Investing in Inverness, Cape Breton, N.S.

"This was a pretty tough town in the past," says Sherry MacLeod, broker/ owner of Cape Breton Realty and Centum Causeway Mortgages Beautiful Shorelines. "With the closing of the steel plant and the fall in the fisheries, this community has been deeply depressed for several years. Plywood on many businesses in the community is still visible although there is constant work going on along the lovely shoreline in the village.

The surrounding area of Inverness was farms years ago, and is mostly vacant land which is treed today." Since that time various attempts have been made to revitalize the economy.

The base economy in the area is lobster and crab fishing and the seasonal tourism industry. In recent years, the area has also seen some new infrastructure, including its local hospital, which has undergone a $23-million upgrade, a new full-care facility for seniors, a new high school, new recreation facilities like a first-class ball field, a community cultural and arts centre as well as new street lighting and sidewalks. "The quaint little village will be popular, as well as its surroundings along the coast," says MacLeod.

"The area is within just a few minutes of the ocean." It's also nearby a public beach that boasts five kilometres of white sand and the warmest waters north of the Carolinas. However, what really has this village - and its investors - seeing green is one of the area's most significant developments to-date - a new golf course. A developer came in and bought up most of the oceanfront in the village.

He has developed a golf course, which will open its first nine holes this summer. Cabot Links will not only bring golf tourism to light, but the development is shaping the future of the community, including revitalization of the housing stock, supporting businesses, and providing much needed employment for about 60 people. Within the year it is anticipated that another 120 people will be employed. What is even more interesting is that a second 18-hole course is likely to be developed nearby.

"With the building of the golf course, and the increased popularity for people to return to their roots, I believe you will see our young people remaining in the small community rather than leaving for work, which was happening for many years now," says MacLeod.

"Things are very positive in this community. The new hospital will be recruiting young professionals and moving them and their families to the area." Vacancy rate changes in Nova Scotia varied in 2010. The Halifax CMA, which accounts for 84% of the total provincial rental universe (40,116 of 47,580 rental units), recorded a decline in private apartment vacancy rates from 2.9% in 2009 to 2.6% in 2010.

Cape Breton recorded increases in vacancies as rates increased from 2.2% to 2.9%. Despite the increase in vacancy rate, the average rent increased in Cape Breton by 2.5%. The overall average rent in the province was $807 in October 2010 with the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment at $851.

Halifax recorded the highest average two-bedroom rent of $891, followed by Truro at $726 and Cape Breton at $652. While rents are rising, property prices are still very reasonable. In fact, investors can pay as little as $75,000 for a 70- to 100-yearold home, up to $500,000 for an oceanfront property.

However, according to CMHC's Housing Outlook for the Atlantic Region, Nova Scotia as a province is expected to see house price increases. With only a small rise in inventory in 2010, price growth in the existing home market was very positive rising close to 6%. For 2011, prices are forecast to increase across Atlantic Canada, and Nova Scotia is forecast to see a 2% rise in prices. "Prices have increased in this small market, but once the golf course opens, I am confident prices will certainly double over the next three to five years," says MacLeod.

"As people discover the area, and how reasonable it is to own a home within walking distance to sandy beaches and a lovely golf course, it will definitely make a major difference."

Property values in this area are also expected to increase, especially sought-after waterfront locations. "With talks of the second golf course, with the results of the first one starting to happen, it is certain to make investors feel secure," says MacLeod. "You can buy 25 acres on the ocean today for $249,000. In five years, prices will likely easily double. I believe the future in real estate in this area is looking very positive.

Today, you can still buy land to build a new home in the village. But for larger parcels you may need to extend to the outskirts of town. You can find older homes to buy very reasonably. It is a great opportunity for investors."

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