Local housing market stable

Sarah Pruys

Given the uncertain future of the Resolute Forest Products mill here, some have been wondering if there are more houses for sale than in the past.
But local real estate brokers Chad Jack (Century 21), David Kircher (Tichborne’s), Dan Cousineau (Cousineau), and Kathy Judson (RE/MAX) are sure this is simply the season to sell and nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
“The one reason that there appears to be more listings in the area is the increased competition in the marketplace,” said Jack.
“But as the numbers confirm, there are actually fewer listings than normal,” he noted.
“The listings do, however, seem to be more concentrated to specific areas and neighbourhoods, which would give the appearance of more listings.”
Jack searched his company’s Multiple Listing Service’s database, which reports statistics for the entire Rainy River district, and found the following.
For instance, 88 sales were reported from January-May, 2012 while 86 were reported from January-May, 2013.
“This is only a decline of only two sales, or minus-2.3 percent, which is quite small and would not be noticeable in any market,” Jack said.
He also noted 149 units were actively listed in May, 2012 while this past May there were 134—a drop of just 15 listings (11 percent).
“The stats do confirm that the average time to sell a home—days on the market—has been slowly increasing in our area,” Jack conceded.
“But the sales are still right on track with past years.
“The market in Fort Frances has traditionally been stable with very small highs and valleys, with today’s market being nothing out of the ordinary,” Jack stressed.
“I expect to see continued growth as the year continues,” he added.
Over at Tichborne’s, Kircher noted the local housing market is in transition.
“It’s not a seller’s market anymore like it has been,” he said.
“If you have five or 10 people all wanting to buy the same property, that’s definitely a seller’s market,” Kircher explained.
“Then you have a market that’s in balance, or equilibrium, where supply equals demand,” he noted. “The market doesn’t favour buyers or sellers.
“Then you can have the buyer’s market, where there’s more for sale and the supply is greater.”
Kircher said it’s hard to tell which way things are going to go when the market is in transition.
“Prices are holding their own,” he remarked.
“People are still selling and people are still buying,” he added. “Nobody is hanging back and waiting to see what will happen.
“I do think that that is a reassuring factor; that there has been no drastic change in our market.
“It may occur slowly over time,” Kircher admitted. “But at this point, I don’t think that there is anything going on out there that would cause any concern for people that may be thinking of selling.”
“I think that the number of houses that are on the market is probably pretty normal for this time of year,” echoed Cousineau.
“The inventory usually builds in the summertime and then it shrinks in the wintertime.
“The market itself has been active, there’s a number of houses moving,” he noted. “It’s been busy; there’s a lot of people looking, people buying, and people selling.
“As far as values go, nothing is climbing but everything is holding its own, which is good news,” Cousineau stressed.
“Fort Frances has typically been that way—we don’t have a lot of up and down cycles.”
Cousineau found the current season difficult to predict, but again reiterated that everything turned out to be “fairly normal.”
“I think we started the summer in a buyer’s market,” he said. “But as the summer’s gone on, it’s evened out.”
He also noted there can be different markets in various price ranges.
“I don’t see it as buyer’s or a seller’s market—it’s holding its own both ways,” Cousineau remarked.
He did note the lake market has been slow, and that it’s a good time to buy boat-access properties because prices are down.
However, drive-to-lake properties and residential properties in town are normal.
“Hopefully, buyers and sellers will come together—that’s what keeps the economy going,” Cousineau reasoned.
“If you look at the market overall, it would appear that there are more [houses on the market],” said Judson.
“But when you start looking for a specific buyer in a specific area in a specific price range, you really don’t have all that many to show.
“In any of the price ranges, there’s probably a little more on the market in the lower ranges right now,” she noted.
“[But] it really doesn’t seem to me like an overabundance at all.
“I think people are just making moves,” Judson remarked. “It’s not that they are making the move because they are affected by the mill, they are making the making the move because they are retiring or because they are changing their job.”
These “moves” either may be into or out of the district.
“There’s a lot of people in town that are staying in town, but they’re moving up,” Judson said. “So they’re going into a higher price range, a bigger house, so they’re putting their smaller house on the market.
“There seems to be a lot of buyers that are looking for really good, reasonable alternatives to living in the big cities, where it’s really hard to have a good family life.
“I think this year has been stellar so far and it seems to be going along really well,” Judson added, echoing that the housing market here is relatively stable right now.