A real estate sold sign is shown outside a house in Vancouver, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. nbsp;Real estate brokerage Royal LePage says home prices are increasing in Canada’s cottage country, as more buyers look to move there full-time. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Pandemic, work-from-home driving buyers out of cities

Elton Ash of RE/MAX said a surge in interest in smaller towns could potentially reverse slightly in 2022

The real estate market in Canada is looking pretty swish despite all the turbulence of the pandemic, at least according to data from RE/MAX released this week.

In their 2021 Housing Market Outlook report, the real estate company forecast residential sales price increases of four to six percent across Canada in a year that will see further changes in buyer preferences as more Canadians move the the suburbs or out of cities completely.

Elton Ash, who is regional executive vice president for RE/MAX in Western Canada, said an ongoing diversification of buyer preferences was in part a continuation of changing trends with more buyers choosing to live in the suburbs or rural communities rather than dense cities, and in part due to new possibilities and realizations brought about due to the pandemic in 2020.

Ash said that because of the requirements and recommendations on working from home, more people were realizing they could work somewhere they could have more space and a better quality of life.

“Homeowners suddenly found that having the kids at home in April, May and June (and) working at home during that same time period found that what they thought was the ideal home for them wasn’t so ideal any longer, and that they needed more room, and that they could move – especially millennials, who now have young children,” he said.

The push out of dense cities wasn’t just into suburbia though, Ash said that RE/MAX offices across BC were seeing increased activity.

“We’ve seen increasing market conditions due to this in Nelson, Fernie, Cranbrook – all of our offices have reported increased business because of this phenomenon,” he said, adding that now that workers weren’t so tied to offices, a good internet connection was key to where they could live.

“We’ve seen huge increases (in interest) in recreational property.

“Where there’s strong internet access, (buyers) are looking at lifestyle. People are looking at lifestyle more than ever in the past.”

While there was a surge in interest in rural properties and small towns, Ash said they were expecting a rebound in the medium-term though.

“It wont happen in 2021, but we know that come 2022 there’s going to be some reaction to all of this.

“In about 2022 we’re going to see a bit of a blow back, because people will get out to the smaller communities, get out to the suburbs and realize ‘I kinda miss the downtown even though it’s more expensive’.”

Still, Ash noted that changes in preference were also being driven by a change in buyers, with millennials now holding more of the cash across the economy.

“The millennials are a much bigger demographic that are really starting to drive trends around the world. As that wealth shifts from the boomers to the millennials … lifestyle is huge in millennial thoughts, so we’re going to see even more pressure on that lifestyle type of property as internet access improves.”

READ MORE: Real estate market runs hot through August

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