This week, real estate agent Alexis Victor will give residents of a small town on the east side of Lake Simcoe their first taste of a phenomenon that Toronto real estate buyers know all too well: Ms. Victor is setting an offer date for her newest listing.
The architect-designed house on the main channel in Lagoon City is an area landmark, she says, but nevertheless, she believes the strategy has never been tried in the community built on canals north of Toronto.
So what’s the reaction when she tells other local agents her plan?
“Shock,” Ms. Victor says. “All eyes are on me right now, all over town.”
Ms. Victor is listing the seven-bedroom house locals have dubbed the “Flying Nun” with an asking price of $1.2-million.
Her target market is the cadre of people streaming out of Toronto during the coronavirus pandemic. Many will expect a bidding war for their city home and they won’t hesitate to enter competition in cottage country, she figures.
Multiple offers have begun popping up for high-end Muskoka cottages already.
The health crisis was still a distant threat to most Torontonians when she sold her own semi-detached house near High Park in February. By the time she closed the deal on a three-acre property at the north end of Lake Couchiching, the city was under a state of emergency.
“We moved on April 4th,” she says. “The following Wednesday they actually shut down the moving company.”
Many people have been asking Ms. Victor if she has a crystal ball.
But she already knew from her own circle in Toronto that a lot of people were feeling the strain of massive mortgages and tiresome commutes. The ability to live mortgage-free was appealing even before work-from-home became the norm.
Her previous career in advertising gave her experience in projecting trends.
“My whole strategy when I got into real estate was bringing city buyers to the country,” says Ms. Victor, of Royal LePage Signature Realty.
When Ontario all but shut down in the spring, people had time to stay home and think about a new lifestyle, she says. “That’s when I started to get calls from all of my old ad colleagues,” she says. “People say, ‘I could take my foot off the gas.’ ”
Ms. Victor grew up in the area around Lake Simcoe and she knows what to look for in a rural or lakefront property.
High-speed internet access is at the top of the list of needs for people who plan to continue working, she says. Some country properties have strong WiFi and some areas barely get a cell signal, let alone WiFi.
Even a stand of trees can block transmission, says Ms. Victor, who recommends bringing in a local service provider before purchasing a house.
“Every property’s different when it comes to getting a signal,” she says.
People who do want to stay in Toronto are making changes as well, says real estate agent Davelle Morrison of Bosley Real Estate Ltd.
“It just seems like people have been cooped up for three months, they’re making up plans in their head,” she says. “Decisions that would have taken years, people are doing right away.”
Whether they’re moving from a small condo to a larger one or a condo to a house, people want more space indoors and out, she says. They also want more light.
If they can’t afford to trade up, they’re appealing to the “bank of mom and dad,” she says.
“People are definitely calling parents a lot more often – no matter their ages.”
Ms. Morrison says she has been somewhat surprised at the heat in the Toronto market this summer, but she figures people want to get on with their lives before the uncertainty of the fall. She’s advising her own clients to list now if they’re thinking about selling.
Robert Hogue, senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada, notes in a recent report that people continued to pour into the market in July across much of the country.
“Buyers who bided their time at the height of the pandemic clearly have played catch-up these past couple of months, displacing the spring season into the summer,” he says. “But so have sellers.”
Mr. Hogue expects July’s vigour to continue in August – and perhaps September.
“We believe there’s still some pent-up demand left to satisfy,” he says.
In the Greater Toronto Area, sales gained 29.5 per cent in July compared with July, 2019, data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board shows.
New listings in the GTA swelled 24.7 per cent in July from the same month last year.
The high demand pushed the average selling price up 16.9 per cent from the same time last year to a record $943,710.
“Supply has not kept up with demand,” Mr. Hogue says. “We estimate the GTA swung back into a position favouring sellers.”
Mr. Hogue says that Toronto-area buyers were particularly keen for houses in the suburbs. Sales of detached houses in the 905 area code soared 48.3 per cent and the average price increased 14 per cent in July from the same time last year.
Condo apartments, meanwhile saw sales rise a more tepid 4.7 per cent in the core and 11.7 per cent in the 905 in the same period.
Condo prices rose 8.8 per cent, on average, in the 416 area code and 10.6 per cent in the 905 on a year-over-year basis.
Looking ahead, Mr. Hogue cautions that the phasing out of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other financial support programs, high unemployment and lower immigration will likely cool housing demand later this year.
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