Record real estate sales in December contributed to a gain of 16 per cent over the year, making 2020 the best year of sales in Cochrane in the last five years.

In its year-end report,  the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) also states new listings in 2020 eased compared to 2019. Rising sales and fewer new listings on the market caused inventories to ease to the lowest levels recorded since 2014.

CREB says with an estimated two months of supply, prices are expected to continue to trend upward. It says the December benchmark price was $419,900, a 5 per cent gain over last year.

Prices have trended upward over the past six months but remain relatively stable compared to last year. CREB says this is due to easing prices for higher density products offsetting gains in the detached sector.

Economists had been predicting 2020 would year that real estate sales would rebound, says local realtor Kendra Watt, but when the pandemic hit in March exactly what impact it would have was unknown.

"Everything was just uncertain in terms of whether or not people were going to be able to physically move or even get moving trucks," says Watt.

She says it was quiet for six or seven weeks before sales suddenly started to soar.

"I don't really have an answer as to why it boomed again, but all of a sudden at the beginning of June, all of the buyers came out of the woodwork. We didn't have very much inventory, so there wasn't a whole lot for people to choose from, and that created a sense of urgency for the buyers, specifically in Cochrane."

She says sales increases were seen throughout the Calgary region and nationally.

While sales are up, Watt says there has been no significant increase in prices.

"The one thing that we haven't seen is an increase in sale prices, nothing significant anyway. There are certain pockets of areas that have seen a bit of a price increase, but the number of sales we're seeing is just astronomical this year. It's blowing records out of the water."

She says Cochrane is a unique niche micro-market that has relatively stable housing prices, especially in the well-established communities of Glenbow and Cochrane Heights.

"If we're looking specifically at those communities, prices haven't necessarily dropped much. But when we look at the up and coming developments, where we're competing with builders from a retail perspective, then we tend to see a lot more fluctuation in prices. So, it really depends on what specific area of Cochrane you're talking about but, in general, prices have been fairly stable for us."

Cochrane traditionally has lower prices than Calgary, and the same can be said for Airdrie, which saw a year-over-year 18 per cent increase in sales.

Part of the growing interest in these communities appears to be magnified by COVID-19, and a changing job market. Fewer people need to be within 10-15 minutes of their downtown office, and there have been more people relocating to Cochrane from Calgary than in the past.

"A lot of people can work from home now, and that means that they can get a little further out of the city and enjoy the charm that Cochrane specifically has to offer, that smaller town feel, as well as closer proximity to the mountains. I think that has been a huge impact on Calgary people moving here."

Additionally, a vast increase in the number and variety of services available in Cochrane has lessened the reliance upon Calgary.

Watt says she's not about to predict what will happen in the real estate market beyond a few months, but she does hold out hope for an increase in inventory in 2021.

"We do offer a really good cross-section of different housing options for people here in Cochrane," she says. "I would just like to see it expanded a little bit more so there are a few more options for buyers out there."

CREB says the pandemic has resulted in a significant shift in economic conditions, yet the housing market is entering 2021 in far more balanced conditions than we have seen in over five years.

"This will help provide some cushion for the market moving into 2021, but conditions will continue to vary depending on price range, location, and product type."

CREB will be releasing its 2021 housing market forecast on Jan. 26.