The real estate market in Lethbridge has been more shielded from the recent economic downturn in Alberta, because the city is less dependent on the oil and gas industry. There are a lot of opportunities for growth here, and real estate prices are favorable. We’ve reached out to expert agent Darren Gugyelka of Tyler Martineau & Associates for an overview of the Lethbridge housing market and for other insights.
Tell us a few words about your job as a real estate professional. What do you love most about your job?
What I love most about my job is that I get to talk to people about real estate every day. Real estate is a fascinating industry. I am personally involved in working with people who buy, sell and invest. I play a key role in the handling and managing of a client’s single largest financial investment.
What is the single most difficult part of a real estate professional’s job?
What I find is the toughest part of my job is when you must tell a person they can’t buy or sell. It is such a negative feeling – you feel like you have taken the wind out of their sails.
Over the years, what I have learned to do is turn the negative situation around, by discussing a plan to get them into a position where they can buy or sell.
Have you spotted any interesting trends recently in the home buying process?
I have seen buyers be more prepared, in the sense that they do a lot of homework on their own with property searching. With so much information available to home buyers, you can tell that they have been searching well before they call an agent.
Is mortgage an option also used for buying luxury properties in Lethbridge?
Home buyers are utilizing the low interest rates being offered by financial institutions when purchasing luxury homes in Lethbridge.
Do you think the current mortgage system in Canada is actually discouraging prospective home buyers from considering smaller homes? Is getting a loan for a small home more difficult?
I know that banks look differently at homes under 700 sq. ft., when it comes to lending. In Lethbridge real estate, we don’t see much inventory of smaller homes that would have a major impact for prospective buyers.
Are home buyers in Lethbridge buying properties in foreclosure or are they avoiding them?
Buyers’ views on purchasing foreclosures are different from person to person. Purchasing a foreclosure entails buying the property “as is,” so you have to be 100% comfortable knowing that you have no legal recourse after the sale is complete.
Most first-time buyers tend to shy away, leaving foreclosures more appealing to investors or buyers who have had more real estate experience.
What is the main challenge for the real estate industry at this time?
Two challenges we have in Lethbridge, that have impacted our industry, would be the recent mortgage rule changes that took effect in October 2016, and the new construction market. We have a supply of new construction homes that have impacted home prices in the city.
What can we expect in terms of prices and inventory in 2017 in Lethbridge?
I can see our inventory being consistent, as the past few years have shown consistency in units for sale. Single family home inventory seems to sit between 550-600 units from spring to fall. Home prices in Lethbridge have stayed relatively consistent over the past few years.
Despite the fact that the Alberta economy as a whole has not been as strong, because of the oil and gas sector, Lethbridge has been stable because of a strong agriculture market in Southern Alberta. Our selling market between $200,000 and $300,000 is extremely active and strong.
Have you spotted any trends in the Millennials’ attitudes towards home ownership? Are parents also involved in their home buying process?
What I have seen from the Millennial generation is that a first-time home purchase leans more towards a new or newer home. They are focused on wanting a more move-in-ready home.
The Millennial group seems to be starting their careers later, and because of this the role of their parents in the home buying process is more of a financial support, assisting in the down payment.
In the past few months, have you spotted a rising interest in one particular area or neighbourhood? If so, which one is it? Why do you think this is happening?
The largest growth right now in Lethbridge is the west side of the city. Currently there are 7 subdivisions with new construction happening.
Copperwood real estate has been growing at a very rapid pace, but this would be in large part due to a new elementary school close to completion being built in the community, and the rise of commercial development, recreation facilities, a public library and two high schools in the immediate area.
There’s also a wide variety of housing options, with both single family dwellings and condominiums for sale in Copperwood. House pricing falls in the range of $175,000 to $550,000 in this area, which opens the community up to a wide range of prospective home buyers.
Did you notice a rising interest in a particular property type?
In the last year, we have seen an increase in properties being built with legal suites in the newer subdivisions. This option for home buyers hasn’t been widely available in years past. More home buyers today are looking for homes that can offer mortgage assistance by having basement suites while still being able to purchase a new dwelling.
