COCHRANE— Cochrane's housing market hit a five-year high in 2020, ending the year off strong with growth expected to continue into 2021.
Local realtor Kendra Watt, of Kendra Watt Real Estate Group CIR Realty, said 2020 was busier than any previous years she has seen.
“It’s been the busiest year ever— Nobody would have ever predicted that in a pandemic we were going to be selling as many houses as we are,” Watt said. “Even though we were shut down for seven weeks we had a record-breaking year— Not just personally, but in the town of Cochrane as well.”
Home sales experienced a brief slowdown in March given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, she said, but sales soon picked up again in June.
In 2020 Cochrane saw 724 total residential sales with a median sale price of $392,000. In comparison 2019 saw 619 residential sales with a median sale price of $382,500.
Currently there are 145 active listings in Cochrane.
Normajean Kinch, broker and owner of RE/MAX West Real Estate in Cochrane and Bearspaw, said 2020 proved to be the busiest year she has ever seen in her 30-years in the area.
The first three months of 2020 started off soft for housing sales, and were further limited until June due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kinch said.
The third and fourth quarters of the year proved to be the saving grace for the 2020 Cochrane housing market.
While many factors are driving the increase in home sales, the biggest reason for the exponential growth in Cochrane appears to be the lifestyle the town can offer, Watt said. These include the larger lots, proximity to the airport and mountains and easily accessible amenities.
“People who are finding themselves spending more time at home, they want to spend it in a community and in a house that gives them enough space where there’s still a little bit of separation for family members,” Watt said. “People are wanting their dollar to go a little further so that drives them out to Cochrane.”
Single-family detached homes in the $400,000 to $500,000 range have proven to be the most popular housing type for home buyers, Watt said. She noted the pandemic has shown people where they are living needs to be a comfortable and functional home.
“People want a big home where they can maybe have two home offices to accommodate mom and dad working from home. They want a house with a big yard so that all the home time the kids are spending, there’s a space for them in the yard,” Watt said.
Cochrane is unique because it offers distinctive communities that meet different housing needs, Watt said. Because of this, every community is proving to be popular with home buyers.
“In their own right, they’re all popular areas. There isn’t one area of Cochrane that isn’t popular. It just depends on what the buyer's preference is,” Watt said.
One of the major factors affecting the housing market has been builders struggling to get the supplies needed to build a home, due to both the high demand and COVID-19, Watt said.
“We find that the builders aren’t able to build as quickly as they would in a normal year,” Watt said.
She added the high demand is limiting those looking to purchase spec homes, re-sale homes or building their own because there is not as much inventory as there would have in a typical year.
As a result, buyers are seeing fewer housing options to choose from, which is creating more urgency when it comes to picking a home, Watt said.
Kinch noted many home buyers were interested in rural properties in the Cochrane area, or were looking for larger homes after being stuck in condos during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“People were looking for quiet, tranquillity and places to walk,” Kinch said. “A lot of people move out here for the gym, the Spray Lake Sawmills [Family Sports Centre].”
She noted there was also an increase in people moving from the Canmore area to Cochrane due to the lower cost of living.
Kinch added low-interest rates have also bolstered the housing market.
COVID-19 had an unfortunate impact on the housing market, Kinch said, because in some cases the sales of homes were necessitated due to the loss of a job or the need to relocate.
“There’s still lots of people who want to move, and sadly there’s many people who have lost their jobs and need to sell,” Kinch said. “There’s been more repossession from the bank— I meet a lot of people now who are overly sad or frightened.”
Kinch expects 2021 to be a great year for real estate. That trend is expected to continue, she said, adding 2022 is projected to be an exceptional year for the housing market.
Watt said she anticipates 2021 will continue to see 2020 trends for at least the next few months. She added the first weeks of January have already been one of her busiest to date.
“I would expect that as we get into the springtime and as we see the builders are able to keep up with demand, I think we are going to continue to see low inventory and lots of buyers and probably an increase in pricing at some point,” Watt said.
She added due to the global economic uncertainty home pricing has been relatively stable, but given the rules of supply and demand, prices will likely begin to rise.
Watt noted Cochrane has a niche micro-market and the stability of housing prices should carry through for at least the next six months.
“The problem is we can’t predict much beyond the next couple months,” Watt said. “All that chaos that is happening nationally, internationally and globally will eventually trickle down and affect our real estate market.”