Scarce housing market in Fort Frances drives prices up

A small number of real estate listings and a low unemployment rate have resulted in high real estate prices in Fort Frances in recent years, according to Kathy Judson. Although there are many factors at play, she has not seen a decrease in house prices in the past decade, she said.

Judson is a real estate sales person for RE/MAX First Choice Realty. She has worked for 40 years to help buyers and sellers get the best value from the market, and navigate the real estate industry.

“That is financing, talking to them about the legal aspects and all the issues that they might run into there and if they don’t have lawyers or mortgage people or insurance people, I refer several to them and they can make their choices,” Judson said. “It is an all-encompassing service.”

Although there was a noticeable decrease in houses posted for sale because of COVID-19, prices are still high, said Judson.

“Even with the pandemic going on, we did see a slow down in activity in March and April just because people did not know what was going on or should they let anybody in their house, should they go into anyone’s house,” Judson said. “There was so much that was unknown. I would say that March and April were slow. May, June and July have been very strong.”

In a town like Fort Frances, where unemployment is relatively low, there are more buyers than sellers. The increase of price happens as a result of the limited supply and heavy demand, something Judson said is pure economics.

“Well-priced properties in every price range from low to high are selling really quickly,” Judson said. “There is not a whole lot on the market.”

Low mortgage interest rates also makes it more affordable with families with average income to own properties. Judson said everyone in the industry was surprised to see interest rates drop to single-digits beginning in the 2000s.

“In some places, some lenders are below two per cent. That is historic. We have not seen interest rates that low in my lifetime. When rates are that low, mortgage money is very cheap. It is much cheaper, like in the market we are experiencing here, if they can find something they can buy and qualify for the mortgage, they are paying less for a home that they own than they would be paying for rent,” Judson said.

“The rental market is very difficult. If you are a landlord and you’ve got five or six people at your door saying they want to rent, you will be hard pressed not to go in and do some improvements and increase rent. There is very little unemployment in this area. It is unique that way because there is so much that needs to get done. Contractors and builders could not keep up. One contractor I know is booked solid for two years.”

Cody Vangel, chief building official and municipal planner, said the town gave 47 building permits this year.