During the pandemic, Atlantic Canada real estate was an outlier, and it continues to be one in the broader Canadian housing market. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, formed a bubble back in 2020 that allowed residents from these provinces to travel freely, without restriction, throughout the East Coast. The bubble also effectively locked the eastern provinces away from the rest of the country in hopes of maintaining a level of normalcy that many Canadians yearned for. For these very reasons, among a few others, households had been looking to buy property and permanently relocate to Atlantic Canada.
Indeed, since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Atlantic Canada experienced tremendous interprovincial migration, attracting people from all over the country. But now that conditions have stabilized and the post-pandemic landscape has normalized, are the Maritimes still witnessing an uptick in population growth?
While gains are still being recorded in official government data, the increases are not as immense as they were during the coronavirus pandemic. This has largely been due to the highly populated provinces and major urban centres gradually returning to normal and Alberta employing the “Alberta is Calling” campaign. But they are admirable, of course.
Here is what the Nova Scotia government recently reported:
“From January 1 to March 31, there were large contributions to population growth from immigration (+3,936) and non-permanent residents (+3,827) as well as from net interprovincial migration (+2,690). Natural change (-876) continues to put downward pressure on Nova Scotia’s population as deaths outpace births. Net emigration from Nova Scotia to other countries reduced the population by a further 127.”
So, what kind of effect is this having on Atlantic Canada housing figures?
Atlantic Canada Real Estate in 2023
In 2021, the Atlantic Canada real estate market continually kept setting monthly records in different provinces. For example, in March 2021, the Prince Edward Island real estate market enjoyed an 81.7 per cent year-over-year spike in home sales.
But how are the eastern provinces performing as of late?
Prince Edward Island Real Estate Association (PEIRA) data show that residential property sales surged three per cent year-over-year in June, totalling 209 units. The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) for single-family homes dropped slightly, 1.7 per cent year-over-year to $357,200.
According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of REALTORS® (NLAR), residential property sales edged down at an annualized pace of more than 13 per cent, totalling 562 units. The overall MLS® HPI composite benchmark price advanced 1.8 per cent to $285,900.
Recent data from the New Brunswick Real Estate Association (NBREA) highlight that home sales slumped 19.4 percent year-over-year in June, totalling 1,012 units. The composite benchmark price tumbled 3.7 per cent to $286,500.
In the Nova Scotia real estate market, home sales fell nearly 12 per cent year-over-year in June, with 1,237 units exchanging hands. The composite benchmark price stayed roughly the same at $399,900, according to the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS® (NSAR).
For those native to Atlantic Canada, the trends of the last three years have altered the Atlantic Canada real estate market. Out-of-province buyers, scarce supply, and renewed demand have been the driving factors so far this year.
Looking Ahead, and What to Expect
According to one bank economist, as 2023 rolls on, the Atlantic Canada housing market should experience better-than-expected numbers.
“In the Atlantic, solid population gains mixed with tight markets should maintain prices at their elevated level through the second half of this year and drive increases in 2024, although the pace should be restrained by severe affordability deteriorations,” wrote Rishi Sondhi, an economist at TD Bank, in a research note.
With immigration levels to increase over the next couple of years and Canadian families still finding the Maritimes appealing, experts say that Atlantic Canada will receive another influx of prospective buyers.
But while these eastern provinces are entrenched in a seller’s market, industry experts believe they will gradually shift to buyer’s markets. Will peak mortgage rates be enough to revitalize the Atlantic Canada real estate market? It might depend on population numbers.