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Real estate squeeze: Nova Scotia sees jump in Realtors, but they have few houses to sell

Realtor numbers up 13.6 per cent in 2021; 60.5 per cent drop in available properties

4 min read
A 102-year-old house sold for $140,100 over the asking price, only six days after it was listed for sale.
caption A house on Northwood Terrace in Halifax was listed for $479,900 on Jan. 20 and sold for $620,000 on Jan. 26, six days after hitting the market.
Carleigh MacKenzie

More Nova Scotians than ever before became Realtors in 2021, but with inventory at an all-time low, some are left to scramble for clients.

Brae Gough became a licensed Realtor in October 2021. She says the climate in the real estate world is unusually frantic.

She’s noticed this not just from Realtors but from buyers, sellers and investors. She says the low inventory and competitive state of the industry are to blame. 

“Sellers don’t want to sell because there is no place to go, and buyers can’t buy because there is no inventory,” says Gough.

Gough joined at a time when the market typically slows down. More properties are listed during the warmer months than in the winter. In 2021, the market slowed more than it ever has. 

“My mentors have never experienced a market like this, and they’ve been in the business (for decades),” she says. 

Gough works for Brenda K’s Halifax Home Selling Group, a division under Keller Williams Select Realty. When she started four months ago, the average selling price for a single family home in Halifax was around $507,000. As of Jan. 20, the average sale of a single family home is $602,603, almost $60,000 over the average listing price of $542,607. 

When Gough began her career in real estate, there were around 327 single-family homes on the market in Halifax. As of Jan. 20, there are 159. 

Brae Gough is one of the 2001 real estate agents licenced in 2021, trying to survive the chaotic market.
caption Brae Gough is a realtor for Brenda K’s Halifax Home Selling Group. She became a realtor in October 2021.
Brae Gough

In other years, this kind of drop wouldn’t be a problem, but with this many Realtors, the industry has become saturated. 

There has been a small increase in new real estate licences in Nova Scotia each year since 2017. But in 2021, licences increased by 13.6 per cent.

There were 2,001 licensees in 2021, which includes both new and existing salespeople and brokers. 

All Nova Scotia real estate licences expire on June 30 following the issue date, unless the licence was obtained between January and June. Then it expires the next year.

The jump from 1,761 licensed agents to 2,001 could reflect an increase in new agents, an increase in agents from other provinces relocating to Nova Scotia, or a decrease in retiring agents.

Re/Max Nova associate broker Dawna Candelora says the upward trend in licences is most likely because of an influx of agents who are new to the industry. She says the job is glamorized on TV, but when people see how competitive and expensive it can be, they change careers.

“Even when I got my licence 13 years ago, there were 25 people in my class. Only two of us have our licences now,” says Candelora. 

She says with today’s market especially, new agents will realize how difficult it is to sell when there is no inventory. 

For example, a house on Northwood Terrace in Halifax was listed for $479,900 on Jan. 20, and sold for $620,000 on Jan. 26. 

This only allowed for six days of showings and offers. If an agent wasn’t one of the first to view the property, they weren’t going to make the sale. 

Inventory is at an all-time low in Nova Scotia. Availability declined steadily from 2015 to 2019, but from 2019 onward, inventory plummeted. 

In 2015, when the number of homes on the market was at its peak, there were 4,189 properties listed for sale at year’s end in Halifax. In 2021, 560 properties were for sale at the end of December, and only half were single-family detached homes. 

The total number of properties for sale in Nova Scotia at the end of December was 60.5 per cent below the five-year average.

Octavia Purdy is a realtor for Exit Realty Metro. She says six months ago when she entered the industry, she didn’t know what to expect. She heard from her co-workers and mentors that the market was “hot,” but didn’t know enough to know what that meant.

“We are definitely living in a seller’s market, meaning there are way more buyers and not enough people listing their houses,” says Purdy. 

“The houses that are going on the market are being sold for over $20,000 to $100,000 (above the asking price). Sometimes more.”

Purdy says she’s resorted to knocking on doors to promote her business, and it’s landed her some clients. Her father, Ken Purdy, has been marketing through door-knocking since 2009, and it’s inspired her to do the same. 

The strategy has given her hope for her future as a Realtor.

“It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but we’re learning to adapt,” says Gough.

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About the author

Carleigh MacKenzie

Carleigh MacKenzie is a Cape Breton-born writer. She is the copy editor for the Dalhousie Gazette and the vice-president of Dalhousie’s Creative...

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