Real estate booms in the West Kootenay

·5 min read

It’s a seller’s market out there for people thinking of buying or selling property in the West Kootenay.

Real estate agents across the region say despite the pandemic, they’re running off their feet.

“It’s been the most active past two years in the last 12 years,” says Bill Lander of Coldwell Banker in Nelson.

In Nakusp, New Denver, and the Arrow Lakes areas, realtors report sales are up about 13% over 2019. The actual number of residential sales within the Village of Nakusp is down from last year (mainly because of low inventory), but vacant land is hot, as are commercial property sales. Overall, residential home prices in Nakusp are up about 18% this year over 2019.

In Kaslo, Kul Nijjar of Fair Realty’s Kootenay BC Property Matchmakers says 47 properties have been sold to date “with a few others that sold without even being listed.” Nijjar is on track to beat last year’s sales of 49 units. The average sale price to date in Kaslo this year is up 12.2%.

The Slocan Valley has seen ‘robust’ sales the last two years, says Lander. This year, Lander made 74 sales, at an average sale price of $279,000, about 94% of asking price. Last year, he made 81 sales up the valley, at an average $306,000.

The average sale price is murkier in the Slocan Valley, where a couple of large sales in the last two years skewed the averages. But Lander says he figures prices are comparatively flat for the last two years, compared to the rest of the province.

Demand outpacing supply

Supply is an important factor in determining price. It’s been especially tight in Nakusp.

“[A] lack of inventory has turned towards a ‘seller’s-type market,’” says Kelly Roberts of Selkirk Reality. “Our office has the lowest listing inventory that I have seen in probably the past 25 years.”

She says locals buying into the tight market have kept Nakusp hot.

“I think some of this increase may be due to the COVID pandemic,” she adds. “I think the pandemic has perhaps pushed some of the fence sitters off on our side… those that were maybe wondering if they should move out of the city decided the time had come.”

With mortgage deferrals due to the pandemic scheduled to end soon, more houses may enter the market, stabilizing prices, say analysts. But other factors may mean the good times – at least for sellers – will continue.

“The hot construction market has also helped sell existing stocks,” says Coldwell Banker’s Lander. “Increased building material costs has definitely increased the value of ‘used’ housing.

“Trades workers are booked,” he says. “Development land has had a significant increase in costs as well.”

COVID opportunities

Like for most of us, it’s been a rollercoaster of a year for real estate agents. When the pandemic hit, the industry was essentially shut down. Both buyers and sellers were concerned about participating in the sales process. But as the situation stabilized, other trends that boosted local sales began to establish themselves.

“The COVID trend of being able to work remotely is also driving the market,” says Coldwell Banker’s Lander.

“I think we’re seeing that more people are able to work from home now so these people are buying in our area,” adds Selkirk Realty’s Roberts. “There are also those that are securing property in our area to eventually build and move here.”

“Once COVID hit it certainly has changed how people viewed living in rural, smaller areas in Canada. We just got busier and busier,” says Kaslo’s Nijjar. “A lot of people who are able to work remotely are attracted to our areas – having fibre available in Kaslo and area certainly helps those buyers.

“It's also nice to see a few more families be interested in living here. More full-time residences are being purchased, whereas in the past we have seen people buy recreational/ seasonal properties.”

And as prices rise in the Okanagan and points west, the wave has moved towards the Kootenays.

“As real estate prices were going up in the busier areas like the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, that allowed those sellers to purchase properties here for little or no financing,” explains Nijjar. “For example, someone could sell their house for around a million dollars and then be able to buy larger properties or on the lake or with lake views [here] for considerably less.

“I'm seeing many buyers from Revelstoke, Rossland and Golden coming in with equity take-outs,” agrees Lander.

However, the realtors say they’re concerned about the economic impact of the second wave of COVID, and how long the hurt will go on.

“If it continues like it has been, then I foresee another busy market this spring, providing we have the inventory to sell,” says Roberts. “However, depending on what the COVID pandemic long-term effects are to our economy, things could certainly change in the next 6-12 months.”

Province positive

Provincially, analysts remain bullish on BC’s real estate outlook for 2021.

“Multiple Listing Service residential sales in the province are forecast to rise 16.9% to 90,450 units this year, after recording 77,350 residential sales in 2019,” says a release from the BC Real Estate Association, adding that residential sales are forecast to increase 9.7% to 99,240 units in 2021.

“We are forecasting the provincial MLS average price to finish the year up 9.9% and to increase a further 2.6% in 2021.”

Still, 2020 is not a year realtors will soon forget.

“All I can add is that 2020 saw very strange, unprecedented market conditions in our area – something I’ve never quite seen in the 32 years I have been in this business,” says Roberts.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice