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Frustrated St. Albert buyers low on options in hot housing market

"You don't even have a minute to decide, you have to literally look at a house and buy it on the spot."
1105 housing file WEB
Prospective residents looking for homes in St. Albert say the housing market right now is incredibly competitive. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Blakeley O’Shaughnessy and her husband sold their home in Edmonton’s Summerside neighbourhood for $610,000, about $45,000 more than what they bought their house for two years ago, to make a move back to St. Albert.

At the same time, the couple is helping O’Shaughnessy’s parents make the move back to St. Albert from Toronto. However, the family soon found themselves struggling in an incredibly competitive housing market.

“You get to a showing, and there's literally six people waiting in line to see it. It’s crazy,” she said.

“You don't even have a minute to decide, you have to literally look at a house and buy it on the spot. I've heard of people just putting in full-ask offers with no conditions. So not even a financing- or home-inspection condition, which is crazy.”

With soaring housing prices, O’Shaughnessy realized she couldn’t justify spending more money on a property she didn’t love. Instead, they decided to buy a vacant lot in St. Albert to build their own home, even if that meant spending an extra $100,000 to do it.

However, now that her parents have sold their home, they’re getting nervous with how volatile the market is. She said she looks at available listings three times a day, every day, but it’s still difficult to get a foot in the door.

For example, when a property in Oakmont went up for sale, she managed to secure one of the last showing spots within the same day. The property sold for above asking price within days.

“Anything in the $500,000 range in Erin Ridge, Kingswood, Oakmont … you’re lucky if it’s on the market for a couple days,” she said.

If her parents don’t find anything in a month, they’ve decided they’ll have to rent until they find something else, she said.

“I am worried, and so are my parents, because they’ve sold their house already, but you only have a finite amount of time to get something else secured,” she said. “They’re pretty much prepared to rent, which is also difficult (to find).”

The housing market is red hot across the Greater Edmonton Area, with the latest monthly report noting a 284.5-per-cent increase in residential sales in April compared to this time last year. The average single-family home costs $458,444, an 11.7-per-cent increase year-over-year. Despite that, listings are selling 28 days faster than April last year, for an average of 30 days on the market. 

Total residential sales in St. Albert have increased by a whopping 440 per cent compared to this time last year. Sales so far this year came in at $217.4 million, compared to $81.3 million in 2020, and $118.1 million in 2019. 

Single-family home sales have increased five-fold this month alone compared to last year, with 143 homes sold compared to 29 homes sold last April. The median price of a single-family home increased by 17 per cent, from $390,000 to $457,500. On average, homes sold at $490,957 last month.

Busier than ever

Tom Shearer, chair of the Realtors Association of Edmonton, said this market is, "unlike anything we've experienced in a really long time."

"I think we've seen four years of really hard times for people in Alberta, and to see a really strong real-estate market is welcome. But it's not an out-of-hand or super-inflated market compared to other parts of the country," he said. 

More people are looking to move into bigger properties in safer areas such as St. Albert, even if that means moving further away from the workplace. Some buyers might have more money in their pockets amid the pandemic, and with lower interest rates on mortgages, pricier properties may now be within reach, he said. 

Properties are selling with multiple offers, considering how much inventory is left available here. St. Albert has about 163 active listings for single-family homes currently, Shearer said. More inventory could be coming online in the next few weeks, as some sellers may be holding out until late spring to bring their homes to the market.

"In the next couple of weeks, they'll see more inventory, more selection come to the marketplace. It'll still be very competitive, but I think that there will be lots of property coming out in the next few weeks."

As for interest rates, Shearer said the federal government has indicated they want to remain stable and predictable for now, but they might put harsher restrictions on the mortgage stress test for buyers to cool down the market. 

Shandrie Lewis, real estate agent and broker for RE/MAX Professionals in St. Albert, said sales coming out of her office have increased by 307 per cent in the last year, with many properties selling for $20,000 above asking price with multiple offers.

"We're busier than we've ever been – 2007 was the last time we've seen activity like this," she said. 

It's a much tougher time to be a buyer right now with high demand, she said. Some deals are falling through because prospective buyers fail to pass the stress test after making an offer. First-time buyers in the under-$500,000 market are also competing against investors, who are able to negotiate unconditional offers above asking price. 

"If it's an investor that's looking to flip it, they don't really care what comes up in the inspection. They're going to renovate it anyways."

Advice for buyers? Make sure you're pre-approved for mortgages, and go with a St. Albert realtor to make sure you get in the door quickly, she said. Be prepared with a deposit and downpayment, if you like a home, to write an offer within the same day. Lewis said they're also advising buyers not to look for a new home until they at least have an offer on their current one. 

"As of today, we aren't seeing any sign of (the market) cooling off."

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