Home sweet home

Darrell Cole
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Mortgage broker feels now's the time to refinance your mortgage

AMHERST - After hitting a small bump late last year, housing sales appear to be on the upswing again in Cumberland County.

"We've seen a little flurry of activity," Kathy Morash of Coldwell Banker Performance Realty said Friday. "We had a couple of very slow months from about October on, but our realtors are telling me that it's getting busy again."

Home sweet home

AMHERST - After hitting a small bump late last year, housing sales appear to be on the upswing again in Cumberland County.

"We've seen a little flurry of activity," Kathy Morash of Coldwell Banker Performance Realty said Friday. "We had a couple of very slow months from about October on, but our realtors are telling me that it's getting busy again."

If the market were failing, Morash said, those selling houses would be dropping their prices to find a buyer. The fact prices are holding steady means there's still confidence among both those looking to sell a home and those looking to buy.

Morash said the past few weeks have been different than the last three months of 2008 that were among the worst she's seen in her 12 years in the business. A lot of it was fueled by the mortgage crisis in the United States and economic uncertainty in the region and across Canada.

Carla Bouchard of Royal LePage Preview Realty said there were some areas of the Maritimes where the market struggled, but "Amherst barely felt a ripple."

She said December was almost identical to last year, but January has been up "almost 200 per cent" over last year. As well, she said housing prices have remained stable both in Moncton, where her office is, and in Amherst.

"It's affordable," she said, adding the average house price is Amherst is around $100,000. "We haven't priced ourselves out of the market."

She said 13 to 14 homes have been listed just since the first of January.

"Amherst has been virtually untouched by this correction," she said. "With rates dropping, and they'll go down again, it's a great time to buy."

Figures provided by the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors indicate 2008 was a very good year for home sales in the province with near-record results for the number of houses sold and the dollar amount.

While the numbers were lower than 2007, which was a record-setting year, association president Robert Wambolt said low interest rates and consumer confidence in the market has helped overcome recessionary jitters among home buyers and sellers.

He said the northern part of the province, including Cumberland County, was among the busiest in activity through 2008.

Improving conditions are not only being seen by realtors, but also by those who working with lending institutions to prepare mortgages. Susan Reid, an independent mortgage broker who runs Reider's Brokerage House, said things were quiet for a few months, but not dead.

"It's all starting to come back," said Reid. "The low interest rates are really helping, but the biggest factor is fear. People hear about the bad news in the media and that scares them away."

Reid said the fact interest rates are at or near historic lows should be ample reason to refinance a mortgage or buy something new.

"There was an article in the Globe and Mail about job losses and it said the biggest obstacle right now is people's fear," Reid said. "You have to think positively and feel positively because everything is going to balance out in the long run."

Reid said the housing situation in Atlantic Canada is not as bad as in other parts of the country where the bottom has fallen out of the market or in the United States where a mortgage crisis forced many homeowners into bankruptcy.

"We don't see the wild boom and bust swings here in Atlantic Canada," Reid said. "Things are generally pretty steady and that goes for homes as it does for things like cars."

Just as the housing market is bouncing back, local auto retailers reported last month that their sales, unlike most of the rest of Canada, are holding steady.

The same was true for many area retailers during the 2008 Christmas season. Despite gloomy predictions, many retailers in Amherst reporting good sales.It's a trend that appears to be continuing into 2009.


Organizations: Nova Scotia Association of Realtors, Brokerage House, Globe and Mail

Geographic location: AMHERST, Atlantic Canada, Cumberland County United States Moncton

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Recent comments

  • Max
    January 18, 2010 - 11:22

    And as a post script to my previous comments, and with no offense to other writer's reference to Moncton, think about location, location, location. The Town of Amherst and much of the surrounding area is located in an area with some terrific views which ultimately lead to the value of property being higher in some cases than property in places such as Moncton. Location, location, location.... And from this writer's perspective, Amherst has Moncton beat in this regard - hands down!!

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 11:18

    selling a home anywhere isn't easy. try selling a home in minudie.

    whether you go with an agent or alone or property guys, know the costs and the benefits and what you are signing and what it means. Regardless of which way you go all have their benefits and all have drawbacks.

  • Don
    January 18, 2010 - 11:09

    There we go. I knew you couldn't resist.

  • Chris
    January 18, 2010 - 11:07

    ...or much manufacturing. ??
    Frank Speaker; I'm not sure what Amherst or County your thinking of but the area would be crippled if the manufacturing plants in the area shut down. Think of IMP, Poly Cello, Oxford Frozen Foods, Ropack; many of which rely on international markets to sell their goods!...if they all closed what do you think would happen to Amherst? Thousands would be out of work and millions of dollars in wages and corporate taxes would be removed from the local economy! Don't be so niave to think we are immune to the global economic problems because of transfer payments and local business owners.

