Real Estate Boom Spreads to Guysborough County, NS

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  • “…A growing number of Canadian urbanites willing to buy properties sight unseen are snatching up homes in this COVID-free corner of the country, like pilgrims seeking sanctuary…the Nova Scotia’s rural lifestyle is in high demand”

Real estate boom spreads to Guysborough County, NS

By Alec Bruce (Guysborough Journal, Wed., Dec. 23, 2020)

‘Location, location, location’ — that used to be the catch phrase in real estate – but realtors in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) say that’s changed in the recent COVID-driven housing boom to ‘high-speed Internet’.

The Journal interviewed four local realtors about the uptick in sales since the start of the pandemic and learned that Nova Scotia’s rural lifestyle is in high demand.

A growing number of Canadian urbanites willing to buy properties sight unseen are snatching up homes in this COVID-free corner of the country, like pilgrims seeking sanctuary.

“I’ve been running off my feet since the pandemic began,” says Carmel Avery-MacDonald, an Antigonish-based realtor who recently sold a Sherbrooke home after conducting a guided tour by iPhone for a party determined to leave COVID-embattled Ontario as soon as possible.

“It’s crazy.”

According to Marian Fraser, director of finance for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, “We’ve seen a lot of movement since the outbreak in March; an increase in both the volume and value of deed transfer taxes to the area over the summer and fall. We don’t have exact numbers, but half-a-dozen properties or more [have been sold].”

While that may not sound like much to a typical city dweller, it’s a veritable boom for a district with a population density that is roughly 2,000 residents distributed over as many square kilometers.

For Avery-MacDonald, it’s both a blessing and a challenge. “Everybody is so busy, and buyers are telling me they’re having a hard time finding realtors who will work with them,” says the Viewpoint Realty Services agent. “People are more determined than ever to get out of the cities, they’re moving to the country, if they can. I’m getting clients from Ontario and Quebec.”

Normally, she says she has to “justify” heading into St. Mary’s.

“I won’t go over there for a $50,000 property, for example. But a month ago I sold a mini home in Port Bickerton, which had been on the market for only four days. The guy was in Toronto and he ended up buying it sight unseen. He just wanted to get out of the city, just wanted to leave right away.”

If COVID has ignited an exodus, online research now facilitates it. According to SEMrush, a trends data provider based in Boston, online hunts for smaller (read: rural) properties “spiked considerably in Atlantic Canada, where average searches for tiny homes skyrocketed by 733 per cent in Nova Scotia, 467 per cent in New Brunswick, and 200 per cent in Prince Edward Island between 2019 and 2020.”

That means buyers, armed with smart phones, are driving the transactional approach remotely.

“It can be risky when people buy a place that way. It’s even risky for a realtor to sell one that way. You really have to describe things to prospective buyers – the smells, the feel, what you hear. You just can’t get great answers to those types of questions through a tablet or phone,” says Avery-MacDonald.

Still, she says, people have a lot of faith.

“I recently sold another property in Guysborough to a couple who bought it sight unseen. They moved their whole family here with young kids. Their reason was that the man discovered he was able to work from home. So, he said, ‘Why are we living here in the city when we can live in the country? Let’s move to Nova Scotia.’ They’d never been. I met them not long ago and the woman said that though it was a real leap, they were glad they made it

Despite the boom, it’s almost impossible to predict the longer-term effects on the district’s housing prices or broader economy. Both Avery-MacDonald and Fraser point out that access to reliable, high-speed Internet remains a top priority for urbanites seeking safer havens anywhere in rural Nova Scotia.

The provincial government’s fiber-optic rebuild for the Eastern Shore is scheduled to be completed sometime before the end of 2022

Real estate boom spreads to St. Mary’s | The Star

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