some reason I ended up in rural New Brunswick."   

At the front end of a trend

It was an unusual move at the time, but it wasn't long before others were doing the same.

New Brunswick has been experiencing record real estate sales for the past year, driven in part by Canadians from other provinces moving east. 

And like Baladad and Shukla, more than a few of them have been settling off the beaten path, in corners of the province known for their scenery, not social life.

Shaun Cathcart is the senior economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association. He said sales data shows almost all real estate markets in Canada east of Kingston, Ont., have been experiencing a record number of transactions in the past year.

But those with unique geographical features, such as mountains or oceans or other natural views, have been doing particularly well.

"In the era of COVID, you really just need an internet connection for a lot of jobs to be able to work," said Cathcart

"People want to go where they would usually go on summer vacation. Places that are nice. These are places that some people, at least more so than before COVID, are choosing to move to."

That's what happened with Baladad and it appears to be what's driving strong real estate markets in many of the province's smaller communities, including several in northern New Brunswick.

Newly elected mayor Normand Pelletier has a new, reinvented vision for Dalhousie: "Open for Business." (Bridget Yard/CBC )

Dalhousie Mayor Normand Pelletier has been trying for years to understand the secret of attracting new residents — until all of a sudden it seemed to start happening on its own.

"We noticed this more or less around last fall and around Christmas time, that things were picking up," said Pelletier.

"Usually a house in the region up here would be on the market for, you know, two or three months, four months, five months, six months. Now, you put them up and a week later they're gone. It's quite surprising. We're seeing a lot of new faces."

It couldn't have come at a better time for the former mill town.

Dalhousie lost three major industrial plants between 2008 and 2011, and has been struggling with a declining population and shrinking tax base for the last decade.

But it's also one of New Brunswick's most picturesque communities.

It has commanding hilltop views of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula from across the Chaleur Bay and it has emerged as a favourite among newcomers to the province, according to local realtor Donna Lee Thibodeau. 

Donna Lee Thibodeau sells real estate in northern New Brunswick from Bathurst to Campbellton and says it has been an "incredible" year with out of province buyers fueling record sales. (Submitted by Donna Lee Thibodeau)

"We're getting a lot of buyers, especially [from] Ontario. Those are the people I'm dealing with the most this year. And they're looking for anything where they can see water," said Thibodeau, who is based in Bathurst but sells properties all through the north.

"There's just been something about the properties, especially in the Dalhousie area, that has been very attractive to buyers from out of province."

For a town that has lost nearly 15 per cent of its population over the last 15 years, it would take an enormous influx of new people to fill the void.

But for Pelletier, the last year has been a hopeful step in a new direction.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed," he said. " We've got to keep on promoting and selling ourselves. That's what we've got to do."

The lighthouse at Inch Arran Park in Dalhousie looks out across Chaleur Bay toward the nearby Quebec coastline. (Brian Atkinson/Government of New Brunswick)

According to Canadian Real Estate Association data, 238 homes were sold by realtors in northern New Brunswick in May alone, the most ever recorded in one month in the region and 99.8 per cent above the 10-year average of sales for the month. 

Predicting the future direction of the market is tricky, Cathcart said, but he believes prices and sale volumes are not ready to cool down yet.

There's no historical precedent for New Brunswick's real estate market, "but coming out of COVID, all of the ingredients are still there," said Cathcart.   

"You have record interprovincial migration into the province. International immigration is ramping back up and you've still got a record low number of homes for sale. This story is far from over."

Spreading the word on YouTube, Facebook

Baladad said he was initially surprised at the number of people who made similar moves to New Brunswick, but now knows of many more thinking of doing the same thing.

He's been producing YouTube videos about his own experiences under the title 6ixto506, and has started a Facebook group with other recent arrivals to provide a forum to share experiences and provide information for those intrigued by the idea of moving east.

It quickly ballooned to 1,000 members.

"There are still a lot of people who are contemplating that move and they just want to find out more answers," said Baladad.

"A lot of people started reaching out and I sort of became this come-from-away ambassador to New Brunswick."


Robert Jones


Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?