In a region composed of vast open prairie, it is no surprise that ranching became the first major occupation of Alberta. For decades, farming has been the focal point of Alberta's economy. However, Alberta's rural landscape changed over the course of the 20th century as people relocated to the city in search of employment and education opportunities.
Rural real estate has not been immune to the booms and busts so prevalent throughout the 20th century in Alberta's urban centres. The rural real estate industry has had to deal with many of the same issues including land usage, building preservation and environmentalism.
As cities continue to sprawl they consume not only valuable agricultural land but also the buildings that helped shape Alberta's pioneering roots. Moreover, the shift of population from rural to urban centres has left many towns and villages with largely abandoned main streets. The Alberta Main Street Programme, introduced in 1987 by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and Alberta Community Development's Heritage Resource Management Branch, provides financial aid toward the rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings. The initiative has been instrumental in revitalizing towns and spurring the local real estate industry.
Post-wartime land development changed considerably due to the creation of 'earth-moving' machines. This type of equipment enabled post-war builders to consider any and all types of land for development. Such industrial development facilitated, among other things, an eruption in urban sprawl and a decrease in open space areas. The environment, as a result, took most of the brunt. In the US and Canada, hundreds of thousands of acres of bogs, woods, streams, wetlands and farmlands were destroyed in the name of urban and, particularly suburban growth. Developers simply failed to consider green spaces in laying out their sprawl designs. As a result, the environment became much more fragile and vulnerable due to human intrusion which fragmented ecological habitats and removed natural barriers against flooding and drought.
These are some of the issues that members of the real estate industry must consider when entering the specialty field of rural real estate. The concept of specialty licensing is that real estate industry members should have thorough knowledge and training in the area in which they wish to practice. Consumers expect industry members to have the appropriate knowledge and experience to assist them in a real estate transaction, whether that transaction involves residential, commercial, farm/ranch or property management activities.
Farm real estate translates into property that is located outside of a city, town, village, or hamlet and that is used or will be used for the purpose of farming. Thus, the skills and knowledge an industry member possesses may vary considerably from an industry member who works solely in the city. Specialization becomes key in the real estate industry as industry members share their knowledge of the rural real estate market with their respective clients.
Real Estate Council of Alberta. “ Discussion Paper: Specialty Licencing ” in Publications and Resources, 2006.