Atlantic Canada real estate has seen significant gains since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to what are now some of Canada’s hottest real estate markets. In fact, recent activity has been seen by experts as unprecedentedly strong. The province of Nova Scotia is part of this growth, as more people scoop up properties in this oceanside region.

Despite market activity temporarily halting as a result of self-isolation protocols, the slowdown was short lived in this province. This could be due to the fact that cases of the COVID-19 virus were low overall in the Atlantic provinces, especially compared to other cities in the country including Toronto and Vancouver, which experienced higher cases and prolonged effects.

While many predicted that the virus would have devastating effects on the economy and real estate market, trends started point to recovery in Nova Scotia starting in May. Fortunately, experts believe this activity will continue into the fall and winter seasons.

Atlantic Canada real estate trends

Nova Scotia Home Sales Surge

As we look to Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax, the signs of a strong (booming) market are glaringly obvious. With the spring home-buying season put on hold, in June real estate activity quickly ramped up again, ultimately building toward September sales that rose almost 46 per cent year-over-year.

Another indicator of a strong market: many properties have been sold well over asking price, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars over. Year-over-year the house prices in Nova Scotia are up 21.5 per cent, further showcasing the desire to purchase homes in this Atlantic province.

Despite soaring prices, Halifax continues to be an affordable market compared to the rest of the country. As we see this momentum build, many are confident that a significant downturn won’t occur in this market in the short-term.

Home-buying Lifestyle Factors

The pandemic has caused locals and those from other provinces to seek larger floor plans and more green space, both of which are plentiful in Nova Scotia. A recent survey by RE/MAX showed that 48 per cent of Canadians want to live closer to green spaces and 33 per cent have realized they would like more square footage in their home.

The shift to remote working arrangements have afforded homeowners the freedom to choose where they’d like to live, no longer constrained by their office commute. For some, this meant packing up and moving from more densely populated provinces such as Ontario to the east coast. There is also a growing trend of people originally from the maritime provinces choosing to move back home to be close to family and friends.

Social distancing has caused some people to feel less comfortable being in close proximity to others in large metropolitan hubs. Typically, condo lifestyles require use of shared spaces like elevators, lobbies and fitness facilities, potentially increasing the risk of exposure to the virus.

These pandemic-related lifestyle shifts are driving real estate activity and trends country-wide, and until the coronavirus is completely contained, experts predict that these preferences are not going to change any time soon.

Low Inventory

Another factor affecting the real estate market in Nova Scotia is the limited inventory. In Halifax there aren’t enough homes to satisfy the high demand of buyers. People are seeking various property types, and new builds are failing to meet these demands. This continues to be a seller’s market as a result.

According to Senior Economist Shaun Cathcart with the Canadian Real Estate Association, prior years of inventory in this province were between 12 to 13 months, yet since 2016, that inventory has been dropping and is now between three and four months.

The low inventory is causing multiple offer scenarios as well as bidding wars, a result of the competition present for buyers to secure the home they desire.

Low Interest Rates

In response to the COVID-19 economic freeze, the Bank of Canada lowered the benchmark interest rate to 0.25 per cent. This is the lowest the rate has ever been and may encourage more homebuyers to set their sights on their dream home on the east coast. Those who previously faced challenges borrowing at high rates may want to take advantage during this time, before the Bank of Canada decides to increase rates once again. These historically low rates are proving to be particularly helpful to first-time homebuyers who now have access to more funds, increasing their market options.

The Atlantic Canada real estate market is red-hot as more people set their sights on larger floor plans and access to green space. The Nova Scotia housing market offers both, with the added benefit of price affordability.  Any coronavirus-related impacts on Atlantic Canada real estate market have been minimal, and not only is the provincial real estate market recovering, but the growth is outperforming previous years. These strong housing trends are projected to continue into 2021.