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Newly licensed real estate agents in Atlantic Canada have barely had time to catch a breath before closing their first deals, thanks to a booming housing market that shows little signs of cooling.
Lexi McLeod, based in Georgetown, P.E.I., is an agent with EXIT Realty. She received her license this past July, following a pre-licensing course at Holland College that was interrupted by COVID-19 restrictions, forcing everything online and causing changes in the course delivery.
“We wrote our mid-term, and a couple of days later, everything shut down,” McLeod said. “There were guest speakers we missed out on.”
But the ongoing pandemic didn’t negatively affect McLeod’s educational goals or career. Since receiving her license in July, she successfully closed 10 real estate sales — something which came as a surprise to her this early in her career.
“I knew you have to build up a clientele and get your name out there,” she said. “Usually, at this point, new realtors don’t close that many (deals).”
Hot market, more realtors
The hot real estate market appears to be the reason McLeod and other newly minted realtors are seeing such early success.
Statistics from the Canadian Real Estate Association show home sales in P.E.I., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador reached new sales records in February of this year compared to the previous February. P.E.I numbers were up 20.9 per cent, Newfoundland and Labrador sales were up 25 per cent, and in Nova Scotia, numbers were up 31.9 per cent compared to February 2020.
And just as home sales are up, the number of agents whose job it is to sell those houses are also up this year.
Pierre Leduc, media relations for the Canadian Real Estate Association, said membership numbers have indeed gone up for P.E.I., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. While the association members do not include all real estate professionals, only members can call themselves realtors.
“Our most recent membership numbers do show an increase in membership in those three provinces: 6.2 per cent over 2019 in P.E.I. a 5.9 per cent increase over 2019 in Nova Scotia, and a 1.3 per cent increase in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Leduc said.
He added that in the case of Nova Scotia and P.E.I., the total number of agents have steadily grown since the end of 2018, while in Newfoundland, the number of agents actually went down over that time before recovering slightly last year.
Good place to live
As a new realtor, McLeod has been in the thick of things when it comes to demand for housing in P.E.I.
She said demand from out-of-province potential buyers, for example, is such that they will send emails to several realtors at once, and “whoever emails back, they go with.”
She adds some potential buyers have bid up to $50,000 above the asking price.
“I think the pandemic has helped people realize (P.E.I.) is a good place to live during a time of uncertainty,” McLeod said.
The perfect example of how competitive the housing market is on P.E.I. involves a home that has been on the market for three years with little movement. McLeod said there has suddenly been a lot of interest — more than 30 showings, in fact — for a property that would need “thousands of dollars” of work for it to be in livable condition.
“Nothing was done (to the house) in four years and it’s doubled in price,” she said.
Instantly in demand
Marsha Weeks, another recently licensed realtor, also with EXIT Realty, is based in Fredericton, P.E.I. She considered real estate to be a good fit, noting she’s also a licensed wedding commissioner and enjoys being a part of the special moments in people’s lives.
“I really love working with people. I consider it a privilege," she says.
Weeks didn’t know what to expect when she started out, but she thought she’d have some time to get herself established. But things took off quicker than she expected.
“I had instant calls and messages, and was showing houses virtually the next day,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to be so busy, so fast.”
Weeks has already closed a dozen deals so far. Some of those deals have involved buyers from Ontario wishing to move here.
“The market in Ontario is extremely active and hot," she says. "People are getting a high price for their house, so they can purchase a house here for cash and still have money left over to take it easy and enjoy the lifestyle of P.E.I.”
Weeks added buyers have also included people originally from the Island who lived and worked their careers off-Island and are now looking to spend their retirement years back home.
'Flying off' the market
Another recent entry in the real estate game is Megan George, a realtor with Hanlon Realty in Blaketown, N.L., George has only been licensed since January, but she’s been busy, saying houses are “flying off” the market.
“(It is) a little challenging for buyers who are looking for something specific when there’s no inventory matching their criteria to show them,” George said. “It also means that some buyers are missing out on properties if they take too long to put in an offer.”
She jokes that one thing her clients appreciate about her is her promptness, “and, in a market like this, you have to be quick.”
She said the buyers she's worked with have been a mix of locals and those from out of the province. Local clients, she says, tend to be looking for an upgrade to their current home or want to invest in a rental property. Some are also living off-province and want to buy summer or retirement homes.
“As for the people coming from away, I don’t think it’s necessarily because Atlantic Canada is seen as a safer place,” she said. “Personally, my clients from away are retirees coming back home, which was always their plan.”
While she expects the market to cool eventually, she’s not concerned about a downturn in her business.
“If you prepare for those times, while still putting your heart into your business, I think you can make it work,” she said. “Being the only realtor living in my small-town area gives me a small advantage, as locals like to work with a familiar face.”
George says becoming a realtor “just made sense” as a long-term career path.
“Every day is different, some more challenging than others, but I love what I do. And I love putting smiles on my clients’ faces when a deal goes through,” she said.