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Last updateThu, 18 Jan 2018 5pm

Real estate endures turbulent 2017

real estate

    While indicators are showing that the economy is recovering, it is taking a while for this to show up in the local real estate market.
    Stacey Gallagher of Century 21 PowerRealty says while the year started out with the market in a good position, by April there was excess inventory on the market.
    “Between May and October, there was between 142 and 152 homes on the market. That’s about 10-20 more than average and the highest inventory numbers in 10 years,” she said.
    She noted that toughest sales are in properties that are more than $300,000. Last year there were nine sales at a price point over $300,000, compared to 18 in 2016.
    Despite this, sales overall were only down minimally. Heather VanDyk owner and realtor at ReMax, says there have been 99 sales, including seven in the last 30 days; over the last 365 days. Sales in 2016 were 113.
    In Drumheller, VanDyk agrees the economy has taken its toll, which has resulted in fewer sales at the high end as well as mid-market properties. She also sees families not upgrading their homes or maintaining as well as they have in previous years. Despite this, she has confidence in Drumheller and the market.
    “Real estate is still a good investment. Fueled by lower interest rates, real estate is attractive,” she said, “Appreciation helps in resale and to attract higher rents and cash flows on investment property during a long ownership period,” said VanDyk.
    “Real estate is the only investment where you can improve value through your own hard work.”
    She notes the inventory is back inline with 110 homes, and 11 parcels of land listed.
    Kelly Boyko of Home-Town Realty says it was a steady year, however, it appears things are picking up.
    “It seems over the last few months, I have found that there are more buyers looking around. It seems to me if things are priced in line they are selling,” said Boyko. “I am hearing positive things moving forward so I am hoping next year is even better.”
    Gallagher agrees that the market dictates prices. “Be realistic about your price from the get-go, Make sure your house shines from top to bottom and it’s not necessarily the best time to “test the market”, she said.
    Boyko adds that condition counts. “For instance, if there is a house that sold three years ago, and it comes up again it really depends on how it has been looked after and if it has upgrades and things along those lines. It really varies house to house depending on how people maintain it,” said Boyko.
    VanDyk says they are seeing buyers coming from out of town shopping for a place to retire. Often a couple will target a community such as Drumheller for a weekend, and then another such as Olds, looking for a community to settle in.
    “We are selling the town every day,” said VanDyk, adding that Drumheller is attractive because of its close proximity to an international airport, the Health Centre, recreation such as bowling, the community facility, and the Aquaplex, as well as shopping.
    One change says VanDyk coming in 2018 is new mortgage rules. One, in particular, is a new stress test. All prospective buyers need to qualify for a mortgage at a rate that is 2 per cent higher than the mortgage they are qualified for, or the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate. This may make it tougher for buyers, but it also helps to mitigate risk.
    “This isn’t a bad thing, it is to protect the consumer, it is to protect us  from foreclosures, so in the long run it will be good,” said VanDyk.

FCSS gives first glimpse at survey results


    The Drumheller Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) recently revealed some of the raw data acquired through the economic needs assessment survey.
    This survey was conducted a couple months ago to gain insight into what residents of Drumheller want to see within their community.
    11 short videos were made for promotional purposes as well as 10 stakeholder discussions. Those discussions focused on education, health, disabilities, food security, seniors, transportation, etc.
    The questions of the online survey focused on four initial questions; age, children under 18 in the participant’s care, where they pay municipal property tax, and how long they have lived in Drumheller.
    Questions also related to mental health, addictions, family violence, sexual abuse, and specific identified priorities like education.
    Overall, the issues they discovered were of most importance was accessible mental health/counselling support services, affordability of living in Drumheller, activities for children and youth, and welcoming newcomers. FCSS coordinator April Harrison explained that high priorities outside of the FCSS scope included housing and transportation.
    Harrison brought forth five potential resolutions to these highlighted priorities.
    The first focused on funds to support a sliding fee scale for counselling in Drumheller.         This scale allows people with limited incomes to pay what is affordable and within their means.
    The hourly fee for service is determined at the beginning of the initial treatment session between the client and therapist, and is based on the client’s annual income and number of dependents in the home.
    The second was a Drumheller access card which could encompass services or goods like recreation, transportation, dental and health services, childcare, and/or groceries.
    The third item talked about a third space for youth like a youth centre or hub. This centre could have a youth council/committee, an after school drop-in program, homework club, food, mentorship programs or intergenerational programs, a safe space to be with friends, a space for art, music and drama, gaming competitions, and/or a silent disco.
    A welcoming program was the fourth proposal. They are considering looking at a Drumheller ambassador program which would include educational events, building a nurturing sense of community, buddy systems, and block party programs.
    Number five was an events coordinator dedicated to specific events like the Festival of Lights, the Picnic in the Park, and other events put on by FCSS to fully commit to wanted programs in the community.
    FCSS’s next steps focus on completing group sessions, continuing to analyze data and focus group results, community information sessions and feedback.
    They plan on presenting the final draft of the report to Town of Drumheller council in April.

Labour poses challenge for local economy

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    As the economy across Canada performs well, employers are seeing a dearth of skilled workers. Some of these forces are similar in the valley.
    The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) released a report, and according to the third quarter Help Wanted Report, there are 371,000 vacant jobs across Canada. Even in Alberta, where the economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery, the report says there are  about 33,900 unfilled positions.
    “Labour shortages are again becoming a major hindrance to businesses across the country, especially small firms,” said Ted Mallett, Chief Economist at CFIB.  “We need government to take action, to find solutions for chronic shortages that inhibit a small business’ ability to take on new contracts, expand and innovate.”
    Labour issues are also a concern in Drumheller according to a recent survey undertaken by Community Futures Big Country. Michael Love of Community Futures conducted a business visitation study this fall, interviewing employers and business owner in the valley.  Labour was a large concern.
    According to the survey, about 60 per cent of the respondents indicated that the availability of qualified personnel is a problem in Drumheller. It states that in some cases this was a limiting factor on business development and growth, or a factor in deciding whether a business expands its operations elsewhere of ceases operations.
    “A  significant number of employers said entry level positions were reasonably easy to hire for, but management and skills were more difficult,” said Love.
    According to the survey, this number rose to 82 per cent when speaking with businesses in the hospitality business and was the lowest for tourism operators.
    “Bear in mind operators are primarily seasonal,” said Love.
    “Anecdotally I heard from people there is not a lot of depth in the labour pool,” he said.
    The survey was conducted earlier this year and focused on more than just labour.
    “It was looking to identify trends in the business environment, needs and opportunities and more specifically to identify how Community Futures could  be of assistance,” said Love. “It is also to provide research that hopefully anybody could use.
    There was a positive result, especially in responses to characterizing their own businesses.  Equal percentages of respondents (39.7) felt their business was either growing or maintaining while 9 per cent felt their business as declining, and 9 per cent reported they were restructuring in response to economic conditions.
    Some of the opportunities the survey showed support for short-term training opportunities. 41 per cent of the respondents felt this could improve Drumheller’s business environment. About 39 per cent indicated there is room to offer more post-secondary for young people in the community, with the highest support from the local service industry.
    Love says that with the variety of areas that were identified in the survey, collaboration is key to addressing some of the issues.
    “Whoever can provide the pieces, I think as a community we should get together to do this,” he said.

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