Real estate boom on Eastern Shore

By Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
September 9 2020

EASTERN SHORE – “I never would have thought real estate would be booming during a pandemic, but I believe what is driving the market in this area is the fact people can work from home. They want to be out of the city – they want personal space – to grow a garden and want a slower pace of life in a rural setting,” explains Deanna Parks, Century 21 Realtor, about the increase in houses sold along the Shore in the past several months.

The boom is happening all over the province and most of the country, Parks says, “…because interest rates are low and the home inventory was low over the spring – with many qualified buyers out there looking – we have a surplus of buyers. Since prices are being driven up in the urban areas, buyers are now looking out past the city in more rural communities with lower ‘affordable’ price points and they are looking for that ‘small town’ feel with most amenities nearby.”

“Typically, in the last two years the average time on market for homes to sell in the real estate region known as Halifax Country East was 145 days. This year that has reduced to 93 days on market. I have seen many homes sit for up to two years before selling and that could suggest the price was too high initially for what potential buyers were looking for,” says Parks.

“I took a look at the data for home sales in the area of Halifax County East, which covers East Ship Harbour to Ecum Secum Bridge and the communities within those boundaries from June 1 to September 1 in 2019 and there were 10 home sales and for 2020 there have been 21 sales between the same time period. Of course, there are many more pending sales but not yet sold,” Parks says.

Recently, Parks has had properties receive offers just days after being on the market – and some with multiple offers which, she says, “is unheard of for the area.” Parks says buyers are looking for space and privacy, a garage and if possible, a view of the water – or even better – waterfront. “Larger homes take more time to sell as most people purchasing are looking to retire and downsize. Waterfront properties sell fairly quickly and vacant land tends to sit longer as buyers can purchase an existing home at such a great price – but no matter the type of property – with patience and competitive pricing – a property will sell.”

Unreliable Internet connectivity and intermittent cell service can be a challenge in selling a home but Parks now has new expectations with the recent Develop Nova Scotia announcement for fibre optic Internet on the Eastern Shore by 2022. “Hopefully this will change now that most of the communities in the Sheet Harbour area will have fibre op internet service.

“Spring and fall are the best times to list a home but there are always buyers out there, so never worry about the best time to list,” Parks advises. “It is a seller’s market right now. Prices have slightly increased and sellers are getting close to asking price for their homes because there are multiple buyers competing for homes.”

Currently, Parks says, the buyers are 50 per cent local and 50 per cent from away. “We have a lot purchasing within Nova Scotia right now but still have a big market of buyers coming from Ontario. Of course, because of COVID-19 and the 14 days quarantine it can be challenging for our friends in Ontario to purchase and many are purchasing sight unseen. To do this, their agent will do virtual tours of the property using Facetime, Zoom or other conference calling platforms and send videos of the home.”

For people considering entering the market, Parks offers simple advice. She suggests that sellers refrain from major renovations as you may not see a return on your investment. “Declutter your home and make spaces as bright as possible. Any major repairs should be done before selling such as roof shingles and leaking windows or have the price reduced and issues disclosed to allow for a buyer to do the repairs themselves. Test your water if you have not done so for a few years; unknown issues can arise and a water system may be needed. Buyers looking to mortgage a home need potable water so major health concerns such as bacteria, arsenic or high manganese must be corrected,” Parks said.

Parks tells buyers to get pre-approved for financing before looking at a home. If you are a first-time home buyer, you should have your own agent. The listing agent is working for the seller as the seller pays the commission. “Also,” she includes, “we will discuss what is involved with purchasing and costs associated with buying such as inspections and other details.”

The Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission and Nova Scotia Association of Realtors laid out guidelines from directives given by the Nova Scotia Government and Public Health on how to safely show homes and interact with clients during COVID-19. At the height of the pandemic Parks was showing homes and meeting with clients. Procedures that agents were following included screening sellers and buyers for COVID-19 symptoms.

“We were practicing social distancing when showing homes, disinfecting high touch surfaces and using hand sanitizer before and after meeting clients.” Parks continues, “Buyers and sellers were signing a COVID-19 declaration and if social distancing was not possible, they were wearing masks. Now with the easing of restrictions, many of these procedures have relaxed as well.”

As far as her own career in real estate goes, Parks says it’s proving to be an exciting time.

“I have been flat out busy! In this industry you are pretty much available 24/7 and this summer in particular I have been non-stop working on listing and viewing appointments and of course paperwork – so much paperwork! This is a new experience for me. Business has always been steady but this is the extreme and quite exciting.”