Real estate recovery remains elusive in central Alberta

Home sale numbers behind last year

Long-time realtor Richard Pochylko has no doubt real estate will bounce back.

He just was not expecting it to take this long.

“I’ve been here my whole life,” said Pochylko, president of the Central Alberta Realtors Association president. “I’ve never seen it drag on as long as it is dragging on.

“It’s eating people alive.”

Residential home sales were down 6.3 per cent to 360 units last month compared with April 2018, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics. Through four months, sales are down 12.1 per cent to 1,004 units compared with 2018, which was not a great year itself.

Across the province, the news was a little brighter with sales up 2.6 per cent last month compared with April 2018.

Pochylko knows of people who bought homes in 2014 and 2015, then spent thousands finishing the basement, building a fence and landscaping. Putting them on the market now often means setting an asking price below their original purchase cost, not including improvements.

He tells people it will likely be years before their home reaches the selling number they have in mind because housing markets tend to take awhile to catch up to an improving economy.

For some homeowners, that means staying put and building equity are the best options.

“If you’re not happy with the house you just have to make yourself happy with the house.”

Pochylko represents a number of smaller builders and they are facing difficulties finding buyers for their higher-end spec homes. He knows of builders who still have homes they built in 2016 remaining unsold.

“They’re sitting there. They are not sold and the carrying costs of those houses has put them in a position where they are never going to make any money.”

Some homeowners are now at the point where they can’t make their mortgage payments.

“I think we’re now starting to feel the real effect of this recession. It’s dragged on for so long that people have run out of options.”

Pochylko said sales are picking up in the big cities but central Alberta has not seen the same bump.

This region’s heavy concentration of oilfield service-related businesses is one of the reasons the recovery is taking longer.

“That’s what drove the economy. That’s what brought people to Red Deer more than anything. Those industries, they’re hiring people but they’re not bringing people in from out of town.”

Pochylko said despite the current grim realities, he is convinced the economy, and with it real estate, are in for better times.

“We’ll come back and we’ll be strong again. Things will get better and we will get past this.”

“Life is what it is. Don’t get hung up on the dollars and cents,” he tells people.

“Enjoy your life as you go through. Live with what you have to live with and do your best.”

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