Do you have a current listing that you’re particularly excited about?
Right now, our team is representing a new subdivision in our city, called Gold Canyon. We have been a part of the process with the developer prior to breaking ground on the project. This subdivision is offering the consumer an opportunity to choose not only their lot, but the builder they want to build their home, so we are very excited to see this project finally getting going.
Are there any particular struggles that your clients complain about in the home buying process?
The only struggles you hear from clients during the process of home buying would be when there is a communication breakdown with a lender, or bank.
Communication is crucial during the process of home buying, and unfortunately not all mortgage representatives communicate well before, during, and after the home buying experience.
Our team has a list of preferred mortgage specialists that we recommend a buyer use for an optimum experience.
Renting or buying? How can your clients decide what’s the better option for them?
In order to decide if renting or buying is the right option for any client that we sit down with, the process has to begin with a face to face meeting. So much information can be relayed when you have an opportunity to sit down with a client, and ask the appropriate questions necessary to determine whether renting is the best option right now, or is it buying?
Ultimately, our goal is to get a client into home ownership, but timing is crucial. There are other people that a client needs to talk to as well, other than us, to see what makes sense. We try to align our clients with other professionals who can get them the right information, so that they can understand what is best for them.
With interest rates being as low as they are today, getting into home ownership makes more financial sense now, but from time to time, getting a client into a stronger buying position may take 6 months to a year, so we look at renting as an option to prepare them to be 100% ready to buy.
Are your clients interested in buying homes that need restoration, or do they prefer buying renovated homes?
There is always a market for buyers that are looking to restore properties. Generally, these are people who are looking to live in a specific location in the city, and are prepared to do the necessary work to upgrade a property.
We are seeing this happening more in the inner part of the city, as people are wanting a more mature location, with large trees and oversized lots. In the past few years, some local builders have also seen an increase in buyers’ desires to purchase new homes in Downtown Lethbridge and other inner city locations.
More tear-down projects have been happening, providing not only single family home options, but also condo and attached dwellings.
What criteria should home buyers consider when choosing their REALTOR©?
Some criteria that should be important to a home buyer choosing a REALTOR© should be asking some simple questions such as “Are you full time or part time?” and “How many homes do you generally sell in a year?” Asking simple questions like these can help a buyer determine the level of knowledge and expertise of the agent they are about to hire.
Not all REALTORS© work the same way, and I feel that it is very important to have a discussion with whoever you are going to hire, to make sure that they are the right fit for you. Communication is very important in the working relationship, and a buyer needs to be able to communicate with confidence with their agent.
How should buyers prepare for the home buying process? Any tips you’d like to share?
Buying a property can be a tonne of fun, but it is best to be prepared before you start looking at homes, to have the best experience. Best practices would include scheduling a meeting with a REALTOR©.
The best agents in the business will align you with a team of professionals such as mortgage specialists, home inspectors, appraisers, lawyers who can provide premium service and the necessary information needed to make the experience easy and fun.
There is nothing more frustrating or deflating in a buying experience than when things become complicated, or you get financing rejected, or there is no communication between you and your agent. All these potential negative experiences can be eliminated by being prepared.
Any other insights you’d like to share?
So many times, I talk to people who seem to be hesitant about wanting to schedule a meeting with an agent when it comes to buying. I understand why, as no one wants to feel like they have to commit to a person.
A good meeting with a REALTOR© should feel comfortable. Anytime I meet with people, I want the meeting to feel like it was a non-decision, fact-finding meeting. The whole purpose is to provide information necessary for a buyer to leave the meeting with an answer to the question “Is this someone who I am comfortable working with?”.
Myself, along with the potential client, should both feel that communication will be easy, and that everyone involved can trust each other. A good agent will be patient with people, and will take the time to sit down and answer any questions that a buyer may have about the process, buyer responsibilities, and agent responsibilities.
Darren Gugyelka has always lived in Southern Alberta, and is a deep-rooted member of the Lethbridge community. He started selling real estate in 2005 and has been a top performer from day one. He combines professional service with a great sense of humour. Specializing in helping sellers, he has a proven track record for delivering exceptional results.