  • Not So Sure
    January 18, 2010 - 11:06

    Hmmm... Something doesn't really seem right with this story. The house is in the story photo has been on the market over two years as have a number of other homes in Amherst. And I'm pretty sure the reason is houses in Amherst ARE overpriced. A quick check of surrounding areas - Moncton, for example, shows you can get much more house for your money elsewhere. Could our local real estate agents / mortgage brokers be trying to assure us that paying too much is acceptable??

  • Max
    January 18, 2010 - 11:03

    Real estate?? It has never been about the value of the structure, it has always been about the land it is located on that dictates the value of the property. For example, a run down shack sitting on a piece of property with what a buyer considers a great view will command a better price than a well maintained four bedroom house located at the intersection of two busy streets. As any real estate will tell you, or perhaps not, its all about location, location, location...
    And I rest my case!!

  • linda
    January 18, 2010 - 11:01

    houses do not sell in AMHERST because nobody is interested in living in a town where people can not get along.The only ones moving and buying homes are the ones who think the same frame of mind that AMHERSTIONIANS think.WE all know that these house have been here for years,siding thrown on then a price tag.I know how old these houses are,being that I lived here all of my life.IT'S cheaper to live in HALIFAX/MONCTON if you plan to buy a home and travel to and from work.I am sure that you would save a lot of money.as with the condo s?yes,they will be rented to the seniors,because that is what AMHERST is made up of.I am only here because I have a great job and my family live here.IF I won the lotto,I would buy a home in HALIFAX/MONCTON,and still have money left!

  • Don
    January 18, 2010 - 10:57

    Mr Speaker; You forgot to shoot down your normal target, you must be able to blame this on Bill Casey somehow

  • Mom
    January 18, 2010 - 10:44

    Pardon me while I snort. Affordable? At $100,000? I think not.
    I shudder to think what my home might be worth now compared to when we bought it 11 years ago.
    Of course the Town doesn't mind all these overpriced homes. Look at all the revenue from assessments.

  • Frank
    January 18, 2010 - 10:43

    We have a local economy controlled by a few families and consumers are financed from Federal Transfer payments . Not much to fluctuate . No Auto industry or much manufacturing . The oil and gas here is surprisingly growing though . The Gov of the Bank of Canada says the country will have a snap back from the recession starting in July . Here's hoping . IMO

  • capermom
    January 18, 2010 - 10:41

    Selling a home in Amherst is not easy.
    There are so many for sale.
    Some agents want to sell and some can't be bothered to return phone calls or even collect their signs at the end of a mandate.
    High taxes is another deterrent. Amherst taxes are high.
    I paid around $2000. a year for a bungalow.
    Chris Morash is an outstanding Real Estate Agent in Amherst and I have nothing but good things to say about his professionalism and eagerness.
    With his help house buying/selling was a
    good experience.
    Too bad I can't say that for everyone.
    Market and economics plays a part in the equation in the housing market but so does a good agent....choose wisely!

  • Huge
    January 18, 2010 - 10:40

    That article was nothing but ill informed propaganda.

    Most real estate agents on the town haven't had a closing since last fall. All you need to do is drive around and count the FOR SALE and the SOLD signs on properties.

    Loads of houses for sale, very very few sold signs.

    Any agent who's going to be honest with you will tell you this market is in a downturn.

  • Chris
    January 18, 2010 - 10:39

    hmmm.... welfare,child benefits,unemployment insurance,workers compensation,old age pension,old age supplement,charity organizations,underground and or illegal enterprises ,company and government pensioners...
    And here I am working 9-5 like a sucker; apparently I'm the only one in Cumberland county.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37

    Reading these informed comments I'm left with some questions, like what is the average price of a home in Amherst and the average turn around time from market to sale. I understand the average income for a single individual in CCMV is like $19,000 and for a couple somewhere in the high thirties or low forties. In any event People have speculated in their comments as to why the market is so high here, one off examples of homes that have trouble flipping. I've seen homes flip in a month others 5 years. Homes in Halifax and outliers are always more expensive than Amherst but I've seen homes in Amherst sell for far less and some for far more.

    This article is basically saying the sky isn't falling.

    In any event, its nice to hear that the housing market and other markets in amherst havn't been hit hard by whatever people are talking about (some sort of economic recess or something who knows, I've yet to read about significant out of the ordinary job losses in Nova Scotia...maybe its coming and I should be scared) but it makes me wonder how that condo development thing is coming along on Victoria, I neglected to drive by to check it out last weekend.

  • No So Sure
    January 18, 2010 - 10:32

    I agree with location, location, location. However, views are not the value add feature of a property. Consider proximity to shopping, health care, schools, churches, public transportation, community centres, entertainment, etc. I would also argue that the majority of in town properties come with little actual land surrounding each dwelling. Also, to consider, cost of a new home build in Cumberland County is much higher than neighboring municipalities. There surely are reasons, but I don't think our town is so much more desirable or has more to offer than any other.... Something to think about, anyway.