After a drop in sales in last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton's real estate market continues to improve through the start of 2021 in a seller's market stronger than the city has seen in years.
Tom Shearer, chair of the Realtors Association of Edmonton, says the Edmonton area and Alberta as a whole has experienced a weak real estate market since around 2016.
A year ago, Shearer was much more pessimistic about the market's future after he saw a 55 per cent drop in business from the previous year in April.
But he said sellers have been able to put their homes on the market with more certainty since last summer.
"In June, all of a sudden things just did a major turnaround," said Shearer, adding that the market has improved month by month since then.
"We've done almost double the amount of business this year compared to what we did last year."
Now Shearer, who is also a broker and owner at Royal LePage Noralta, says pressure is instead on prospective buyers in the Edmonton area to be more decisive.
The Realtors Association of Edmonton's monthly market update showed a strong February with total residential unit sales up 52.1 per cent compared to February 2020.
Residential average prices were up nearly four per cent from January and 7.6 per cent from February 2020.
Shearer said there are many reasons why the market is improving, including that buyers have more buying power than a few years ago.
They're also spending more time at home and noticing where their homes aren't meeting their needs, he said.
"The more time that you're spending home, the more you reflect on where you live and the more you decide 'I think I need a change,'" Shearer said.
Camron Rahmanian, an Edmonton-based real estate associate with MaxWell Polaris, said buyers were able to take advantage of an uncertain market last summer, boosting it during the pandemic.
"There's lineups outside property, that's something I've never experienced in my six years of real estate," Rahmanian said on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"That's partially due to COVID, also partially due to the sheer number of people looking at properties."
A sign of Edmonton's strong market is how many homes are being sold over their listed price, Rahmanian said.
Usually, that total is about five or six per cent of units sold. In February, it was more than double that amount and Rahmanian says March has been even busier.
He said the total could approach highs seen in March 2007, where 30 per cent of homes were sold above the listed price.
These totals have also benefited from the change in season. Rahmanian said spring and summer is a big time for the housing market.
"The spring market starts, in my opinion, the day that we spring forward," he said.
"People can now look at houses for an hour, two hours longer than they could a day before or a week before, simply because nobody wants to look at houses in the dark."