Come-from-aways spark economic boom in rural Nova Scotia

Posted on December 21, 2021 | By Alec Bruce | 0 Comments

Time was when Nova Scotia’s small towns and villages were nice places to visit, but nobody who could afford bus fare to Halifax would ever want to live there. Times change.

Thanks to skyrocketing costs and COVID restrictions in cities across Canada, some of this province’s true cartographic afterthoughts are becoming go-to destinations for well-heeled urbanites determined to purchase pieces of paradise for comparative pocket change.

Pleasantvilles, like the Eastern Shore town of Sherbrooke (pop: 400), are seeing local property values grow by as much as 20 per cent every three months as come-from-aways hungrily circle online real estate boards. The recent asking price for one Sherbrooke property was nearly $400,000, about 45 per cent more than its market value only five years earlier.

“People are getting multiple offers [for their house] here,” says David Hutten, chief administrative officer of the municipal district (St. Mary’s) in which Sherbrooke resides. “Things typically slow down at this time of year, but it’s been full steam ahead.”


This image shows why rural Atlantic Canada is a popular choice for big city dwellers who’ve been working from home during the pandemic. (Source:


In fact, St. Mary’s has been experiencing a seller’s market since the beginning of the pandemic. According to recent figures from its finance department, deed transfer tax revenues were $64,088 during the first quarter of the fiscal year, ending June 30, 2021, compared with $14,161 during the comparable period in 2019-20. During that time, it registered 17 building permits with an assessed value of $1.6 million, compared with 10 worth $718,000 in the period two years ago.

The district is now outpacing its performance last year when it set new records for annual transfer tax revenues ($131,589). What’s more, both the deed transfer tax account and the municipal capital building fund grant were between 100 and 150 per cent fatter than historically normal at the end of the second quarter ending September 20, 2021.

The story is much the same in every rural part of the province. In Bridgewater, on the South Shore, real estate agents reported a 500 per cent increase in sales in June, compared with the year earlier period. In the Cape Breton counties of Richmond and Inverness, residents spoke about selling their homes to American buyers sight unseen. In the town of Guysborough (about 60 kilometres northeast of Sherbrooke), tourists were leaving their names and numbers at the doorsteps of homes that were not listed for sale.

All of which has, according to Hutten, sparked the beginning of what looks very much like a classic economic boom on the Eastern Shore, a boom that he and his staff are doing their best to stimulate. “Recently, there’s been incredible interest from land developers looking to build new housing,” he says.

Adds his economic development officer, Marissa Jordan: “One key goal is to implement actual strategies and incentives for partnership with any investors that are interested in developing the area. We are focusing on policies that attract families, individuals, business entrepreneurs, or anyone looking to settle or relocate.”


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