Selling out, moving on
“The benefit package in the North hasn’t kept pace”
Iqaluit has become a far less attractive place for people hoping to make a lot of money, says realtor John Matthews.
That helps to explain why the number of houses for sale in the city has climbed this summer, says Matthews, owner of Atiilu Real Estate.
“People used to come here and make a large amount of money in a few years, but that is no longer the case,” he says. “The benefit package in the North hasn’t kept pace with the benefit package in the South.”
Just off the Road To Nowhere, three houses in a stretch of seven have “For Sale” signs prominently displayed.
Matthews currently has nine single homes, four townhouses and one four-plex listed for sale. On a drive around town, Nunatsiaq News noted a total of 21 “For Sale” signs, including Atiilu properties and private sales.
With a transient population, changes to the GN’s staff housing policy and a strong economy down south, Iqaluit’s real estate market could potentially have some tough times ahead, according to Matthews.
“It’s a cyclical market and it varies,” says Matthews. “That said, there are a lot of houses on the market at the moment. There’s always a high turnover rate in Iqaluit, but this year it does seem higher.”
Although Matthews finds it difficult to pinpoint trends or patterns for people deciding to put their house up for sale, he says that common reasons include retirement, people selling a second house that they own as an income property, and people looking to get rid of their assets before moving.
But for some, leaving Iqaluit is more a matter of quality of life. For Susan Smith, who has lived in Iqaluit for 10 years, it’s just time to go.
Smith, her husband and their three young children will be moving to Arnprior, just outside of Ottawa, in September.
“We’ve put our time in here,” she says. “A lot of our friends and family were leaving and I think that is what makes the North.”
For Smith, the decision to move comes at a time when her children are getting older and she feels there is more for them to do down south. Her sister-in-law is also moving her family south as her daughters are approaching high school and she wants them in what she sees as a better education system.
Although the market can be difficult to predict, Matthews sees reasonably priced houses in good locations selling quickly while some of the higher priced houses on the market can take a long time to sell.
When Smith put her six-bedroom home in Upper Tundra Valley on the market for $460,000 a month and a half ago, she got a call and the house was sold within two hours. Her sister-in-law sold her house by the beach in Lower Base after three weeks.
Under the new GN staff housing policy, rents began rising toward market levels this past Jan. 1, in the first of a step-by-step set of increases, and in Iqaluit, the GN will get out of staff housing altogether by 2010.
“Most people from the south are hesitant to buy property until they have been here for a while,” Matthews says. “I think the government will really have to reexamine this.”
Under this policy, Matthews sees there is less incentive for people to come north and less disposable income to spend on the high cost of real estate once they get here.