Back when New Year’s Eve glasses were a stylish treat and houses were a steal
Remember the heady days of the millennium, when brooks bubbled with vintage champagne, computers threatened meltdown and it was possible to buy a home in Yellowknife for less than $100,000?
A battered copy of the September 15, 2000 edition of the Yellowknife Real Estate Guide (exhumed by a soon-to-be-ex-Yellowknifer as he readied his home for sale) provides a glimpse into that vanished world.
A trailer at 14 Hordal Road was on the market for $111,900. Factoring in 33 percent inflation (based on the Bank of Canada formula) over the intervening 15 years, that would be $149,043 in today’s dollars.
In 2000, the ‘Arctic package home on steel piles in park-like setting’ at 108 Hordal Road sold for $114,900. Today, that would cost $153,049.
If trailer life gave you claustrophobia, there were some genuine starter-home options in residential neighourhoods tucked between Old Town and New Town: 4915-45 Street could be had for $90,000; 5108-46 Street was listed at $119,900.
Needless to say, those days are long gone. Today’s listings show 39 Hordal Road, a trailer with covered deck, 1500 square feet spread between three bedrooms, and a large family room, on the market for $339, 900.
In 2000, a home at 160 Jeske Crescent with three bedrooms, two baths, and a fireplace in the living room could be had for $169,000. Today, a few doors down at 191 Jeske Crescent, a house is listed at $327,900.
The story is the same on Wilkinson Crescent. In 2000, a house at 129 Wilkinson Crescent was listed at $149,900. Today, number 168 on the same street: $337,490.
Price increases for properties on the Ingraham Trail have been even more dramatic, and far out-pace inflation.
In 2000, a three-year-old, three-bedroom house on Prelude Lake with decks all around could be had for $199,900. Another, at Prelude Lake East, was listed at $118,000. Today, 3 Prelude Lake West is listed at $549,900 — well in excess of any inflation-fed increase.
10,000 reasons why
What caused the surge in home prices that causes southerners to pause before pursuing career options in Yellowknife? Shane Clark, president of the Yellowknife Real Estate Board, points to a brief and long-forgotten GNWT program.
In 1998, the Yellowknife housing market was in a deep slump, with around 350 homes listed — compared with 75 to 90 homes for sale today.
The GNWT’s Minimum Down Payment Assistance Pilot Program offered first-time home-buyers in Yellowknife a $10,000 loan that could be applied to their down payment.
“It was open to anyone buying a house in Yellowknife, even if they owned a home in another community, anywhere in Canada,” Clark recalls.
“There was a rush to take advantage,” says Clark. “Many thought it was free money, and we had to explain to them that it was a loan that had to be repaid.”
“The program was intended to run for a year, but there was so much demand that all the money was used up and it had to be shut down after six months,” Clark says.
The rush wiped out the backlog and ended a three-year decline that had dropped house prices by 15 percent between 1995 and 1998, says Clark. The diamond mines further fueled demand for housing.
“Except for the recession of 2008, the Yellowknife housing market has never skipped a beat, with double digit price increases every year,” he says.
The market has settled into a predictable cycle. March to May, prices are on the rise. July, when everyone is engrossed in personal celebrations of summer, is downtime.
The bump comes in August, after the long weekend – especially if apartment vacancy rates are under five percent, as they are now, said Clark.
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