With about four million website hits and its phone ringing off the hook, the RM of Pipestone is reasonably assured of making a quick $24.
Posting 24 residential lots for sale at the price of one loonie apiece, with the dream of small-town living in Reston thrown in has hit a chord across the continent and even overseas, said Reeve Ross Tycoles.
Cheap lots is the door crasher, but the safety and serenity of a smaller town life is also part of the lure, he said. This region has jobs in its booming oil sector too.
“We’ve had a lot of interest out of Calgary and from larger centres like Toronto,” he said. “We’ve had calls out of the country, from the U.S and from overseas.”
Every one of the 24 serviced lots on offer was spoken for as of last week. They’ll know later this month whether people are serious, the reeve said.
This isn’t the first time a Manitoba town has had a publicity coup for selling $1 lots. Rossburn did the same thing in 1993, when it placed an ad in the Toronto Sun. Even in those pre-digital days, word spread like wildfire and they had tens of thousands of inquiries, recalls Rossburn Mayor Shirley Kalyniuk.
“It was a very exciting time for us,” she recalls. Nearly 200 families visited Rossburn and they actually had 16 families move in for a while. Today six families who were part of that micro-migration still live there.
But they never had any takers on nine lots available for a buck.
Rossburn couldn’t afford the costs to extend Hydro and water and sewer to them in those days, said Kalyniuk. They’ve since forked over about $100,000 to service them. But the lots remain unsold to this day.
“It didn’t work for us,” she said, adding that they’re still trying to figure new ways to market the properties. Even if they do sell them, however, it will take years to recoup the investment they’ve made to service them. That’s her caution to other municipalities considering the cheap lot tactic, she added.
“It takes a long time to recoup that money if you’re selling your lots that cheaply. ”
But the RM of Pipestone is in a different position financially, said Tycoles.
“We’re fortunate to have oil royalties and we’ve put them back into doing this,” he said. “We’ve paid for it and taxation will cover the services that these people want.”
The plan is to develop and service 13 additional lots that will become available in nearby Cromer next spring, he added.
Those wanting to qualify for the $1 lot deal must submit a written offer and a $1,000 deposit. They then have 90 days to build a foundation and 12 months to complete construction of their home. If they can do that, they’ll get a $990 refund on their $1,000 deposit.
That’s to keep the speculators out, said Tycoles. “We’re clear up front on what this is and what you’ve got to do,” he said.
Tycoles said the RM wants something to show after the oil boom, which is running in high gear on top of some of the largest oil reserves in the province, comes to its inevitable end. The region badly needs long-term population stabilization and growth, he said.
“Our long-term plan is to attract more people. The long-term hope is that when the oil industry leaves we will have a good municipality with a good solid base.”