COVID-19 is boosting home sales in Calgary suburbs, surrounding areas – will that momentum last?

With many people trading in their downtown commute for a home office due to the COVID-19 pandemic, proximity to the city centre has been less of a priority for house hunters this year.

In fact, a new emphasis on creating comfortable, productive workspaces within the home and the reduced importance of living anywhere near the office have increased buyer interest in areas just outside Calgary’s city limits – where prices are lower and space is plentiful.

While overall year-to-date home sales in Calgary are down compared to the same time in 2019, Airdrie, Cochrane and Okotoks have all recorded an uptick.

Resale activity grew by 12.5 per cent in Airdrie and 10 per cent in Cochrane, while Okotoks followed with a one per cent gain, according to data from CREB®.

Sales in these areas have been paced by the single-family segment, says Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB®’s chief economist.

In Airdrie, sales of detached homes, specifically, saw a 16 per cent increase during this time, while sales of detached homes in Cochrane grew by nine per cent.

Detached homes tend to have more square footage than other styles, a factor that has been top of mind for many recent homebuyers, says Tara Molina, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central).

“I’ve had clients where … the motivation was, ‘Now we are working from home, so we need a space where we can actually work from home,’” she said. “What I am finding from my buyers and sellers is they are looking to have a home that has multiple functions to it.”

Due to the government-mandated shutdown earlier this year, as well as the ongoing efforts many are making to keep their distance from others, homeowners are spending more time in their homes than ever before.

“Now your home is not just where you live, but also operates as your gym, office, school, restaurant and entertainment space,” said Molina.

“I think people are reacquainting themselves with the two-storey or bigger homes because you need to supplement the lack of space that we are able to get in the public now, with shutdowns and this new lifestyle that we are having to adjust to.”

“I feel there will be a bit of a shift in demand sometime down the road back to inner-city communities, once office spaces are back up and running and there’s a working vaccine that’s easily attainable and things like that.” – Jackson Cornelius, Urban Analytics

The quest for more living space without a higher price tag has made communities on Calgary’s edge a natural draw.

The year-to-date median price for homes of all types within the City of Calgary is $407,082. In comparison, the median price is $365,000 in Airdrie, $388,000 in Cochrane and $380,000 in Okotoks.

Looking at detached homes, specifically, the year-to-date median price in the City of Calgary is 17 per cent higher than in Airdrie for homes in this segment.

“Both Airdrie and Cochrane are more affordable, relative to what you can get in the city,” said Lurie. “And all of a sudden, if the concern over the commute isn’t as big anymore, because people aren’t commuting to downtown Calgary every day or that work schedule has changed, that also can influence how far people are willing to live from the (city) centre.”

Multi-family sales in the new-home market reflect elevated interest outside the city, as well.

There were 29 sales of multi-family units in Cochrane in the third quarter of this year, up 480 per cent from the previous quarter, according to Urban Analytics, a market research and advisory firm.

Airdrie, however, saw less traction in this segment, with its 19 multi-family sales last quarter marking a 49 per cent quarter-over-quarter decline.

“I think the attractiveness of a destination location has definitely picked up in response to COVID-19,” said Jackson Cornelius, consulting and advisory lead for Urban Analytics in Alberta.

“You see it a lot in Kelowna, (B.C.), and that’s why prices are increasing there. People are taking the stance that if they are going to be working from home, downsizing their office space, that they won’t need to be so close to the city centre.”

However, this is a pivot in consumer preference that might be short-lived.

“I feel like the office space will make a comeback,” said Cornelius. “I feel there will be a bit of a shift in demand sometime down the road back to inner-city communities, once office spaces are back up and running and there’s a working vaccine that’s easily attainable and things like that.” The strongest increase in activity Urban Analytics has seen this year has been in suburban communities on Calgary’s northern and southern edges, such as Seton and Evanston, he adds.

This reflects a broader trend of increased demand for resale homes in Calgary’s newer suburbs, located far from the inner-city and downtown core.

