Selling Canada’s cheapest house

by Olivia D'Orazio29 Sep 2014
Agents in large swathes of the country say they are now grappling with the double whammy of low commissions and a growing number of days on market.

“We’re in a very repressed part of Nova Scotia,” says Realtor Cathy Leblanc, who recently listed a house in Springhill for just $11,900, “so properties don’t sell here for what they’d sell in the rest of the [country].”

Indeed, the average price of a home in Springhill is about $45,000, with average days on market around the year mark. In the Birch River neighbourhood of Manitoba, Realtor Gene Vestby says the average home stays on the market for upwards of a year before selling for between $50,000 and $60,000.

Despite several inquiries, these sub-$15,000 properties still sit idle with few buyers willing to take up residence in places like Springhill or Birch River, which are two hours north of Halifax and six and a half hours northwest of Winnipeg, respectively.

Vestby, who listed a property for just $10,000 in Birch River says the buyer markets in these communities are very small.

“[Birch River] itself is a bedroom community,” he says. “It’s a remote, dying village. There’s no industry to speak of. It’s interesting in that, for those properties, I get all sorts of inquiries. As much as it is cheap in that respect, it doesn’t serve them well.”

So how do these rural homes get sold? Vestby says advertising directly to the local community is a start. For his part, Vestby puts ads in the neighbourhood papers, looking for a handyman who can renovate the property. The same is true on the East Coast, where Leblanc is also looking for a handyman buyer for the Springhill home. She says she receives about 20 to 30 inquiries a day about the property.

“[Those inquiring about the property] think it should be liveable,” she says. “No one’s lived in it in the last few years, so the windows need to be done, the heating needs to get up and running.”

Leblanc likens the property to living in a cheap car: it can be done, but it’s far from ideal.

“It won’t take much to make it livable,” she adds. Many of the inquiries she receives are from people living thousands of kilometres away. They are wooed by the low price but don’t realize that there are no property management services in the community to help with the renovations.
 

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