Nova Scotia

Booming real estate market reaches rural N.S.

Realtors in rural Nova Scotia are adjusting quickly to a new way of selling houses as buyers from places like Ontario and B.C. snap up properties without seeing them in person first.

South Shore realtor says he's sold about 15 properties since May sight unseen

COVID-19 is driving up property sales across Nova Scotia, not just the Halifax area. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Realtors in rural Nova Scotia are adjusting quickly to a new way of selling houses as buyers from places like Ontario and B.C. snap up properties without seeing them in person.

Kristopher Snarby, the co-owner of Exit Realty Inter Lake, sells properties from Chester to Queens County and estimates he's sold 12-15 of them sight unseen since May.

"People have been desperate and they can't get here to see it, and they know things are moving quickly so they just kind of have to make a choice," Snarby told CBC's Information Morning on Monday.

"And not everybody's comfortable with it, but certainly I've had a number that have been."

He admits selling a property virtually can be a challenge. 

"It's hard to describe a smell or feel of a house, but it really does become our responsibility to try to convey as much information as we can," Snarby said. 

October was a record-breaking month for property sales across the province with inventory low and prices continuing to soar, according to the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.

Bobbi Maxwell said half of her buyers right now are from outside the province and won't see their houses in person until they arrive. Most are middle-aged people who can work from home and are looking for a place to retire at some point.

"We're starting to see more people … migrate this way because they want the solitude, the peace, the quiet, the safety and the beauty of the beaches," said Maxwell, a realtor with Viewpoint Realty Services who sells properties around Barrington and Clyde River in Shelburne County.

"We're not as hot as the metro [market], but it's definitely been one crazy market for us as well." 

Record October across N.S.

The Nova Scotia Association of Realtors compiled data for the month of October that shows 1,427 units were sold across the province, up more than 30 per cent from October 2019.

The average sale price was a record $304,590, rising just over 21 per cent from the previous October. 

In Yarmouth, there were 24 residential sales in October, up 41 per cent from last year and in the Annapolis Valley, 203 properties were sold, up 30 per cent since last October. The average sale price also went up in both areas last month. 

Christopher Snarby, co-owner Exit Realty Interlake, said people are moving to communities on the South Shore for the relative affordability, friendliness and proximity to the ocean. (Robert Short/CBC)

On the South Shore where Snarby works, sales in October were up about 30 per cent from last year and the average residential price was just over $291,000, an increase of 36 per cent over last October. 

The booming market is a major win for sellers but can be frustrating for buyers

"We're not usually accustomed to that many bidding wars in our area, but now … most properties have gone into at least two or three offers and the time frames are a lot quicker as well," Snarby said.

In the past, houses would sit on the market for six months to a year and now they're gone in weeks or days, he added.

Rural internet still a challenge

Even though people are eager to move to Nova Scotia for its friendliness and relative affordability, Snarby and Maxwell said they are routinely asked about internet service.

"It's really funny because people are more concerned about the internet than they are health-care services," Maxwell said.

She said newcomers are good news for rural areas like Shelburne County that have struggled with out-migration. 

Bobbi Maxwell hopes the tide is turning for communities like Shelburne, which have seen an out-migration of residents in recent years. (Robert Short/CBC)

But she said there could be challenges, too. 

Many new buyers say they eventually want to build their own homes but finding skilled labour in the area isn't always easy, she said. 

"I think we're going to have a lot of growing pains because with the demand, we're very short on tradesmen like plumbers and electricians and carpenters," Maxwell said.

"I really am hoping that a lot of the people who are moving here from away are bringing in new skills or new motivation to want to ... become career oriented or focused and become tradesmen in our area."

Snarby said some of his clients are selling homes in the $800,000 range in Ontario and buying a property in rural Nova Scotia for around $200,000, leaving a healthy amount for their retirement fund.

 "And at the end of the day, if they're not comfortable with their house or if it's not quite the right one, they can put it back on the market and there's a good chance it'll sell," Snarby said. 

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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