‘They are buying everything’: Cottage sales surge by as much as 25 per cent as Torontonians flee the city
All those warnings from small cottage country mayors to stay away this spring haven’t discouraged Torontonians from hunting for vacation homes, say realtors in the resort destinations outside the city.
Some say the pandemic is boosting business as urbanites seek a change of scene in less populated communities, finally secure in the knowledge that the boss is OK with working from home.
The lockdown made people stir crazy, said real estate broker Treat Hull in Prince Edward County east of Toronto, which has been attracting tourists, retirees and telecommuters, with its wineries, internet service and home prices at half the cost of the city.
Hull said COVID-19 deepened the pool of potential home buyers beyond the lawyers and knowledge workers because suddenly it has become acceptable to make a big presentation or sales proposal on video chat.
“Now, not only can you work from home, you can sell from home. I think that’s the breakthrough,” he said.
North of the city, prices have been climbing all spring but they were up 10.5 per cent in June over May, said Catharine Inniss, of Johnston and Daniel in Port Carling in Muskoka.
“People are coming up in droves. They are buying everything,” she said.
“COVID brought home that (people) wanted more space. Also employers are embracing telecommuting much more now that they know it works just fine,” said Inniss, who is the president of the Lakelands Association of Realtors.
Even the recent stock market turmoil has helped, she said.
“People are deciding it’s a much safer bet to invest in real estate. You can enjoy your money in real estate,” said Inniss.
Lake Simcoe real estate was sizzling at the start of 2020, even with 2.5 ft. of ice on the water, said Barrie based realtor Rick Laferriere of Re/MAX Hallmark Chay Realty. His business, based entirely on waterfront properties, went cold the last two weeks of March but then the phones started ringing again.
Laferriere said the first six months of the year saw a 25 per cent year over year increase in sales and he says it’s all “healthy” family business compared to recent years when buyers were purchasing lakefront homes to earn short-term rental income.
With no day camp or sleepaway camps for their kids, “a lot of families that are just biting the bullet,” he said.
Normally after Canada Day, the real estate season starts to slow, but the pandemic appears to have stalled and sped up the usual spring search for vacation homes, said Troy Austen, of Re/MAX Team Haliburton Highlands.
As city folks hunt for year-round homes in cottage country, the Ontario government’s commitment to high speed internet in rural areas, can’t come soon enough, he said.
Austen said buyers, who can’t travel, can’t send their kids to camp and are afraid to ride the elevator to their condo, are looking for a sandy beach, sunset views and internet — not necessarily in that order.
The 57.5 per cent year over year drop in waterfront home inventory in June and a 47 per cent increase in sales, means many properties are selling with multiple offers.
“If you want to know what your place is worth, just wait for the next week,” he said.
As for the warnings for cottagers to stay away for fear of overwhelming rural health care systems, Austen said many cottage owners took no notice. Now, those people are bored and working on their properties with 2x4s selling out at the lumber store and a run on hot tubs.
“For a long time you could fire a cannon up the street,” said Austen. “Last week, starting on Wednesday, you can’t even drive through town any more.”