Thursday, May 24, 2007

Saskachewan Real Estate Has Begun To Heat Up

Small rural towns that are within commuting distance to Saskatoon, Regina, and Moose Jaw are experiencing a rise in real estate prices. The drain of population from Saskatchewan has begun to come back. Those who moved out of the province to find work are now returning to a better quality of life. The Leader-Post has the full details.

Real the Full Article or continue below.

Real estate boom hits rural Sask.

David Hutton
Saskatchewan News Network; CanWest News Service
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

SASKATOON -- Dale Arsenault moved back to Rosetown, his childhood home, from British Columbia two years ago to retire peacefully. The real estate agent's plan was to work shorter days and slow the pace down. His wife, Earla, opened a women's fitness centre on Main Street to keep them busy.

"I've been busier than ever," says Arsenault, 63, who opened his real estate office six weeks ago to capitalize on the town's growth. "I'm getting two or three walk-ins per day from Alberta and B.C."

Arsenault now works 14-hour days to keep up with the work, he says. Like many towns just on the edge of commuter distance to Saskatoon, Rosetown and the surrounding area is experiencing growth of its own, fuelled by a good location and a desire for a simpler, less expensive life, Arsenault says.

"Here, it's not all that rush, rush rush," he says. "Some young folks that are living in Calgary and Edmonton find out they can buy a home for $100,000."

It's not just retirees coming back to the town of 2,200 or Alberta businessmen travelling the province looking east to turn a profit. He says homes in the area are being sold to many young couples, some returning to the province, some not, who were turned off by the high prices and fast pace of bigger centres like Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton.

"You don't worry about your kids walking out the door," says Rosetown's Mayor Brian Gerow, making his familiar sounding sales pitch for the town. "There are people that have lived here their whole life that never lock their doors."

In places like Biggar, the story is the same. People from all walks of life are touring the province looking for a quaint town to settle down in. They want services, schools, a short drive to a big city, a bit of industry, and health care. If they sell their homes in a booming centre, they can walk away with a tidy profit and gain a safe place to live.

"Houses are being snapped up very quickly here," says Bob Tyler, Biggar's town administrator. "It's been a pleasant surprise. People really seem to want an acreage and some horses."

Biggar, a town of around 2,000, has been getting much bigger, Tyler says.
Several retailers are considering opening up in the town because of the growth, which he says has been from people of all ages.

Mostly, he says, people are selling their homes in larger centres and buying in the area to "put some cash in their pockets."

Waldheim, which, at 60 kilometres from Saskatoon, was once considered too far away to feel the effects of a boom, has reinvented itself as a commuter town that's "worth the drive." A recent referendum there, fought over green space, has allowed for residential development in an old town park.

"Typically, with people moving from out of province, there is some connection to Saskatchewan," says Waldheim Mayor Kelly Block. "But we're seeing a lot of young couples moving here and commuting to Saskatoon."

Last week, Rosetown even had to call an emergency meeting to deal with several real estate proposals. The biggest proposal was the sale of "Little Banff," a campground and resort area on Hwy. 7. The buyers are three Calgary businessmen who are going to develop a $10-million Husky truck stop, a hotel, and a car wash. They're even thinking about opening a Tim Hortons franchise.

Gerow is also turning the former Fas Gas property into a Robin's Donuts.

Oil workers from Fort McMurray are also zeroing in on Rosetown and Biggar to live and Rosetown is trying to establish a direct flight there from the airport to accommodate.

For years, Rosetown had been in a sort of "depression," Gerow says. An aging and declining population, a tough run for farm life, and an exodus of young people to Alberta combined to cause a tough run for the area.

"We were dealing in a depressed rural bubble," he says. "It's a whole different world now."

The idea that sparked the growth, Gerow says, was selling many town-owned lots for $1 in order to stimulate growth and bring in tax dollars. People who buy the lots have to build on them within a year or lose a $1,000 deposit. The town office is getting two to three inquiries a day from people interested in building on them, he says. The Calgary group purchased five $1 lots and plans to build a four-plex housing unit on another. A new subdivision is also in the works.

"This is probably the most exciting time I've ever seen in Rosetown," Gerow says. "Everybody feels the same. There's an optimism that's just unbelievable."
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

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