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House Hunting in Canada: A Log Palace in the Mountains of Alberta

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Alberta, the rural western Canadian province bordering Montana to the south, has long tethered its fortunes to its largest industries: oil and gas. After a 2014 collapse in oil prices sparked huge financial and job losses, housing prices “crashed” by more than 20 percent, said Kirby Cox, a Realtor at Kirby Cox & Associates in Calgary. “Everyone thought Covid would just make it worse.”

As in most other parts of the world, however, the housing market rebounded with a “frenzy,” said Justin Havre, founder of Justin Havre & Assocates/RE/MAX First, in Calgary. “We started seeing bidding wars and price increases around the start of 2021,” he said. “It was a bit of a gong show.” Historically low interest rates also heightened demand, he said.

Year-to-date total home sales in Calgary, Alberta’s largest city, have more than doubled over the same period last year, to 18,147 from 8,972 in 2020, according to a July report from the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB). The average 2021 home price jumped to $498,201 Canadian dollars ($398,000), up from $452,730 Canadian ($362,000) in 2020, CREB said.

“There was a lot of pent-up demand, and we’ve been setting records every month in terms of sales and prices,” said Daniel Kowall, a real estate agent at RE/MAX House of Real Estate, in Calgary. “Once people realized they didn’t have to live near work, and could get more space, they sought out different houses to suit their needs.”

While the city’s average home price has soared, it remains dwarfed by costs in major Canadian cities like Toronto, where the average reached a record $1,062,256 Canadian ($850,000) in July, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. In Vancouver, the benchmark price of a detached home hovers at $1,801,100 Canadian ($1.44 million), the highest in Canada, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

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