However you look at it, it’s been a spectacular start to the year for the mortgage industry in Atlantic Canada.
Supported by the staggering performance of the housing market, which saw a 39.2% year-on-year increase in home sales in February, the region’s mortgage industry is witnessing demand that few even had a few months ago to provide.
“I’ve been working 18-hour days for the past few months,” said Greenwood, Nova ScotiaMortgage broker Jennifer Gaudet (photo above), “and usually we have a break in the winter. There has been no intermission.
“The pandemic hit in March and then it got busy, but most of the activity I see has been this year.”
Nova Scotia alone saw a massive 31.9% annual increase in home sales in February, with the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors reporting 1,045 homes sold in the county last month – a further indication that the frenetic pace of real estate and mortgage activity is showing little sign of delay. down.
“We’ve never had a busier year,” said Kelly Boyles (pictured directly above), a senior mortgage specialist in True North Mortgage’s Halifax office. “We don’t just see people buying; we are also seeing a record number of people refinancing.
“We’ve seen people refinance to work from home because they can’t travel this year. But in the same sense, people are also looking at upgrading – I’ve talked to a lot of people who rent a small apartment and have nowhere to go, and [they say] it would be nice to have a small garden that they can go to. “
The realities of remote working, where homeowners no longer need to travel to their downtown office space on a daily basis, have undoubtedly helped accelerate the urban flight that has taken place in Canada over the past year. Gaudet said that in many cases, homebuyers didn’t have to find work in their new county before moving, using private loans and selling their existing home to move before getting a job.
Both Gaudet and Boyles also attributed that shift between urban and rural areas to the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases in the province and in Atlantic Canada as a whole, compared to the rest of the country.
“I think people now see Atlantic Canada as a safe place,” said Gaudet. “They see how these counties are run and what happened in the event of an emergency like a pandemic, so they think ‘this is the safest place to be’.”
“Nobody really expected to be in a global pandemic,” Boyles agreed, “and I can imagine people moving here too because we’ve been safer. [than other areas], with much lower rates of COVID cases. “
That, of course, raises a question that is currently reverberating through industry not just in Atlantic Canada, but across the country: Will the trends that contributed to the housing boom continue after the pandemic, or is a cooldown after COVID inevitable?
“It would be nice to have a crystal ball to know these things in advance,” Boyles said. “We have never had a busier year here in Halifax. I would hope it would continue to some extent, or at least remain stable, [instead of] suddenly go much higher or have a huge dip. “
Gaudet said that if the remote working revolution continued after the pandemic, that shift from urban to more remote areas could continue. “I think as long as people can work from home and have remote jobs, people will move from larger cities to rural or urban areas, especially the Atlantic provinces,” she said.
“I feel like most companies now have remote workers and it works – they have lower overheads and employees are probably happier.”
Both Gaudet and Boyles warned that in the uncertain near future, the prospect of a housing bubble remained a real possibility. Still, Gaudet said the outlook would remain positive if the city flight continues, and Atlantic Canada’s COVID rates remain relatively low.
“That, in turn, will drive up house prices and really boost the economy,” she said, “which is quite nice for Nova Scotia.”