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St. Albert real estate market crowded with buyers

It's a seller's market, but agents warn setting prices too high is not a winning strategy
Future St. Albert neighbourhoods will no longer be comprised of a single type of housing.

St. Albert’s real estate market is crowded with buyers, competitive and not likely to cool down this summer, according to local agents.

An April report from the Alberta Real Estate Association says property sales in the province increased 23 per cent compared to last year. The growth is mostly being driven by sales in the Edmonton region, which saw a 58 per cent jump to 2,164 sales this April from 1,225 last April.

“It's an unprecedented market,” said St. Albert and area Realtor Sharon Ryan. “We don't have enough listings. We have a surplus of buyers, so many of the listings are selling at multiple offers above list price in a matter of days. And it's very frustrating for the buyers. They're having an extremely challenging time trying to find housing right now.”

Buyers who last year were apprehensive about high interest rates have adjusted their expectations and are now eager to enter the market, Ryan said.

At the same time, migration into the province has swelled. Last year broke migration records, as Alberta saw more inward interprovincial migration than any province in recorded history (55,107 people) and the largest jump in overall migration in Alberta’s history (202,324), according to Statistics Canada.

These pressures are creating “very stressful moments for families” trying to find a home, Ryan said.

“It's probably the most challenging market that I've ever seen,” she said. “It's overwhelming for these families. I've had two instances where I'm working with young families … and the moment the mother stepped into the house that was for sale, she burst into tears. That's how intense this is.”

Ryan’s advice is for buyers not to feel bad if they end up paying above the listing price. “We’re just catching up with the rest of the country” in terms of housing prices, she said. “It isn’t going to get better any time soon.”

Local Realtor Brian Cyr said he has recently seen some houses get as many as 14 offers. 

He’s even seen the return of the “buyer’s letter,” a note that gives a seller information about a potential buyer and that buyer’s background and interest in the property

There was a similar intensity in 2022, when buyers were eager to purchase before they faced interest rate hikes, Cyr said. But now the rush to buy homes is being driven by a housing shortage that threatens to get worse, and by buyers’ fears they won’t be able to find a suitable home.

“In today's market, if you're on the market for 30 days, that's a long time,” he said.

The stiff competition is being felt across the Edmonton region, not just in St. Albert, he said. 

Cyr recommended sellers avoid the temptation to jack up the listing price because of the increased demand.

Aiming too high will frustrate buyers and leave the property owner waiting longer, whereas if the house is priced properly, sellers can expect multiple offers that may ultimately go higher than the asking price.

Buyers should be prepared to be confronted with competing offers, he said.

That means having a firm mortgage pre-approval, with a letter from a lending institution proving its validity. It also means having a connection with a home inspector who can do the job quickly.

“The shorter the time for your conditions, the stronger your offer will be,” he said.

Have a deposit ready to go, he said.

A buyer’s letter is also worth considering.

“I've had it where the kids have drawn little pictures of themselves in front of the house and crayon,” he said. “Does that tug on the heartstrings for a seller? You bet it does. Is it a substitute for dollars? No. But if you’re competing that can be a very effective technique.”

While the Edmonton-area housing market may seem chaotic right now, the temperature could get even higher. An April report from BMO found 72 per cent of aspiring Canadian homeowners are waiting for interest rate cuts before they're ready to make an offer. 

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