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Real estate market: vacancies up, prices and sales down

The effects of the continued economic slump can be seen in the prices and availability of property in Estevan’s real estate market.

The effects of the continued economic slump can be seen in the prices and availability of property in Estevan’s real estate market. This past year, the housing market has seen a drop in the price of homes and an increase in the number of available units within the city.

“In 2015, we’re down almost 28 per cent in total sales, versus 2014. Median sales price of houses changed a bit between 2014 and 2015,” said Linda Mack, a realtor with Re/Max Blue Chip Realty. “There is so much inventory available that people have had to drop their prices somewhat. Those houses are also on the market for about three months before they’re sold.”

Mack noted that no big projects to bring new properties onto the market were undertaken in 2015, a trend that stands in contrast to the new condo units which were built on Larter Road in 2014.

“We have a lot of properties with about 180 properties for sale in Estevan,” said Mack. “About 12 units have been selling per month, for the last few months. That’s a lot of inventory, and we have a lot of condos for sale.”

Shane Ross, an associate broker and realtor with Century 21, said that prices haven’t been dropping as drastically as many were expecting, and believes prices won’t drop much lower.

“I know a lot of people who were saying, when prices were high, that we were going to crash down drastically,” said Ross. “We’re beginning to hit our stabling-out price point for the most part. As slow as things are, people are more adjusted to it and the outlook is more realistic now.”

Ross noted the market hit a peak in the summer of 2013. Since then, things have been “correcting themselves out.” He asserts that prices will stay stable at a bottom-mark until another boom. He said that in 2014 Century 21 had over 660 closed transactions, in residential and commercial properties, and in 2015 there were 473. 

Ross described the downward trend in the number of homeowners upgrading to larger properties. He attributed such a trend to people working with tighter budgets.

“Before, they were able to move up as a luxury. Now, we’re going to see that moving up will only happen when it’s a necessity,” said Ross. “People won’t be doing it because they want an extra room or some extra square footage.”

Mack said the real estate market will be a “soft market” before sales start to pick up again, and added she sees no indication that it will pick up any time soon.

While people looking to sell property are at a disadvantage, first-time buyers are at an advantage in a market of high vacancies and low real estate prices.  Ross said one trend he has noticed has been with first-time homebuyers feeling like they’re getting value in the property they purchase, benefitting from having it easier entering the housing market.

“Someone looking to sell won’t get what they got for their house two years ago, before oil prices dropped. But if you’re buying in Estevan, you’re going to get something cheaper than for what someone else would have paid two years ago,” said Mack. “It’s an easier pill to swallow for people who’ve owned their homes for a long time, as opposed to people who bought them here in the past few years.”

Jamie Dyer, a broker with Royal LePage Dream Realty, said he is seeing a great deal of vacancies in industrial property and condominiums, in particular.

“Going forward, we need to see buyers. We’re working with a lot of people, but not seeing decisions. So many (buyers) are more on the fence,” said Dyer. “It’s going to be a buyer’s market in 2016, unless we see some drastic changes in the economy.”

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