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Strong residential real estate market indicates Kenora  weathering economic storm

Residential properties increasing in value as more people are looking to buy than sell

Posted By Reg Clayton

Kenoras residential real estate market is holding its own despite the faltering economy and job losses in the forestry sector. Local realtors attribute low interest rates on mortgages for motivating people to invest in their own homes.

The stability of Kenora's real estate market is one indication that the community is weathering the collapse of the softwood industry.

Three years of job losses from the Abitibi paper mill closure followed by Devlin timber and layoffs at Kenora Forest Products and Weyerhaeuser iLevel have cost the community more than 650 jobs. Yet local residential properties are increasing in value as more people are looking to buy than sell.

“Residential properties in the $120,000 to $200,000 range are very strong and holding their own,” said Grant Robertson of Kenora Home and Cottage Real Estate Brokerage. “Priced right, well maintained and in a decent location, they are selling and very quickly, often to multiple offers.”

Bill Scribilo of Century 21 Reynard Real Estate Ltd. reports housing sales over the past year are very close to 2007 with values increasing, indicative of a strong and steady market growth.

“We have not had a slow down in market values or sales of residential properties. We’ve seen prices increasing in Kenora during the past year,” he said, attributing most of the movement to people already living in the community rather than new arrivals looking to buy.

Without downplaying the economic impact of the downturn in the forestry industry, the U.S. economic crisis or a potential recession in Canada as factors affecting the local economy, low interest rates on home mortgages, lack of rental accommodation, first time buyers and home owners looking to upgrade are cited as factors spurring Kenora’s residential market.

“Low interest rates on home mortgages makes housing more affordable to more people,” Scribilo said.

Geography and demographics are also considerations. Lake of the Woods, Long Bow Lake, Black Sturgeon Lake and the Winnipeg River are home to seasonal and year round residents who bolster the local economy. As a regional centre , Kenora continues to provide public sector jobs in education, policing, health care, social services and corrections. Private sector employers also hire workers for the service industry, retail sales and skilled trades.

“We lost jobs in the manufacturing industry but public sector, trades and service industry jobs fill the gap,” Scribilo said.

“The lake workers; plumbers, carpenters, electricians have helped Kenoara remain pretty stable,” Robertson said, noting many of these trades are served by former mill workers. “We have a very good and highly skilled source of trades people in Kenora.”

Mineral exploration projects currently underway in the Kenora area include Canadian Arrow Mines Ltd. on its Kenbridge Nickel property near Nestor Falls, the Rainy River Resources Ltd. gold project northwest of Fort Frances and Nuinsco Resources Ltd’s. Cameron Lake gold project. These projects will create jobs and benefit the local economy as these companies transition from exploration to development and production with working mines

Self-sustaining community

“We’re in a better position (compared to other towns in the region) primarily because we have a large enough community to be self-sustaining,” Scribilo said. “But we also have Lake of the Woods. That’s very positive, to have a world class lake at our doorstep.”

It’s a trend that’s not only expected to continue but will increasingly affect Kenora’s future prospects as seasonal visitors become year-round residents.

“The biggest drive is demographic as more and more baby boomers reach retirement age,” Scribilo said. “They’ve bought properties on the lake and are looking forward to retiring there.”

In this respect, initiatives such as wireless internet and the proposed twinning of Hwy. 17 to the Manitoba border are enhancements, allowing people to travel faster, safer and spend more time at the lake once they get here.

Robertson estimates the number of people working from their cottages has increased by 50 per cent compared to a decade ago due to advances in communications technology.

Government and private sector initiatives are complemented by local efforts to make the city more appealing as a tourist destination as well as a home for seasonal residents looking to Kenora as their retirement community. The first phase of the city’s $25 million downtown revitalization plan, completed over the summer at a cost of $7 million, is a tangible example of developing new infrastructure to accommodate future growth.

“The most important border crossing for Kenora is the Manitoba border,” Scribilo said. “It’s a good shift by local government to focus a bit more strongly on tourism.”

“Revitalization is the right track in attracting more people to Kenora. Services are important – the hospital and wellness centre – it’s important to keep moving forward,” Robertson said.

Robertson acknowledged while Kenora faces challenges like many other Northwestern Ontario communities, new opportunities for value added forest products have to be developed for the city to prosper.

“We have to seize opportunities and go after it in many ways,” he said. “Policing, community redevelopment and homelessness are all factors to be considered. " Kenora council is hosting a series of public meetings starting in the New Year to involve individuals and groups in dialogue and planning for the community’s future. The process will engage the city economic development and tourism commissions as well as local business groups to build on Ontario’s ‘Go North’ plan, the Rosehart recommendations and various consultant reports addressing regional economic growth.


Angela Kuchma

Angela Kuchma

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Reynard Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage*
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