Housing boom in Antigonish

By Corey LeBlanc    
November 18 2020

‘For sale’ signs continue to be quickly covered with the word ‘sold,” as the housing market in the Antigonish area maintains a recent boon.

Realtors are reporting they have been flat out over the past few months, while municipal leaders are indicating not only an increase in purchasers and new residents, but also a continuing bump in building and renovation projects.

One of the key ingredients in this growth – not surprisingly, because it is happening across the province – has been people looking to relocate to more rural areas amidst the continuing COVID-19 global pandemic.

And, of course, buyers – especially first-time ones – are taking advantage of low interest rates for borrowing.

“It has been really busy since May,” Carmel Avery-MacDonald, a realtor with Viewpoint Realty Services Inc. – who serves clients in Antigonish and Guysborough counties, says.

She describes the market as “unheard of” since she started in the business in 2008.

Lisa Gourley, a realtor with RE/MAX Park Place Inc. in Antigonish, describes this summer and fall as “incredible.”

Even though she and her colleagues predicted COVID-19 would have an effect, she says they “didn’t expect such a flurry.”

“There has been a lot of uptick,” Gourley adds.

Although the spring season is “typically busier” in the Antigonish housing market, she notes this year it was “pretty slow,” with homeowners apprehensive about listing and showing their properties during the pandemic.

With low pandemic case numbers fueling an already well-known reputation as a safe place to live, Gourley offers housing demand in Nova Scotia “started to increase.”

“It was a record summer, really,” she adds.

The range of home buyers is a wide one; families who are looking to make a new life here from across Canada, along with natives of the region living and working in other parts of the country seeking a homecoming.

“They have never been to Nova Scotia,” Avery-MacDonald says of some of her buyers.

Noting she recently completed three closings over Zoom, she adds many have made their purchases before even seeing the property in person.

To illustrate that point, Avery-MacDonald remembers recently a couple from Montreal, with four children, who found a property in the area after doing an online search for four to five-bedroom houses; ones near the water and – preferably – ocean frontage.

She adds the family also stressed how crucial it was to have access to strong Internet service – something Avery-MacDonald notes tops the list of ‘musts’ for the lion’s share of potential buyers.

“There are so many people that are making a move because they are able to work from home,” she says.

With that option – both newcomers to the region and those returning home are passing on working in a downtown high-rise to toil in a home office.

Gourley notes there are the clients who find condo-living “no longer appealing.”

“More and more – they want to be able to put their feet on the grass,” she suggests.

Although it is not new, Gourley explains they have noticed a surge in “multi-generational living,” with buyers looking for properties that include in-law suites.

With the increase in home schooling – as a result of the continuing pandemic – she notes that living arrangement provides a “built-in childcare” option.

Gourley adds children are also becoming more leery, when it comes to their parents living in long-term care facilities.

Another thread in this housing tapestry is the mini-home, a market that Avery-MacDonald describes as “crazy.”

Both Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher and Municipality of the County of Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron agree the strong housing market is great news for their respective municipalities.

“We are quite pleased,” McCarron says.

With an increased tax base that comes with growing home ownership, he notes it benefits the county’s “financial bottom line.”

As an example of the soaring market, Boucher says she recently heard about two house sales that unfolded “just by word of mouth,” even before the properties hit the open market.

“A lot of people – especially young families – are moving home,” she adds, noting there is a misconception that Antigonish is only attracting people who are ready to retire.

On a related note, Boucher suggests skyrocketing material costs – not to mention issues with their availability – are leading to potential home owners “buying rather than building,” or at least opting for making renovations.

McCarron says – along with house purchases – building and renovation projects are also increasing in the municipality.

With dwindling availability in the thriving market, Avery-MacDonald says buyers are “acting quickly.”

“They backed out because they had nowhere to live,” she notes of a couple that took their home off the market, a reflection of the challenges created by a spiking demand.

Gourley notes the challenges realtors are facing with an inventory that is “mostly depleted.”

“It has certainly been quite an interesting time,” she says.