Leading the city in overall resale activity between Jan. 1 and the end of October were the southeast master-planned communities of Cranston (329 sales), Auburn Bay (282 sales) and McKenzie Towne (262 sales), according to CREB®.

Sales in Cranston represented a year-over-year increase of nine per cent, while the lake community of Auburn Bay posted a 17 per cent gain.


For the sixth month in a row, sales in the Calgary market recorded a year-over-year gain.

Sales growth over the past several months has been the strongest seen in the past five years, but the activity has not been strong enough to offset the pullbacks from the spring. Year-to-date sales remain over three per cent lower than last year’s levels.

New listings continue to slow, reducing inventory in the market. On a year-to-date basis, new listings have eased by nearly ten per cent and are at the lowest level recorded since 2001. This has reduced the oversupply that has been impacting the market for nearly five years.

“The gains in sales in the latter part of this year have been a bit surprising considering the job losses and unemployment rate in our city,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“However, it is important to note that the shift to more balanced conditions has been mostly driven by the reduction of supply.”

Tighter conditions in the housing market have contributed to some of the recent gains in benchmark prices. As of November, the benchmark price was $423,600. This is nearly two per cent higher than last year’s levels.

However, conditions vary depending on price range. There is not a lot of supply for affordable homes in each product type because of high demand. This is likely causing differing price trends in the lower end of the market versus the higher end.



November sales activity improved across every district, contributing to a year-over-year citywide increase of 26 per cent. Improving sales over the past six months have helped offset some of the pullbacks from earlier in the year, as year-to-date sales were only two per cent lower than last year’s levels.

Like other sectors, inventory in the detached market has also eased due to the sharp decline in new listings. This has kept the months of supply below three months for the past three months. The tighter market conditions are supporting price gains. As of November, the detached benchmark price improved by nearly three per cent compared to last year for a total of $492,000. However, prices did not improve across all districts, as the City Centre continues to record prices that are one per cent lower than last year’s levels.

Activity for this product type does vary significantly depending on location and price range. The pullback in new listings relative to sales has caused significant reductions in inventory for homes priced below $500,000. Higher price ranges have also seen some declining inventory, but the degree of decline has not been as significant. In fact, the market is exhibiting sellers’ market conditions for homes priced below $500,000, while still favouring the buyer for homes priced above $700,000.


Year-over-year gains in sales were met with slower new listings, resulting in inventory reductions and a month of supply of three months. While conditions are not as tight in the semi-detached market as they are in the detached market, the reductions in supply relative to demand were enough to support further monthly gains in the benchmark price.

As of November, the benchmark price was $395,100, which is one per cent higher than last year’s levels. Activity did vary depending on location, as price gains were the highest in the South East district, while prices remained just below last year’s levels in the City Centre.

There have also been notable differences within this market depending on price range. The months of supply has declined significantly for product priced below $400,000. This decline is likely contributing to some of the differing price trends throughout the districts of the city.


Year-over-year gains in the row sector continued in November and were enough to cause year-to-date sales to remain at levels similar to last year. Bucking the trend from other sectors, new listings rose compared to last year, easing some of the downward pressure on inventory levels. The months of supply stayed above four months, higher than levels seen in both the detached and semi-detached sectors, but a significant improvement from the nearly six months of supply recorded last November.

Row prices also showed signs of stabilizing, as November prices remained comparable to last year’s levels. Despite some of the monthly gains, on a year-to-date basis, prices remain nearly two per cent lower than last year’s levels and have eased across all districts except the City Centre, West and East.

Apartment Condominium

Following seven months of year-over-year declines, apartment condo sales improved over last year’s levels. However, last November was an exceptionally weak month for apartment sales. Year-to-date apartment sales totalled 2,209, a 13 per cent decline from last year and nearly 30 per cent lower than longer-term averages.

