Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS®
Along with being a great place to live, Nova Scotia is also a great place to buy – or for that matter, sell – a home. The Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS® (NSAR) can take some of the credit for that.
“We only succeed as an association because we help our REALTOR® members provide valuable services to home buyers and sellers,” says NSAR President Linda Smardon, who leads an organization that includes more than 1,600 brokers and salespeople.
Indeed, each initiative undertaken by NSAR is rooted in that belief. It provides REALTORS® with services and representation to enable them to best serve the public in real estate transactions. One of those services is the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), a co-operative marketing system that relays information about a home to a vast network of REALTORS® and therefore, potential homebuyers in that market.
And it adheres to “Quality of Life Principles” that recognize the impact of the industry economically, environmentally and socially. These include ensuring economic vitality, providing housing opportunities, preserving the environment, protecting property owners, and building better communities.
That kind of commitment is imperative in an industry that generates $338 million and creates more than 4,100 jobs annually in this province.
“Home purchases and sales generate very significant volumes of spending and major spin-offs to other industries,” says Smardon.
And the field is holding its own despite the current economic downturn, a fact she attributes to a diverse marketplace that taps into the military, universities, tourism, and business.
“It’s a tough economic time, but I’m thankful we’re in Nova Scotia,” says Smardon. Unlike certain other regions, average sale prices in Nova Scotia have not dropped and are actually increasing slightly, showing strength in the market. While sales are down compared to last year around this time, it’s a moderate decrease that is already starting to rebound.
That should be helped along by the province’s recent announcement of a new home construction rebate – an initiative formulated with input from NSAR, the Nova Scotia Homebuilders’ Association and other stakeholders.
Up to 1,500 people who build or purchase a new home will qualify for the one-time rebate, equivalent to 50 per cent of the provincial portion of the HST, to a maximum of $7,000. Construction or sale closing must be completed by March 31, 2010.
“When the provincial government asks us for our involvement and input into an initiative like this, it lends credibility to the importance of the real estate market to our economy,” says Smardon.
“This was a great move that will help more Nova Scotians purchase a new construction home that they may not have been able to afford otherwise. For other new construction buyers, it means more money for appliances, furniture or other items, and that means more money put back into their local economy.”
While NSAR’s government relations committee was integral to that process, its members also make a difference in areas such as professional standards, REALTOR® and consumer education.
“We’re very fortunate in that we have a very vibrant association. Our REALTOR® members are engaged because it is important to them to help shape the industry to which they belong,” says Smardon.
“A lot of the things we lobby for and a lot of the things we do are aimed at helping people to own homes,” she adds. “Home ownership contributes to community responsibility; civic, economic, business and employment stability; family security and well being. REALTORS® believe all Nova Scotians have the right to safe and affordable housing near where they work, shop and play.”
To that end, Cape Breton recently received a Demographia International Affordable Housing Market Award. It ranked number one of 10 cities in Canada found to have affordable housing.
On top of that, Cape Breton also ranked the fifth most affordable housing market internationally.
“Cape Breton housing is affordable because the median house price is only 2.1 times greater than the median household income. Cape Breton has done quite well in the market this year as far as sales, and I think that what we’re seeing is people realizing that it is a wonderful location,” says Smardon.
“It offers so much. There are jobs there, there is infrastructure there – hospitals, schools – and for people who decide to make it their home, it’s affordable.”
Formed in 2000, NSAR counts among its priorities educational programs, government and public relations, publications and special services for members. It also provides all real estate licensing courses in the province through an agreement with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission.
Launched in October 2008, www.nshomeguide.ca is a prime example of a valuable service for both members and the public.
“We realized homebuyers weren’t looking to print media as much to find real estate information,” says communications co-ordinator Christy Wentzell.
“The Nova Scotia Real Estate HomeGuide website offers the last seven days of newest MLS® listings across Nova Scotia, searchable by area and updated every four hours. That’s the most up-to-date real estate resource in the province. It also offers upcoming open houses and valuable resources for home buyers,” notes Wentzell.
“The site is easy to use and public response has been great,” she says. “REALTORS® appreciate having the opportunity to bring this site to the public to offer education and resources around the buying process.”