Economy
Housing
Yellowknife

Summer rush in YK housing market makes up for quiet spring


While Yellowknife’s fall housing market appears hotter than previous years, some realtors say it’s just the timing of the market that’s off – and that, overall, numbers of homes sold are similar to previous years.

This month, Century 21 Prospect Realty published a graphic stating Yellowknife listings sold has risen 65 percent year-on-year in September. Century 21 said the number of days a house spent on the market before selling had halved, and the number of houses available was down nearly 70 percent.

“These are pretty crazy numbers,” Century 21’s Adrian Bell wrote in an accompaniment to the graphic.

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Kim Knutson, who runs Re/Max North of 60 Realty in Yellowknife, said sales had risen but the difference across the whole of 2020 was less dramatic.

“Last year there were 220 houses sold in the first three quarters, to 237 this year. So it’s not really substantially up,” Knutson said.

Rather, she said, the market had been more condensed this summer due to a slow start as Covid-19 hit.

At Coldwell Banker, co-owner Rod Stirling said early spring is typically the time many homes reach the market. This year, with Covid-19 restrictions, that didn’t happen.

In the first quarter, Knutson said, sales were down 35 percent, followed by a 13-percent drop in the second quarter. Combined, that equates to 31 fewer homes sold in the first two quarters of 2020 than in 2019.

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“But the next one is huge,” she said. “From July to September, 68 homes were sold in 2019 and 116 were sold [in 2020]. That’s 170 percent up, just in that quarter.”

As for the first two weeks of October, they look exactly like last year: 14 homes were sold.

“So it seems to be levelling out,” said Knutson. “But there definitely is low, low inventory.”

Knutson said realtors currently barely have time to get houses on the market before they have multiple offers and are sold.  

While Covid-19’s impact in March and April is an obvious reason, Knutson suspects there were subtler consequences of the pandemic at play, too.

For example, she said, RCMP and military transfers happened later this year as a result. Demand, and disposable income, also built up as the market shut down.

“People have spent a lot more time inside and they realize the value of a good home,” Knutson said.

While some people are upgrading or moving out of rentals, others are putting money into renovating their homes – despite a fractured building-material supply chain.

“Getting treated lumber this summer was virtually impossible,” said Knutson. “Contractors are just flat out. Getting work done in this town right now is very difficult.”

At Coldwell Banker, Stirling said: “Sales are up, prices are up, activity level is up.”

Stirling said in 36 years, the company had learned to predict a busy spring. This year, instead, it’s a later market and a busier fall.

Unlike Knutson, Stirling said he hasn’t seen the market start to slow yet, despite the cooler weather – which usually brings with it a cooler market.

“When you have a combination of a lot of buyers looking to purchase and very low mortgage rates, that usually adds up to very quick sales and less days on the market,” he said.

“So the sales are brisk and demand is so strong, and doesn’t seem to have been satisfied. It’s a good seller’s market right now.”

What’s in store for the winter?

Stirling has also seen a slight increase in people purchasing investment properties over the last few months, which he believes is related to low interest rates and increased disposable income.

“We’ve got a market with a very low vacancy rate and very high rent. I think that people are looking at it and saying real estate is typically is a fairly safe investment, because you’ve got something tangible,” he said.

On Facebook, Bell said what the market will look like next year remains “anybody’s guess.”

Stirling agreed.

“The crystal ball thing is always hard. The demand still seems to be stronger, and the later market I attribute mostly to just a slower start initially in the market when it’s typically busy,” he said.

Knutson echoed there are still a lot of buyers, but not a lot of inventory. That, she said, combined with recent presumptive Covid-19 cases and colder weather, will limit who is buying in the winter.

“If you’re moving now, it’s because you need to,” she said. “So you’ve got a lot more serious buyers.”

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