by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent

During the first half of 2016, the Town of Morinville has experienced a drop in home sales over the same time periods in 2015 and 2014.

According to the Edmonton Real Estate Board, between January and June of this year, 96 homes have sold in town. That figure compares to 135 in 2015 and 161 in 2014. The Board’s latest statistics show the average house price in Morinville is currently sitting at $348,392 (with a median price of $335,000).

“Inventory is up from this time last year,” acknowledges Brent Melville, a Real Estate Broker and Owner of Remax Real Estate in Morinville, on July 28. The positive side of this, he says, is there are more houses on the market for buyers to choose from, adding, “…now is [also] the time to buy since interest rates are at an all-time low.”

Melville says homeowners do seem to be taking advantage of a saturated market by opting to upgrade their current homes. “The average selling price is stable at -0.6% from this time last year,” he noted.

The Real Estate Broker says house sales are down in town over previous years, but that’s a trend the entire Province is experiencing; he adds, however, acreages in Sturgeon County are currently leading the market in sales and the amount of ‘Solds’ are up over the same time last year.

The Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) has released data on Alberta’s economy in the second quarter of 2016 (April through June) with the report indicating, “weak consumer demand [in Q2 and Q3] will weigh on residential housing and retail activity.” The economy, it says, will continue to see negative growth until the end of this year; however, ATB does forecast, by the same time next year, the province should see 2 per cent growth in its Real GDP and a slightly lower unemployment rate.

ATB estimates “improvements in the housing market are expected next year.”
“The Alberta economy has had a big effect on housing in Morinville and area,” remarks Melville. “The Fort McMurray fires have also affected our market as Morinville has quite a few families living here and commuting to work in Fort Mac.”

“On the positive side from the fires–which you never want to see from such a devastating event–we are seeing the rental market in Morinville benefitting from Fort Mac people staying here while houses are being rebuilt.”

Melville also expressed the housing market in town could see a boost if those who lost their homes in the massive wildfires choose to collect their insurance money and permanently relocate to communities within the Capital Region, like Morinville, instead.

As it stands, the market for brand new homes in Town is not doing much better. The Town of Morinville says housing starts are also down over last year, with Schaun Goodeve, the Manager of Planning and Economic Development, indicating in the first half of this year, there have been ten housing starts versus 22 in 2015.

New duplexes and multifamily homes are also down, at six (versus 18 last year) and zero (versus five last year), respectively.

Despite a tough economy, at least one new business in Town is finding great success.
With a weak economy and forecasters saying improvements are not expected until next year, those thinking of starting up a new business venture may be apprehensive. Is now really the time to take a risk?

For one new local business owner, the answer was yes.

Marc Cardinal, one of the owners of Morinville’s new Dairy Queen (DQ), says his impressions of business in Town has been very positive so far.

“The excitement around our opening was unfathomable,” he explains, “I will say that on opening day and the subsequent week, we set sales records for highest volume for any DQ opening in Canada and has made the Town of Morinville somewhat of a legend in the DQ System.”

Cardinal said other DQ operators from across the country, from Vancouver to Nova Scotia, have been contacting him to ask about the successful opening day the Morinville DQ team experienced.
“Our [Dairy Queen] CEO, John Gainor, is coming all the way from Minneapolis to visit our location on Aug. 11—Miracle Treat Day—to see what all the fuss is about. So we can say that Q2 has been great for us.”

Cardinal acknowledges this last sales quarter (Q2) has been very successful for his team but realizes it’s hard to compare numbers since the restaurant has only just opened in this quarter and the different circumstances around each of his DQ locations also make it difficult to relate statistics.
“Obviously, we’ve had a great first impression of the market in Morinville; it has been a bit of a learning curve for us as the day part sales are different from our other locations, but that has been part of the fun.”

“Our impressions of our customers in Morinville is that they have high expectations but that they are fiercely loyal and quick to praise employees and management.”

Cardinal emphasized a big part of doing business in the Town of Morinville is working to grow with the community. “So it’s safe to say, we are extremely happy with our decision to bring our DQ brand to Morinville.”

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