Buying a house is one of life’s biggest decisions. For some, the really hard choice comes down to whether to build or buy.
An option for all potential homeowners, when it comes to building the perfect home there are important considerations: location; selection; affordability; finding a suitable lot; and committing the time and effort to “go to the drawing boards” while being hands on with design, changes, unforeseen surprises and construction.
“The choice to build or buy depends on client wants and needs,” explains Christopher York, president of Riverview Custom Homes. “It may also depend on what’s currently available to buy that meets their needs or their available time and resources for the design and rebuild process.
“Some clients have been dreaming of designing their own space and the act of building is far more than a material move. Others can’t find a suitable design or lot and they determine that a custom home will get them more of what they want and need in a home. The reality is that, if people don’t have the time or energy that it takes for the design and build process, even if sacrifices must be made, moving into a ready-to-live home is likely the best option.”
According to various key indicators, the Calgary – and Canadian – trend of opting for a “ready-to-live home” (new home or resale) is gaining momentum.
“Nationally, Canada has long been recognized as a safe, good place to live with a solid political system, resources, health care and a legal system that works,” says Don Kottick, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “Despite the geopolitical things going on, people look for safe places to live and invest their money. And there is a lot of money moving here from Mexico, Hong Kong and many expats are coming back. Migration to several Canadian urban centres is creating a dynamic real estate market.”
He points out that, in spite of a six per cent uptick in Calgary’s overall residential sales in August 2019, as well as easing listings supply through the summer months, when all is said and done, affordability remains a key factor.
Kottick notes some specific area stats, “Calgary has had a fairly uneven economic recovery, house prices have been easing and continue to cause increased activity in the under $500,000 range, while the potential of rising inventory poses an ongoing risk to Calgary’s luxury market recovery and it continues to be a buyer’s market in the $1-million-plus market.”
Recent CREB numbers and broker expertise shows that some of the most active Calgary areas are the city centre, the beltline, south Calgary, southeast Calgary and particularly the neighbourhoods of Highland Park, North Haven Upper, University Heights and Patterson.
“City centre allows for lifestyle living with close proximity to a broad range of amenities and services that suit the urban lifestyle,” explains Mary-Ann Mears, Sotheby’s Calgary managing broker. “South and southeast Calgary is more family-oriented, close to schools and parks and recreation facilities. The southeast includes newer communities. South Calgary is comprised of established neighbourhoods that can offer larger lots and more trees.”
She differentiates between the build or buy decisions. “To build, consumers need to weigh the time needed to build, trust in the builder to deliver on their expectations and wants, and financial considerations. The benefits are that they can customize as they wish, ultimately allowing them to get what they want. For buying, consumers get the convenience of a shorter possession and they see exactly what they’ll get.”
The Calgary-savvy Shannon Lenstra, president of Kon-strux Developments, an innovative and respected Calgary contractor and renovation company, emphasizes a basic but vital factor about making the big decision. “Cost is a huge consideration about moving, building or buying and renovating. When it comes to moving, there are Realtor fees, lawyer fees, moving costs, downtime from work to move, relocate, pack and unpack, and any renovations the person wants to do.
“Aside from costs, location, location, location matters. People move or stay in a house to be in that particular area, near their families, friends, amenities and schools,” she says. “Ultimately, it’s completely up to the shape or condition of the house, the customer’s budget and the scope of work which they want to achieve.”
“Build or buy, the market has definitely changed. The renovation market has gone up, but people are still building. Both Calgary markets are still recovering from the downturn. They are hesitant and more cautious right now,” Lenstra adds. “They are waiting for the oil and gas prices to go up [and] the impact of new government policies to change to improve public perception.”
Kottick cites numbers and trends from Sotheby’s 2019 Top-Tier Real Estate Report and shares cautious optimism. “The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) projects a five per cent increase in market activity and, even though global uncertainty will continue, Canada will continue its solid reputation and not only address affordability but supply. By next year, the Calgary momentum will grow.”