Yellowknife’s real estate market is heating up early this year, with more than twice as many listings in the first two months as 2015.
Realtors themselves are unclear whether the jump from around 20 up to 45 (going on 50 by the end of the month) MLS listings with Coldwell Banker, Homelife and Century 21 has to do with warmer weather and natural market cycles, or people leaving town in the wake of Snap Lake’s closure and De Beers’ decision to relocate their headquarters.
“It’s pretty fair to say the [increase in] listings is because of the De Beers news,” says Century21 realtor and city councillor Adrian Bell. “This is just speculation, but we’ve seen quite a few people planning to sell who are trying to rush to market to beat an abundance in the spring.”
Not necessarily so, says Shane Clark of Homelife and the president of the Yellowknife Real Estate Board.
“I’m not seeing anything that’s too unusual and too alarming... It’s so cyclical and I’ve seen this before,” he says, citing 2006 and 2011 as years where real estate began moving fast and early.
As far as he’s concerned, unseasonably warm weather could be playing a lead role in the early listings spike. The first bumper crop of listings usually doesn’t appear until after March Break, but, “when we have weather like this” things can start earlier, he says. “If it’s -30, you're not out looking at places. And you’re not showing your home when the windows and doors are sticking.”
Whether the increase in available property (note that MLS listings don’t include private sales) suggests a small exodus of homeowners or simply an early sales push due to balmier weather, we’re not really looking at a shift towards a buyer’s market – where sellers considerably outnumber buyers, driving down prices and giving buyers a better bargaining hand.
“We’ve had a seller’s market for a while, so this is shifting towards a balanced market. We’d have to have a couple hundred listings for it to be a concern, as in the ’90s when Nunavut split off,” says Bell. “I don’t think this is a shift towards a buyer’s market; a buyer’s market would be Fort Mac.”
The sheer number of public-sector workers in Yellowknife adds a level of stability you don’t find in markets like Fort McMurray, says Bell, where the economy is based on resources and resources only.
That said, if the earlier listings augur a significant increase in total listings this year — which is Bell’s prediction — “it will definitely have an impact on prices,” he says. “We may not see it in the list prices, but there will probably be fewer multi-offer situations and fewer selling above the offering price.”
If this proves to be the case, this year will follow a price decline last year, in which, according to CHMC’s Northern Housing Report, “the trend in average home price according to MLS data (which does not include private sales) was down 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the previous year’s first quarter.”
“Including private sales, in the first quarter of 2015, the average price of a home declined 11 per cent year-over-year to $354,235,” the report continues. “The decline in average prices has been mainly due to compositional factors, with an increased share of condos and manufactured homes on the market which typically sell at lower price points.”
Clark, however, is not so sure this year will be unusual. And in any case, he’s optimistic there will be demand to balance out a spike in supply should that turn out to be the case.
“I think we’re past the doom and gloom… we have the hospital starting and we’ve got Gahcho Kué starting soon.”