If you can’t go anywhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might as well find a cottage and spend some time there.
That seems to be the conclusion many people in Saskatchewan have come to this year, as cottage sales have risen dramatically in this province, according to the Saskatchewan Realtors Association.
Its CEO, Jason Yochim, said on Aug. 10 that in the first seven months of 2020, only January and April saw a decline in sales. “Every other month saw an increase year-over-year for that month in sales, with the greatest increase being in June with 102 per cent increase in transactions in cottage country.”
“That’s 101 transactions in June of recreational property in the province,” he said. Last year, June saw 50.
Asked if he had seen a spike before like that, Yochim said no.
“We did anticipate post-restrictions from COVID that we would see a significant increase in activity. We had low interest rates, we had low inventory levels, and pent up demand for COVID. And a lot of people were needing to either find a larger space for maybe a home with an office or something like that, because they're working from home. And certainly, when it comes to recreational properties, you have people that are saying look, I can't travel outside the country. I'm not comfortable traveling interprovincially. What are my options? And people are buying RVs, buying boats and jet skis, but they're also buying recreational property and probably looking at it as an investment as well.”
He added, “People have different levels of comfort for social distancing and so forth. The cottage is an opportunity to provide yourself a little more distancing away from maybe an urban centre, and especially if you can work from home, what better place to be? You have your family there and they can get out and do things, not driving you crazy in the house, and you can get your work done.”
These trends have been echoed by several realtors across Saskatchewan, but not all saw the same results. They were all reached by phone on Aug. 11.
Dorothy Lehman is a Realtor with RE/MAX of The Battlefords. She personally lives at Metinota, on Jackfish Lake, north of the Battlefords. She says cottages have been selling well this year, especially at Jackfish.
“In the wintertime, I had said that we're going to be busy at the lake, and everybody looked at me. I said people are not leaving their province or area their whole bunch, so they're going to make the best of it in their area, which is the lake.”
“It's a great place for kids and everything. They have got water and they got something to do,” Lehman said.
“That was the most sales we’ve had, this year, for lake property,” she said, noting it wasn’t only their firm, but for the whole real estate business in the Battlefords.
Turtle Lake was a bit slower, which she expects might be because of the longer commute to the Battlefords. Murray Lake, adjacent to Jackfish Lake, was busy, too. Atton’s Lake, west of Battleford, also saw some sales.
“With cabins, they’ve been going strong, I think, with the commute, a lot bought homes at Jackfish Lake, just to get out of town,” Lehman said. “You’re just making the best of it with the money you have, going local.”
She had two buyers interested in cabins at a certain price range, but unable to find what they’re looking for.
Moose Mountain area
North of Carlyle, the lake country includes Kenosee, Moose Mountain Provincial Park and White Bear. Ray Boutin, broker with Performance Realty of Carlyle, deals with Kenosee and Moose Mountain Provincial Park properties.
“There’s real action, real interest. I think COVID has created a desire for resort property,” he said.
“People are realizing that it’s a staycation scenario. They’re moving forward to make themselves comfortable in a staycation scenario.”
Boutin said, “For one thing, Kenosee, and particularly Moose Mountain Provincial Park has always held its own in terms of value. And we are finding pricing is creeping up, as there’s more demand. Then you get into scenarios where there are multiple offers on the same property and that starts moving the prices up.”
He said some properties are going for above list price, some at list price and some below. Sellers are still taking offers, he noted.
Leanne Sorenson’s Red Roof Realty Inc. is based at Kenosee. She focuses on property at Kenosee, Moose Mountain Provincial Park and White Bear.
From her perspective, Sorenson said, “They are really similar to last year. We always have quite a high buyer demand for cottages. Some sales might have sold quicker than normal, in a few days, and for list price.”
She hasn’t seen sales above list price this year. “I would say maybe people were willing to pay a little bit more. We saw prices go up in the cottage market, but not in year-round properties.”
“It’s been busy, but I don’t know if it’s strictly related to COVID. Some of the lakes you couldn’t get into, so the demand went really quickly in July.
Sorenson added, “There’s less people out here. There’s less tourists.”
Travel restrictions meant White Bear had barricades until June. But she says that wasn’t a factor on sales.
At Good Spirit Lake, between Yorkton and Canora, there hasn’t been much of an impact, however, according to Rob Kozak, president of Re/Max Blue Chip Realty in Yorkton. He said of COVID-19, “It hasn’t impacted it, no.”
“If anything, there should be more of a demand, because people want to get out of the city and be more isolated.”