According to experts, Lethbridge’s commercial real estate market is fairly stable — all things considered. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some changes.
“I haven’t really seen something like this in the last ten years,” said Jillian Chaffee.
“Prior to the pandemic there would be more negotiation and prices would be lowered, and so what we’re seeing is people are getting more aggressive with existing real estate.”
A long-time commercial real estate agent with Royal LePage, Chaffee said some recent trends include the insurgence of more entrepreneurs looking for leasing opportunities, and the decline in interest for new builds.
“The cost of construction of new builds have increased, just due to supply and demand, shortage of trades,” she explained.
Bootsma Bakery, a family-owned business that’s seen an influx of support since opening in 2019, was in a position to find a new location.
“It was very crammed,” owner Jamie Bootsma said of the bakery’s initial storefront. “(It) actually got to the point where we were no longer meeting fire code.
“So it was a matter of we either needed to downscale our business, or move.”
After some searching and seeing properties that were either too small or much too large, they finally landed on a location off Mayor Magrath Dr. S. and moved in last month.
“It’s plenty of space for us, we would have just liked to have a little bit more space, (so) we definitely had to compromise on that,” Bootsma said.
“We’ve seen a number of expansions throughout the city,” said Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Trevor Lewington. “People going into a larger property or changing their location relative to their business.”
Having a stable inventory of properties is important both to attract new investment, and to support businesses that are growing and expanding that are already in the city.
In the first three quarters of 2020, there were 89 reported commercial real estate transactions in Lethbridge. During the same period in 2021, there were 88 transactions.
However, last year there were fewer leases.
“What we did see was a shift from less leases and more actual sales transactions,” Lewington added. “So businesses buying their building or buying into their property as opposed to leasing — which is an interesting shift. Not sure what’s driving that, frankly.”
Lewington added the shift to at-home working might have a continued impact on the sales of office spaces, but he expects industrial sales will continue to flourish.