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Housing

There’s an ever-increasing amount of choice and variety in the Northwest Territories’ real estate market. In Yellowknife, the largest community, the choice runs from architecturally adventurous, eco-conscious downtown condo developments to luxurious single-family homes set amid stunning natural beauty to funky DIY houseboats in Yellowknife’s Back Bay. There are housing markets in all the major communities though the choices are not as wide-ranging. Here’s a brief guide to real estate in the NWT.

Purchasing

Real estate prices can vary quite a bit across the Northwest Territories, depending on location and type. But one thing is certain. You’ll get more house – or condo – for your dollar up here.

Average Real Estate Price in:    
Toronto: $503,479
Vancouver: $736,732
Calgary: $418,721

Yellowknife: $381,073

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Inuvik offers four bedroom homes for as low as $250,000. In Fort Smith, the average house price is $169,000 – though in late 2012, a two-bedroom house located by scenic Axe Handle Hill, and featuring a sauna, loft space and wrap-around deck among other amenities, was listed for $219,000. Hay River’s average house price in 2012 was $248,714.

The choice and variety of the NWT’s real estate market will only continue to grow. Yellowknife housing starts rose 13 per cent in 2012, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2012 Northern Housing Report, with residential sales due to stay on a strong growth trajectory. “In total, the 155 new homes that were started in Yellowknife in 2011 represented a 172 per cent gain over 2010 and the strongest annual performance in seven years,” reported the CMHC. Meanwhile, the resale home market is healthy, experiencing triple-digit year-over-year gains in 2012.

NWT Realtors:
Century21 Greenway Realty: Century21.ca/greenwayrealty
Coldwell Banker Real Estate: Cbyk.ca
Home Life: Homelifeyk.ca
Propertyguys: Propertyguys.com

Renting

The NWT’s rental market has been tight in recent years, with demand supported by job gains and population growth. Some of the pressure has been alleviated by renters continuing to move into an increasingly attractive real estate market as owners, with the average vacancy rate in Yellowknife rising from 1.5 per cent in 2011 to 2.5 per cent in 2012. Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Yellowknife was around $1,610 in October 2012. Inuvik and Hay River offer average rents of $1,800 and $1,350 respectively.

The Government of the NWT (GNWT) offers residents of the NWT financial and other assistance related to homeownership through the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation’s Housing Choices program. http://www.nwthc.gov.nt.ca/_live/pages/wpPages/HousingChoices.aspx

The Energy Efficiency Incentive Program (EEIP) provides assistance to homeowners looking to reduce their energy costs, supplementing Federal government grants for renovation and appliance upgrades. www.enr.gov.nt.ca/_live/pages/wpPages/EEIP.aspx

Yellowknife Rental Agencies:
Northern Property REIT: Npreit.com (also in Inuvik)
Midwest Properties: Rentmidwest.com
Polar Developments: Polardevelopments.com

Utility Costs

There’s no getting around the fact that utility costs can be more expensive than they are in the south. That’s just one of the elements of living on a frontier. But the NWT provides a variety of subsidies – such as the Territorial Power Subsidy Program – to address those costs, especially in the outlying communities. As for household heating fuel, costs per litre are actually less than those of Toronto – they’re the same as Vancouver’s. But keep in mind: in the NWT you will be using a few more litres.

Electricity:
Average Electricity Rate per 1000 kW.h (in cents per Kw/h):
In Toronto: 11.170
In Edmonton: 13.45
In Vancouver: 6.98
In Yellowknife: 28.1
In Hay River: 17.32
In Fort Smith: 16.36
In Inuvik: 60.35

Household Heating Fuel:
Average retail price of household heating fuel in Toronto (cents per litre): 121.8
Average retail price of household heating fuel in Vancouver (cents per litre): 114.7
Average retail price of household heating fuel in Saskatoon (cents per litre): 96.1
Average retail price of household heating fuel in Yellowknife (cents per litre): 116

Telephone, Cable TV and Broadband Cable Services:
Pretty much everything available in southern markets is available here, with even the smallest and most remote of the NWT’s 33 communities able to access broadband internet. Cell phone service is not available in all areas of the NWT but is comparable with southern services in the major communities and more populous regions. 3G service is available in the larger communities, and is expected to roll out to smaller communities over the course of 2013 and 2014. Cable and satellite TV is widely available across the territory.

NorthwesTel is the major cellular provider, but a recent decision by the CRTC to open up the Northern market to competition has seen consumer choices start to widen. Inuvik-based Ice Wireless has partnered with Iristel to offer customers VoIP and related services, while Yellowknife’s SSI Micro, an internet provider that delivers high-speed internet across Northern Canada, is planning to enter the phone market. The opening of the “broadband bridge” – the Deh Cho Bridge across the Mackenzie Highway - which includes an $18 million fibre-optic connection between Yellowknife and Edmonton – further increases the capability and reliability of Internet-related services in the NWT, and Bell Mobility has recently started offering 4G LTE service in Yellowknife.

Visit Ice Wireless (icewireless.ca), NorthwesTel (http://www.nwtel.ca/) or SSI Micro (ssimicro.com) to see their wide range of packages and services.