Alberta cabin, cottage prices spike in 2023 as Canada’s recreational property market cools

Daisy Ratnasari

Alberta led the country for price growth on cabins and cottages in 2023, with a national real estate report suggesting the increase is partly fuelled by one community near Edmonton with especially tight supply.

Royal LePage’s 2024 recreational property report, released Wednesday, shows the median price of a single-family recreational home in Alberta was up 4.7 per cent in 2023, year over year.

Prices for the same types of properties in B.C. were essentially flat, and in Ontario, they decreased by 5.2 per cent.

Alberta waterfront property prices declined slightly in 2023, but they dropped more than eight per cent in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.

But Alberta’s biggest jump by far is at Wabamun Lake, about 50 kilometres west of Edmonton, where the cost of single-family recreational properties spiked 53.5 per cent. That brings the median price for 2023 to just above $675,000 — nearly $250,000 higher than 2022.

Tom Shearer, broker-owner at Royal LePage Noralta Real Estate, said a few more expensive, modernized homes sold last year at Wabamun, and that’s part of what’s pushing that number up so quickly.

But he said there also haven’t been enough new listings to keep up with demand, including from an influx of people relocating to Alberta and jumping into the real estate market.

“A lot of people that are moving to Alberta, and Edmonton specifically, are coming from Ontario, where they are passionate about their their ability to get out of town in the summer time and go to a lake,” he said.

“So, I think there will be more competition for finding that beautiful lakefront property where you can hear the loons calling in the background.”

Just north of Wabamun Lake, the median price of single-family recreational properties at Lac Ste. Anne declined 11.5 per cent, according to Royal LePage. At Pigeon Lake, southwest of Edmonton, the same category of homes saw a 13.8 per cent increase in 2023.

Real estate agent Charlene Anderson specializes in lake homes in communities west of Edmonton.

In her view, 2023 was a fairly standard year for recreational property activity, with a continuing trend of rising prices, especially for cabins at Wabamun Lake.

“There’s generally always more than demand than supply … [Prices] have been steadily increasing since 2012.”

Ontario, B.C. buyers eye Alberta cabins

Recreational properties are often a second, seasonal home for people with income or borrowing power to spare, or a place to retire.

YEGPro real estate agent Daniel Seitz helps clients to buy and sell in lake communities west of Edmonton. He said the COVID-19 pandemic ignited renewed interest in recreational properties, and demand is still going strong.

He’s also noticed more buyers from Vancouver and B.C.’s Lower Mainland looking at  properties, as well as other parts of Alberta.

“Interestingly enough, we have quite a few buyers coming up from Calgary — the economics of having a lake place up here are pretty good,” he said.

Roughly 90 kilometres west of Calgary in Canmore, where average recreational home prices are well into seven figures, the Royal LePage report shows the median single-family cost increased 4.4 per cent in 2023.

Inventory in the mountain community continues to fall well short of a balanced market, said Chezlene Kocian, with Re/Max Alpine Realty.

Kocian said the town has always been a place that draws Alberta buyers, but it’s also appealing to people who are relocating, especially if they work remotely.

“If they don’t need to be in a major centre, our price points compared to parts of Ontario are still fairly attractive,” she said.

“Certainly that that influx of people into our province, I think, has started to to trickle down into the Canmore marketplace.”

Royal LePage is projecting Alberta’s recreational property prices will keep rising this year, with another four per cent increase.

The national real estate firm is also forecasting a rebound in Ontario and B.C., with median prices increasing by eight and five per cent, respectively.

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