When Lauren and Trent Telfer bought their first home, they knew what they were looking for: an open-concept home in Parkhill with three bedrooms, an ensuite bathroom and a kitchen island that flowed into the living room.
“Entertaining is important to us which is why I wanted a kitchen island and an open-floor concept,” explains Lauren Telfer. And thanks Calgary’s softer residential market, Lauren and Trent were able to purchase their dream home – one they might not have been able to afford in 2014.
“As housing prices came down, some buyers were able to afford detached homes that might not have previously been within their budget,” explains Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist at the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB). “This is one of the reasons the detached and semi-detached housing market has fared much better than apartment-style housing and row housing.”
As of February 2018, the benchmark, or typical, price for a detached home is four per cent less than it was during the price highs of October 2014. What was previously a $522,000 home is now priced at $502,000. In comparison, semi-detached homes have come down three per cent since their monthly high in August of 2014.
Meanwhile, apartment-style housing continues to struggle. Prices have fallen 14.5 per cent since the high prices witnessed in October 2014. Back then, the benchmark price for a condo was $300,000. Today, these same condos are listed at $256,000. Row housing has also been hit hard with a 10.3 per cent decrease in prices since the highs in October 2014.
“When I first got into the business nine years ago, new condos in the heart of downtown were the trend,” explains Shilo Storey, lead agent at the Real Estate Storey at Re/Max First. “Now, people want more space. They’re shying away from busy streets. They’re really looking at size and location and want to weigh out their options. They’re taking their time and looking for the best deal.”
And why wouldn’t they. According to CREB, in 2014, there were 4,000 units on the Calgary real estate market. The average unit remained on the market for 1.91 months. By 2017, there were 5,700 units on the market and the average unit remained on the market for 3.64 months.
The changing Calgary real estate market allowed Sami Bradford to buy her first home in October 2017.
“As a single mom, I had a tight budget,” explains Bradford. “It was a good time to be looking. Whereas I might have only been able to purchase a condo a few years ago, I was able to buy a three-bedroom town house. I even have a small yard for my dog.”
While buyers are shopping for the best deal in their preferred type of home and location, the look they are after hasn’t changed. Buyers continue to covet clean contemporary lines. Colour schemes are light, bright and monochromatic.
Remember that red feature wall that was so popular? Storey says it’s a thing of the past. “People are infusing colour into their homes with art or pillows rather than painting a wall.”
Also gone is the rounded arch. Everything is very square.
Shane Wenzel, president of Shane Homes Group of Companies, has been in the homebuilding industry for 28 years. The company, started by his father 39 years ago, builds detached single-family homes, town homes, semi-detached homes and apartment-style housing in Calgary and Airdrie.
“Many of our floor plans include a bonus room between bedrooms rather than at the front of the house,” says Wenzel. “In doing so, parents and kids no longer have to share a common wall and everyone gets a little more privacy. Home office space has also become more important. People are working from home more and they need workspace. Pocket offices are quite common.”
Other trends include basement developments. Whereas the basement used to be a dark and cold storage space, Wenzel says more buyers are purchasing a home and tacking the cost of the basement development on to their mortgage.
“The basement is now an important living space for buyers. It’s often developed with extended family in mind.”
One thing that hasn’t changed?
“Garages,” says Wenzel. “People still want the biggest garage they can get. People have lots of stuff.”
This makes sense since the basement is no longer the storage space it once was. According to Wenzel, when it comes to the home office and the developed basement, it’s about making the most of smaller spaces and living comfortably in them for a long time. “It’s a significant difference from when I started in the business. Then, people seemed to buy with resale in mind; now they buy homes to truly live in them.”
Case in point, Lauren and Trent Telfer.
“We wanted a home that we could spend the next 15 years in,” explains Lauren. “We didn’t want to buy a starter home only to have to move again in five years when our family grows. We’re really happy with our purchase.”