If the countless “sold” signs perched on yards around town mean anything, then surely they’re a clear sign of the torrid real estate market here.
As the local economy continues on its uncertain path, real estate seemingly is unaffected as demand for housing maintains its high in what continues to be one of the fastest-moving markets in years.
Local real estate brokers Chad Jack (Century 21), Dan Cousineau (Cousineau Real Estate Ltd.), and Kathy Judson (RE/MAX) were quick to highlight the stability of the housing market despite the recent mill closure.
Judson deemed the real estate market “exceptionally strong,” noting those looking to retire, move home, or migrate to a smaller centre make up the bulk of her buyer demographic.
“Buyers are looking at where they can go to have a good lifestyle, at a reasonable cost, to see their children grow up with eyes open,” she remarked.
“I think people are kind of going back to their roots because they want to have that.
“[People] are coming and hearing all of these things about the [gold] mine, about the solar farm, and all of the things that are happening and the economic upturns in the area,” Judson added.
“They are looking at that and saying that if they want to come back, they should buy now.”
Judson also noted a retired demographic of home buyers—from both here and elsewhere—were swooping in on the market.
“A lot of these buyers might not take possession for a while,” she explained. “If they haven’t retired quite yet, they might just use it as a vacation spot until they are ready to retire in their home.
“But they know the buyers’ market is good so they buy now—that’s been a big part of my business, for sure.”
Judson said she’s also finding that first-time buyers are coming into the market because there isn’t much for rent.
“The rents are very high for what you get and the mortgage rates are very low,” she remarked.
“So if you have the access to down payment money, you can buy a property for less than you can rent.”
Judson noted first-time buyers are “eating up” the bottom bracket price range. And as they move up over time, empty-nesters are downsizing—which creates a cycle.
Jack also recognized these trends, citing the substantial increases in his company’s Multiple Listing Service’s database, which reports statistics for the entire Rainy River District.
“The factors that seem to be influencing the current market are the fact this area is a safe area to live and we seem to have people coming back home to retire as housing is relatively affordable,” he agreed.
“Also the fact of being a border town seems to help with the decision for many.
“The first half of the year in 2014 has seen an increase in sales by 25.8 percent from the same time period in 2013,” Jack noted, adding there also has been a 20 percent reduction in inventory.
Meanwhile, Jack said the average number of days a home remains on the market also has seen a 30 percent reduction, which he suggested was an indication of a good economic factors.
“The mill closure has not affected the clients that I work with,” he remarked.
“And if the stats are any indication, the closure has helped out real estate in the area,” he added.
“The overall [picture] of our marketplace is still in a balance situation.”
Cousineau echoed the stability of the local housing market, adding it seems to be building from last year.
“I think the market seems to be kicking along in spite of what is happening in the town,” he noted.
“Certain aspects of the market are probably moving better than others and that is usually the case,” Cousineau added.
“It normally cycles because people are moving around and upgrading to larger homes or smaller homes, or whatever their needs are at the time,” he explained.
“Fort Frances has, over the years, had its ups and downs—we’ve had different scenarios in this town that have either made the market good or bad,” said Cousineau.
“But this town seems to be fairly stable as far as real estate goes and the market doesn’t fluctuate a lot as far as values go,” he remarked.
“Regardless of whether times are good or bad, it seems to be pretty steady.
“Time will tell what the market does [in the future] and that is always the case—we only know what is going on today,” Cousineau concluded.