New listings did ease slightly this month, placing some downward pressure on inventory that was missing earlier in the year. However, inventory remains higher than last year’s levels and the months of supply is still elevated at nearly eight months. The oversupply in this market continues to place downward pressure on prices, which not only eased relative to last month, but remain one per cent lower than last year’s prices. The only district to see some positive momentum is the North, where prices rose slightly compared to last year.



Sales continue to record strong gains in November as year to date sales reached 1,318 a 15 per cent increase over last year. The rise in sales was also met with a pullback in new listings causing further declines in inventory levels and keeping the months of supply just over two months. This is the tightest months of supply figure recorded for November since 2014 where the months of supply was below two months.

Persistently low months of supply, especially in the detached sector of the market continue to place upward pressure on prices. In November the benchmark price was $342,900, trending up over last month and over two per cent above last year’s levels.


For the sixth consecutive month sales active rose over last year’s levels causing year-to-date sales to total 651, a 12 per cent increase over last year. However, unlike other areas the level of new listings in Cochrane also rose. The months of supply rose to nearly four months. However, this is still relatively low for November as the town has typically averaged seven months over the past five years.

With generally tighter market conditions in the town prices have trended up for the past six months. As of November, the benchmark price was $417,800, four per cent higher than last year.  Despite the recent gains year-to-date figures remain nearly one per cent below last year’s levels.


Despite the decline in new listings, sales continued to improve causing further inventory declines.  Inventory in November dropped to 95 units, nearly half the levels we typically see this time of year.  With a sale to new listings ratio above 100 per cent and a months of supply of just over two months, this is one of the tightest Novembers recorded since 2014.

The general tightness in the market has been driven by the detached sector. This is the only category that has seen year-over-year gains in prices. As of November, the detached benchmark price was $441,100, nearly two per cent higher than last November.


Avoiding Mortgage Payout Penalties

How Mortgage Payment Penalties Work

What we find most surprising when dealing with Sellers is that they rarely know how a mortgage prepayment penalty works. Either it was never explained to them. By either the mortgage broker, their bank, or their lawyer. Or, they never took the time to understand this important factor of mortgage payout penalties, when they first mortgaged their property.

In today’s interest rate environment, our clients are seeing some very severe penalties. This is due to a little-known clause on prepayments. The mortgage penalty is  applied on the basis of the greater, of the payment of 3 months of mortgage interest. Or applied as the interest rate differential – the IRD.

Closed Mortgage

When you elect to have a closed mortgage there are limited prepayment privileges. Which range anywhere from 5% to 25% of the principal of the mortgage on an annual basis. Typically there is also the option to increase your mortgage payment by a maximum amount each year. If you go above these limits you will likely incur a mortgage penalty. We typically see mortgage penalties being incurred either from a sale or a refinancing of the property.

Interest Differential

Understanding 3 month interest is simple enough to do. However, the interest differential is a little more difficult and of greater concern. Essentially, this is the difference in the amount of interest you would be paying for between the balance of the term of your mortgage and the amount of interest you would be paying if the interest rate were equal to the bank’s current posted rate for the balance of that term.

Seems innocent enough, except for the fact that we have seen interest differential penalties in the tens of thousands of dollars. This can and will potentially affect your return on your property. In some cases has resulted in Sellers having to pay money in order to sell their properties.

What Can Be Done About Mortgage Penalties?

What can you do about mortgage penalties? First, understand what the mortgage penalties are for the mortgage product you are contemplating. Second, understand what your purpose of buying a property is. Are you intending to sell the property relatively soon or hold on to it for longer? Match your term and mortgage product to your intentions. Third, engage your banker or mortgage broker in a full and frank discussion of what your needs are and how prepayment costs can be minimized.

Maybe the best advice of all is to understand what your penalty might be BEFORE you decide to sell or refinance your home.

If you need advice about your mortgage please contact me and I will put you in touch with our amazing mortgage broker who is a wealth of knowledge and will provide guidance on your path forward.

Data is supplied by Pillar 9™ MLS® System. Pillar 9™ is the owner of the copyright in its MLS®System. Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by Pillar 9™.
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