Even though the provincial government has removed nearly all COVID-related health measures, one real estate agent says the market for rural homes and acreage properties in the local area is still bustling, as many families seek more space and fewer neighbours.
"People don’t want to be within arm's reach of their neighbour,” said Christy Van Dyke, the broker and owner of Local Real Estate Team.
"I think we’ve seen a jump because now [people] have the mobility to work from wherever," she said. "Less people are commuting to and from an office."
Despite many who are enjoying their new-found ability to work from wherever, Van Dyke cautions that living on an acreage can be a job on its own.
“I find that people are kind of idealistic about acreages," she said. "You’re dealing with all of your own landscaping, snow removal, well maintenance, and just a lot of maintenance that you wouldn’t necessarily find [living in the city]."
Another aspect of living on an acreage some people don't fully consider, Van Dyke said, is how the distance to the nearest city or town can affect people's daily schedules.
“I did have a family that moved out with four smaller school-aged children thinking it would be great and they’d have some more room to run ... and then [they realized] very quickly that the school-aged children also have soccer practice or they have skating," Van Dyke said. "I think they made it two winters.”
“We get those people that are like ‘I really would like an acreage,’ and then they realize the amount of work involved but also the distance. If you need a jug of milk, you’re driving 30 minutes, or at least 15. It’s not like a five-minute run to the store.”
While acreages have always required plenty of dedication to maintain, something that has changed in recent years in terms of local acreage properties, Van Dyke says, is their average size.
"Fifteen years ago, when I started in the industry, if you were buying an acreage you were buying 40 [or more] acres," she said.
“It’s changed a little bit in the last five to seven years because we are finding that now, those big plots of land are being turned into smaller acreage communities. [Now,] the average, I’d say, within a 30-minute drive from Edmonton, would be under 10 acres.”
Another major change Van Dyke said she has noticed in the local area is that many rural homes are becoming older than the families who live in them.
"There are those people that will look for that character, but they also want the character without the exorbitant costs of having to redo a brick foundation, or a preserved wood foundation,” Van Dyke said. “I think people love history until it starts to cost them a ton of money.
"I do think that, especially on an acreage, you want it to have a bit of charm and you want it to be a little bit different, but the average family wants something that has the upgrades of those bigger things like windows and the roof.”
Van Dyke's caution to acreage idealists is not to dissuade people from pursuing the lifestyle change, she said, but to make sure they're informed, and make sure they're serious.
"I think my only recommendation, and maybe this is because I’m in the industry and I’m biased, [is to] get yourself a good realtor who is familiar with rural properties," she said. "Those people will know to ask about a well flow or chart, or if you have to get a water test, or about the age of the septic tank.
"Just make sure you have good counsel, somebody who is aware of the ins and outs and what questions need to be asked."