Could Canmore one day become Canada’s Aspen?
I get asked this question a lot: Yes, we love Canmore as a town and for its lifestyle but is buying property in Canmore also a good investment?
Some investors are suggesting that Canmore could one day become the Aspen of Canada. They are comparing Canmore in Alberta, Canada with Aspen, Colorado, USA. And indeed, the two mountain towns have a lot in common. Both are beautiful ski resorts and destinations for outdoor recreation, both are in the Rocky Mountains. And while the Bow River goes through Canmore, Aspen is on the Fork River.
Both towns have a mining history that goes back to the mid 19 th Century. Aspen related to silver; Canmore related to coal. Aspen had a population of 7,000 in 2020. Canmore’s population was around 15,000 at that time.
Founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom Aspen boomed during the 1880s, its first decade. The boom ended when the Panic of 1893 led to a collapse of the silver market.
Aspen's fortunes recovered in the mid-20th century when neighboring Aspen Mountain was developed into a ski resort. In the late 20th century, the town became a popular retreat for celebrities.
Canmore is Gaelic for "Great Chief" and the town was officially named in 1884 after Malcolm III of Scotland who was also nicknamed Canmore.
In 1886, Queen Victoria granted a coal mining charter to the town, and the No. 1 mine was opened in 1887. In 1965, Canmore was incorporated as a town. By the 1970s the market for coal was diminished, and in 1979 Canmore Mines Ltd. ceased operations.
Canmore's economic development restarted with the announcement in the early 1980s that Calgary would be hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, and that Canmore would play host to the Nordic events. This resulted in an increase in tourism, and Canmore began to develop into the recreational tourist destination it is today.
Both towns remain popular as year-round destination for locals, second-home buyers, and tourists.
Prices for real estate, however, are still very different. And although prices in Canmore are not low, they look like a bargain compared to Aspen.
Aspen's single-family home prices are among the highest of any town in the US. The median sales price of a single-family home in 2021 in Aspen was USD $9.5 million according to the Aspen Daily News.
For Canmore the average price of a single-family home in 2021 was CAD $1.535 million (1,760,000 in 2022). The average price over all homes was around CAD $1.0 million.
Prime residential real estate in Aspen is the most expensive of any ski resort in the world on a per-square-foot basis, according to a study in 2021 of 44 global ski resort by Savills, a global real estate broker. They calculated a price of CAD $3,975/sq. ft. Canmore’s average price/sq. ft. overall in 2021 was CAD $652. ($723 in 2023).
Real estate supply in Aspen is restricted because most of the land around Aspen is public land, conservation land, or part of large private ranches.
In Canmore Real estate supply is also restricted because of protected Banff National Park land in the West and mountains in the North and South. The only space for further development is East along the Trans Canada Highway.
So, is buying real estate in Canmore a good investment?
Looking at these two towns, their similarities, and the price difference, I am very optimistic that from an investor’s perspective, real estate in Canmore is a very good, solid investment with a lot of space for future appreciation.
In 10 years from 2012 to 2022 the average price of a property in Canmore doubled. And although – like in every market - there can be ups and downs in the short run, I am very confident of a further increase of real property value in Canmore over time.
When people move to Calgary, they are doing so in search of a job. But people who are coming to Canmore are looking for a lifestyle. And the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, the proximity to Banff National Park but also to Calgary with all it’s infrastructure, the mountains, the river, lakes, 4 ski resorts nearby, all of that is not going to change.
During the COVID pandemic, demand for housing around Canmore soared even more and with the new possibilities of remote working, we are seeing that buyers from Ontario and BC are now also taking an interest in Canmore and Alberta in search of a solid investment.
Despite a surge of Canada’s interest rate, the biggest challenge for the Canmore real estate market these days is not a lack of qualified buyers but a lack of inventory.
Cost of living in Canmore
There is unfortunately also a flipside to those high prices in Real Estate. Affordability of housing is a severe challenge for workers in the Aspen area and Canmore is facing the same problem.
Canmore’s population has been climbing steadily over the last five years — since 2016, the town has seen a 14.3 per cent increase in the overall population, outpacing both the provincial and Canadian average.
We are now one of the fastest growing small urban centres in Canada, according to recent census data but Canmore also has the highest cost of living in the province. While the numbers suggest Canmore is an attractive place to live, the lack of supply of housing exacerbates the cost of housing and the challenge in delivering new supply to the market.
Hospitality remains the town's biggest industry, which drives the need for affordable homes for workers.
To be able to sustain a healthy representation of people of all ages and stages, Canmore Council has made more affordable housing one of their major focal points. It’s a challenging but important task.
THOMAS KRAUSE – CanmoreThomas – is REALTOR with RE/MAX Alpine Realty in
Canmore. Contact Thomas with all your Real Estate questions: CanmoreThomas.com
This blog was first published in CanmoreAlberta.com. Thank you for the feature!