Ian Macdonald, director of sales and marketing at Watermark at Bearspaw, says sales in the luxury community have been steady so far in 2015. Photo by Michelle Hofer/For CREB®Now

‘If you build it, they will come’

Despite ongoing softness in the Calgary regional real estate market that has moderated activity in upscale communities such as Springbank and Bearspaw, industry experts believe the value proposition of upscale rural living remains unaffected.

“We have not seen construction stop,” said Ian Macdonald, director of sales and marketing at Watermark at Bearspaw, a luxury estate community that recently won a Sales and Marketing (SAM) Award for Community of the Year, Calgary Region from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Calgary Region.

“I call it the Field of Dreams approach — if you build it, they will come.”

Watermark has sold nine lots and nine quick possession homes this year, ranging in price from $1.22 million to $1.95 million. Additionally, it has sold 13 villas priced from $700,000 to $1.14 million.

The 116-hectare community in Bearspaw, which borders Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, will eventually include 469 detached homes and 101 luxury villas.

“People often compare this year’s sales to last year, but that’s not the best comparison,” said Macdonald, citing that last year the city was reaping the rewards of robust oil prices.

On the residential resale side, sales in Rockyview Country, which encompasses both Springbank and Bearspaw, declined by 26 per cent up to the end of August compared to the same period in 2014, according to CREB®. Benchmark prices, however, have remained resilient, up 6.4 per cent to $561,238.

Jim Sparrow, a real estate professional with Royal Lepage Solutions who sells real estate in both Calgary and Rockyview County, said the first half of 2015 has been “rough” for the residential resale real estate market, particularly in Springbank and Bearspaw. Yet he also noted rural properties typically take longer to sell given the pool of buyers is smaller.

And while sales activity has been slower than usual, it has not been comparable to the economic downturn in 2008/09, he said.

Sparrow recently sold a 3.9-hectare parcel in Springbank with a 1,800 square-foot bungalow for $1.73 million. The buyers, who previously lived in the city, wanted an acreage that would support horses.

“They just wanted to find the perfect home like everybody else,” said Sparrow, noting the allure of open-space country living within a 30-minute drive of downtown Calgary is enticing to his clientele.

Macdonald said Watermark plans to endure current housing market conditions and will not be responding by lowering lot prices. He added having sustained value in property is important, especially when the purchase price is over $1 million.

“We may see smaller homes (on lots), but we haven’t seen people build smaller homes yet,” he said. Rockyview County communications manager Grant Kaiser admitted the district, like others, is seeing a slowdown in real estate activity.

“That market [country residential living] has been impacted – it’s saturated,” he said, noting the district would be referring to the 2013 County Plan for further direction on community growth; the document guides county development and future aspirations of residents.