Like many others, Trevor Hickey and his partner spent a lot more time at home in 2020 than originally planned.
They had been living in their Rabbittown-area house for a while, but after months of staying at home they decided it was time to look for a bigger space in which to grow their family.
The couple did not want to hold two mortgages at once, so they decided to sell their house before buying a new one, said Hickey in an interview with CBC News.
When the couple sold their house in December, they thought the housing market had reached its peak and buying a new home would be relatively easy — but they were wrong.
“That’s when the market really started to kind of heat up,” Hickey said. “We couldn’t find a house in the interim between when we sold our house and when our house closed [in January], and since then, the market kind of skyrocketed.”
Eight months later, the Newfoundland and Labrador housing market is still hot, and Hickey and his partner are still looking for a new home.
“Everything we looked at has just gone through the roof by basically the equivalent of what a down payment was,” he said.
Hickey’s partner is pregnant, and the couple hopes to settle into a new home before the baby arrives.
‘Home is home’
The Newfoundland and Labrador housing market broke records in 2020, and this year it is breaking records again.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Realtors said real estate sales across the province in July were 25 per cent higher than July 2020, which itself was a record month.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s Newfoundland Morning, Deer Lake real estate agent Cory Reid attributed the busy market to an influx of buyers from other provinces, including Ontario and Alberta.
He says buyers are attracted to Newfoundland and Labrador because of how the province has weathered the pandemic.
“If you’re Newfoundlander you’re always a Newfoundlander, and home is home,” he said. “I think people reflected on that and felt, you know, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to consider retiring and going back to [my] roots.'”
He said the market in towns like Deer Lake is particularly hot because of their proximity to recreational activities like snowmobiling and fishing, activities which are harder to find in urban areas.
An unpredictable market
Hickey and his partner are living with family while they continue searching for a new home. They’ve placed a few bids above asking price but have still been outbid every time.
The couple looked into building a house, but the high cost of lumber made that option untenable for them too, said Hickey. They hope the market will calm down soon, but Hickey says there’s no way to know when that will be.
“Anyone who answers that question confidently is lying to you,” he said.
Reid agrees the real estate market can be unpredictable but said he expects it to die down in the fall, since people usually prefer to move during the summer.
For now, Hickey and his partner will keep looking for the right house, which they hope will show up before the baby. After more than a year under the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, they’re used to dealing with the unexpected.
“Anyone who … in 2019 came up with a plan for what they want to do and who they want to be and where they want to be in 2021, you know, that’s out the window.”