Nova Scotia

Through the roof: Low inventory of houses fuels sellers' market in Halifax area

Real estate specialists say it’s a sellers’ market right now in the Halifax Regional Municipality, due to the low number of houses for sale.

About 2,800 listings in the region, compared to almost 5,000 in 2016

Real estate specialists say it's a sellers' market right now in the municipality, due in part to the low number of homes for sale. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

The night before Jan and Mary Ellen Rainey listed their two-storey Halifax house, the couple almost got cold feet.

But just a few days later, they had five offers for the house on Beech Street, in the desirable Quinpool Road area.

They ended up selling it for $540,000 after nine days on the market — and for roughly $20,000 over the asking price.

"It surprised us all," said Mary Ellen Rainey, noting they sold the four-bedroom house last spring to buy a bigger house around the corner to better accommodate their family of five. 

Jan Rainey added: "We were hugely relieved and it was vindicating in many ways because we had done a lot of work to the house."

Real estate specialists say it's a sellers' market right now in the municipality, due in part to the low number of homes for sale.

Jan and Mary Ellen Rainey sold their house for $540,000 after nine days on the market. They got about $20,000 over their asking price. (Submitted by Jan Rainey)

"I'd say we have probably the strongest selling market that anybody I've talked to can remember having here," said Marc Doucet, broker of record for Royal LePage Atlantic.

"Although there's been years past where we've had maybe a higher number of sales that have happened, it's never been accompanied by such low inventory."

Doucet said there are currently just over 2,800 properties on the market in the region, compared with almost 5,000 in 2016.

Al Demings, a realtor with ReMax, said it's the lowest inventory of homes he's seen in a decade, and because of the lack of listings, properties are in demand and selling quickly.

"It's got a lot of real estate agents happy," said Demings with a laugh, adding that he's sold about 15 homes in the last year and a half.

"One of the outcomes of a sellers' market like we're in right now is an increase in prices, and there's no question we're seeing that."

Many factors impacting inventory

Demings, who has worked in the business for 40 years, said the average transaction price at ReMax this year is roughly $320,000. 

That's up 4.7 per cent from last year, and up 33 per cent from 10 years ago, he said.

Demings said there are a number of "small" factors impacting the low number of homes on the market.

One reason is that there is less relocation happening within companies and government agencies that have regional offices in the Halifax area, because of the high cost of moving employees.

Another reason is that when home prices were softer, people who were thinking of selling decided to put it off.

He said some people have found by doing major renovations to their current home, it can be cheaper in the long run than buying new.

Listings yielding multiple offers

The low inventory has prompted real estate broker ViewPoint to offer a new feature on its website.

The company is asking prospective sellers to register their homes by filling out a form, and ViewPoint will match the property with its list of buyers. Sellers do not need to officially list their house or sign a contract.

"If there is a match, we'll contact you and ask if you would allow us to show your property to our buyer," the notice on ViewPoint's website said.

"If after viewing your property our buyer is interested in offering on your home, we can discuss the terms and process under which a transaction could happen."

Demings said prices in the Halifax area have traditionally been stable, but the current market is prompting multiple offers on homes that can end up selling for above the asking price.

"When the inventory is high, people can take their time, pick and choose, offer low prices and maybe get it," said Demings.

"That's not the market we're in today."

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