Conception Bay: Bustling by the Bay

St. John's is the Newfoundland real estate story, according to Alex MacDonald, regional economist with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in Halifax.

With less than 10 per cent of sales through the province's MLS system being outside the province's main metropolis, investors will be hard-pressed to identify markets that aren't influenced by St. John's in some manner.

But a 75-minute drive north on the Avalon Peninsula brings investors to Conception Bay. The south side of the bay is considered an exurb of St. John's and has witnessed property development lubricated with cash brought back by workers from the oil fields of Alberta.

Residents here enjoy life on the bay but are close enough to not be out of reach of the city. Head north around the bay, however, and opportunities still exist at Conception Bay North.

"There's been quite a bit of money coming in, both investors and people looking to relocate back here from Western Canada, mostly Alberta," says Ted Rowe, broker/ owner of Re/Max East Coast Realty in St. John's.

"There's been quite a bit of backflow of money." But local resource exploration and development is also creating opportunities in Conception Bay North. While St. John's is the epicentre of the offshore oil and gas boom - though some worry fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico will dampen drilling prospects in the North Atlantic - Conception Bay is feeling the effects of the new-found wealth.

The start of construction at the end of June is giving a further boost to the local economy. The area's history of ore processing is being reinvigorated with a new nickel concentrate processing plant in Long Harbour.  

Construction of the US$2.2-billion facility will employ 1,600 trades people, with construction peaking next year. The new plant will fire up in 2013, employ approximately 450 people and produce 50,000 tonnes of finished nickel from raw material shipped in from Voisey's Bay, Labrador.

"They're going to benefit from that as well, so I think there's a good run left in the market out there, and prices aren't expensive by Canadian standards, still," Rowe says.

Three-bedroom, one-bathroom homes in Dildo and Normans Cove just east of Long Harbour can be had for a range of prices (depending on quality), but the Bay Roberts office of Re/Max East Coast lists a three-bedroom home in Whitebourne, just off the Trans-Canada, for $109,000.

"The basement has been framed out for additional rooms and awaits finishing by the new owners," the description states. "Being only minutes to the Vale Inco, Long Harbour site makes this a fabulous property a great place to move or to purchase and enjoy the rental income."

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