Growing in New Glasgow

Until recently, New Glasgow's property market had trailed behind much of the surrounding cities in Nova Scotia. Both Truro to the west and Antigonish to the east seemed to consistently have more sales in the higher $200,000-$300,000range. Over the past five years, New Glasgow has started to catch up, said Sherry Blinkhorn, broker and owner of Blinkhorn Real Estate Ltd. "We always seemed to be behind (Truro and Antigonish) in housing prices and rental units," she said. "I am seeing a huge difference now, for whatever reason."

She's still not quite sure of that reason for New Glasgow, but the driving factors for Pictou County are clearer. It's a resource-based region, easily accessed off the TransCanada Highway, with a strong jobs base that keeps new employees coming in.

That's helped keep the volume of units sold strong and prices on an upward trend. Between February and April this year, the average price in the Northern Region, which includes Pictou County, was $129,803, up 6.6% from the same a year earlier, according to the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors. Pictou County is the largest county in the province outside of the Halifax Region, and a variety of big businesses are magnets for jobs.

Employers include the Sobeys Head Office, Northern Pulp Nova Scotia, Michelin, Scotsburn Dairy and Convergys. South Korean Daewoo most recently moved into Trenton as well, just north of New Glasgow, said Blinkhorn. "It's not uncommon to sell the same house several times in a few years because of the high turnover with transfers in and out," she said. New Glasgow has about 10,000 residents, making up about a fifth of the overall Pictou County population.

Tree-lined streets and Victorian architecture are among the draws, along with an active sports culture that includes a number of competitions each year, golf courses, and a full service marina. A 6km trail system on the river is also heavily used by residents. Commuters in New Glasgow need just an hour to reach the nearest airport, and the same to reach Cape Breton.

Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are also accessible. Within New Glasgow, the West Side locations such as Terrace Street and the Stellarton Valley Woods area attract the most interest and thus higher prices due to the value in the name, said Blinkhorn.

For those getting into the market now, however, there's a lower preference for Trenton Road and generally better price options. The strongest rental demand is New Glasgow and to the south in Stellarton. Renters there are close to everything and there's often greater demand than there is supply.

For investors, the price for a rental property can range all over the board. But for a duplex in good condition and prime location, the average cost would be about $50,000 per unit said Blinkhorn. One needing some repair or not in such a good location might be as low as $20,000 per unit.

"That's pretty cheap, especially if you can do the work yourself," Blinkhorn said of the lower-end rental properties. A two bedroom apartment rents for about $650 plus utilities. Rates of return have remained strong for investors, and many buy into Pictou County from quite a distance away, attracted by the lower property prices and stable rental demand.

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