By Anna Smith
As the cost of housing continues to climb in Alberta, Jade Homes has seen fewer people able to cover the cost of their dream residence.
In some respects, the problem started becoming more apparent at the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, said John Hiebert, owner of Jade Homes, Jasper Homes, and Hiebert Cabinets and Fine Woodwork.
“We thought the building industry would come to a screeching halt and I understand in some provinces they did,” said Hiebert. “We actually became busier during COVID. So we had been selling quite a few houses. And then inflation started which has driven up the price of housing significantly.”
It goes beyond the cost of wood, said Hiebert, noting that wood had become one of the topics of debate in the construction industry in the last couple of years. Jade and Jasper homes were able to mitigate that cost for their clients to some extent via their purchase of bulk wood when needed, instead of sourcing lumber with each individual build.
“It’s the cabinetry, it’s the drywall, and it’s the wiring; most of that stuff has gone up and it looks like it’s up to stay,” said Hiebert. He notes that to some extent, the inflation has settled in the industry, though they “don’t see housing prices going miraculously down anytime soon.”
Hiebert notes they have been fortunate, managing to sell approximately 45 homes in the past year across Jade Homes, which focused on ready-to-move, high-end homes which are built on their lot in Bow Island and then shipped across the province to rural sites, and Jasper Homes, their more traditional on-site homes, but there have been several cases of the banks changing prospective builder’s plans.
“Never in my history of being in the building industry have I had as many people deposit and then find out the banks actually weren’t going to carry them,” said Hiebert, “and they have to move away from their dream of building a home.”
Despite this, in this time, people’s eyes have really been opened to the possibility of RTM homes, said Hiebert, and he is excited to demonstrate to people how his work is far from “glorified trailer houses,” as many initially assume when picturing a home built to be moved down the highway to its final destination.
The extra-reinforced structures are largely indistinguishable from luxury houses built on site, and are an increasingly attractive option for those living in areas where it can be difficult to attract labour due to a remote job site or other conditions, as the homeowner only needs to get their land prepared for the arrival of the home with the suitable foundation, wiring, and services.
Hiebert adds that he has even recently sold some homes sight-unseen, with the would-be homeowners simply meeting their new house when it arrives, in some cases after travelling as far as Fort McMurray, and he is curious to see if this will be a continuing trend for his business.
He feels grateful to have been able to cultivate a reputation that would allow for such sales, adding that he’s proud to have delivered people the homes they wanted and aware of the impact that living in a comfortable, well-made space can have on a person.
“I’ve only done about three or four houses that way. So it’s not as large but I think in the future, there’s going to be more,” said Hiebert, though he still encourages anyone, even those not currently looking to build, to come and explore the possible future of rural housing in the show homes they keep on their lot.