For proof that B-20 wreaked havoc on small Canadian towns far from the bright lights and blaring horns of Toronto and Vancouver, look no further than Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
“We have 41 realtors in Prince Alberta and our trade area, which is down from 94 almost four years ago, so 60% of our realtors have left the industry,” said Jesse Honch, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Signature. “Getting hit with the full realm of the stress test, not just the initial changes in 2016, was pretty tough for us to handle in combination with the weak western economy where we’ve lost so many jobs. It’s also resulted in a combination of fewer buyers and desperation in the industry.”
In fact, there were 80 realtors in Prince Albert in 2017 and only 51 today, according to the Saskatoon Region Association of Realtors.
While there would naturally be fewer mortgage brokers than realtors in the region, the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan says, as of last year, there were only four licensed brokers and one brokerage for the region. Province-wide, the number of mortgage brokers and associates has remained consistent.
Still, Prince Albert bore the brunt of declines in the oil and gas, forestry and mining industries.
Honch says one mortgage broker he knows is so fed up with the depressed Prince Albert market that she’s packing up and moving to the United States. She declined to be interviewed by Mortgage Broker News.
Prior to the latest implementation of B-20, Honch built his business by mainly servicing first-time homebuyers, however, they have all but disappeared from the market, he says.
There are nevertheless glimmers of hope for the town of nearly 36,000. While first-time buyers have dried up, new to Canada is an emerging demographic that Honch is capitalizing on by becoming a lister.
“I’d always been a top-selling agent because I dealt with a lot of buyers, but I changed my marketing to become a top lister,” he said. “I was carrying an average of 20 to 25 properties in 2016-17 to 70 to 80 in 2017-18. In doing so, I was getting more calls on listings and capitalizing on buyers’ contacts as well. Our largest buying pool here is going to be the new-to-Canada pool. Sixty percent of properties sold last year were to people who arrived in Canada over the last five years.”
Another positive sign is the forestry industry showing renewed signs of life. In 2017, the forestry industry generated $1.2 billion in product sales, which was a 21% increase over the previous year. Moreover, last year’s sales were also a decade-high.
The federal budget also included incentives for first-time homebuyers, and in a market where homes are moderately priced, there might still be hope yet.