SAINT JOHN – Last year saw increased sales and the balancing of Saint John’s real estate market, but the president of the Saint John Real Estate Board says 2017 may bring a few changes.
Board president Sheila Henry says 2016 started off with slow sales through January and February, however by March, sales started to increase.
“We saw things go up a little bit to pretty much a steady increase in the number of sales throughout the year until December,” Henry says.
In 2016 the total number of sales for the Saint John area, which goes from St. Stephen to Sussex, was 1,691 an increase of about 14 per cent from 1,497 in 2015. The average year-end increase in sales value also went up by 3 per cent to $180,950, compared to $175,546 by the end of 2015.
Henry says there are a few things that account for the increase in sales, such as people looking to beat the July HST increase, but a big reason was lower prices.
“That’s usually one of the first things that we look at because inventory that’s been on the market at the beginning of the year is residual from the year before,” she says. “That inventory tends to adjust itself to reflect market condition if people are highly motivated to sell. That certainly would have put a little projection in there for a number of sales starting to happen. Through the month of March really is when the transition took place.”
This sales increase is significant because it helped turn the Saint John area from a “buyer market” to a more balanced one.
“At the beginning of the year, we definitely said we were in a buyers market,” says Henry.
“From March through December last year we had variances in the numbers, but definite increases every month in the number of sales. What that has done is move us into what we term a more ‘balanced market.’ The reason I say that is because the quantity of listings has gone down over the months.”
Henry says the average time it took to move an individual property (all types) was 115 days in 2016. She says an area that saw an increase in sales was Charlotte County.
“We did see some significant increases in sales there,” Henry says. “In saying that, some of those particular sales were in lower-value properties. That might indicate some land, some repossessions, some cottage-type camp properties that sold.”
“That I think indicates a little bit of resurgence of the U.S. coming back into our market.”
Other areas to see sales increased were Rothesay and Quispamsis. Uptown Saint John also saw an increase, with 16 sales in 2016, up 45 per cent from 11 in 2015.
Jim Knox, a real estate agent with Remax does a lot of his business in the city’s uptown and says there’s been an increase in demand for single and multi-family units in the area.
“The good news is we’re seeing a change in lifestyle in regards to the empty-nesters and the demand for the uptown condominium is constantly growing in the past two years,” Knox says. “We’re seeing a demand for the multiple investment properties. These are not just local buyers, I’m getting inquiries and so are my colleagues from out west and central Canada.”
Knox says the increased interest in the uptown Saint John is due to recent developments.
“We’re becoming quite the little niche market in the uptown area. The popularity of the restaurants, the uptown bars…it’s something that we’ve been missing for many years and we’re finally starting to see the light,” he says. “And it’s not just us, we’re seeing investors outside the province of New Brunswick who are looking at this.”
Based on the numbers from the Canadian Real Estate Association and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Henry says the Saint John real estate outlook for 2017 may include prices dropping back down to the 2015 levels. Vacancy rates will also see a decrease.
‘We still have a very high vacancy rate, but I think that will go down. Vacancy rates going down can help with multi-family sales,” she says. “Obviously if you’re trying to sell a multi-family and they’re not empty units, then that’s going to provide more of an investment opportunity.”
Henry also predicts the Saint John market will attract more people from the United States due to the low Canadian dollar.
“As we’re looking into 2017 into better weather, we’re hoping that will bring people back to our Charlotte County area and also the Sussex and Cambridge Narrows area,” she says.
With 2016 turning out to be a positive year for sellers, Henry says one can expect similar going into this year.
“It’s very difficult with the individually priced and area properties that we have, but I think the overall forecast does promise that if your price is right and the marketing is out there, properties are selling.”
Live in Fredericton or Moncton? Stay tuned. We’ll explore the outlook in those markets over the next few weeks.