Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
When the Bowater Mersey mill in Brooklyn closed in 2012 taking some 300 jobs, businesses and municipal officials worried about the knock-on effect on the Queens County economy as a whole, and the inevitability of people leaving the area.
How impactful the closure was is open to debate, however eight years later the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) is seeing an influx of people amid what some are describing as a booming real estate market.
This is inspite of the fact the county has been coping with COVID-19 health restrictions.
More than 130 families have moved to Queens in the last two years, according to the RQM mayor, David Dagley. "Our real estate market is booming," he told LighthouseNOW recently.
A number of realtors agree that business has picked up, at the very least.
Walt MacDonald, of Walt MacDonald Real Estate Limited in Liverpool, a realtor for 35 years, said he was surprised at what happened this year, considering the COVID-19 travel restrictions in place.
"Surprisingly enough, it was a good season. Real estate has been selling, despite of what we thought that, with COVID-19, it would put a crimp on buyers," he commented. "I would say this year has been a bit better than the last five years. Go figure."
Previously, MacDonald had relied a lot on American buyers. Now, most of his clients are coming from either Halifax or Ontario. A few are buying online, sight unseen.
Royal LePage Atlantic's Corey Huskilson agreed sales have been busy.
"I definitely thought it was going to slow down with the pandemic, and I really didn't think we were going to end up where we are," he told LighthouseNOW.
Like MacDonald, Huskilson is catering more to buyers from Halifax and Ontario now.
"The ability to work from home has completely changed the need to stay in Halifax," said Huskilson.
But while the buyers are there, the number of listings on the market is not what he anticipated.
"I thought people would get more comfortable with listing their homes and we would get a flood of listings this fall, but we haven't at all," said Huskilson.
The limited number of homes on the market has left people clamouring after the listings that are there, and resulted in bidding wars. Huskilson expects that to continue through to December.
Realtor Ann Levy, of Exit Interlake Realty and Anne Thomson of Anne Thomson Realty both reported they are busy as well.
While much of the rest of the province is experiencing similar real estate market activity, realtors extol Queens County's particular attraction for buyers.
"It's a good mix of small town and country living with only an hour and half to the 'big city'," said Huskilson. "Queens County is becoming well-known for its great beaches and surfing. Two beautiful resorts also help market Queens County as a destination area," he added.
Nonetheless, the realtors are far from complacent.
Although the market is active now, despite pandemic restrictions, MacDonald for one isn't making any predictions on how things are going to go.
"The market is so volatile and unpredictable here on the South Shore. I gave up years ago trying to figure it out. When you thought it was going to be slow, it was busy. When you thought it was going to be slow, it would be busy," he said.