COVID-19 has been causing dynamic changes and a frenzy of activity across the Canadian real-estate market. The pandemic saw Canadians evaluate what the meaning of home meant to them, and, for some, they finally had the freedom to make a change. The result is a market from coast to coast that has limited inventory, rising prices and shifts in buyer priorities when it comes to amenities and location. With no signs of slowing down, the market uptick and tight inventory are anticipated to continue into 2021.
At the onset of summer, the “new normal” for work situations became clear for most, ranging from remote work being declared as a long-term measure to being notified of a return to work at a later date to, for many, being told of their need to seek new employment. This is when we really started to see a major shift in activity. At the rise of COVID-19, the home truly became the focal point of life: the office, recreation space, gym, classroom and more. For some, there was no longer a need to live within a reasonable commuting distance of the office. They could easily continue their work from wherever they were in the world, requiring only strong WiFi and cell-phone reception. It was at this point that we started to witness well-priced homes receiving multiple offers and buyers entering bidding wars. Homes began flying off the market, and high-priced vacation rentals and second homes within driving distance of major cities also became much-sought-after commodities.
Here, we explore some of the prominent markets in Canada, from east to west, and what we can expect in the coming months.
The Toronto real-estate market has been trending upward over the last decade. In Ontario’s capital, buyers seeking luxury properties have primarily been focused on lifestyle when looking for their next investment. With much travel abroad on pause for the foreseeable future and many professionals balancing work and family life from home, features such as a home office, outdoor recreational space, pool and family media room have become increasingly important in today’s search criteria. During the late spring and summer of the pandemic, homes in the most desirable neighbourhoods of the city sold in a matter of days.
“The Toronto high-end real-estate market has proven resilient in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Peter Torkan, managing partner of The Agency Toronto. “Demand has been driven by extremely low inventory, low interest rates and a refreshed emphasis on the lifestyle a property offers to accommodate this new normal.”
Torkan and the managing partner of The Agency Kitchener-Waterloo Region, Steve Bailey, recently brought a home1 to market in Oakville, Ontario, that has a UV (ultraviolet) closet by the mudroom for disinfecting outdoor apparel, packages and any other items right as you come in the door. The demand for an “Amazon room” is centred around a desire to keep the home as healthy and safe as possible, and these days, that starts at the entrance. The agents say this feature alone has generated a lot of early interest in the property.
Another property2 that is generating a lot of buzz is just a 30-minute drive from downtown Toronto but offers plenty of possibility for a newly built mansion on 2.6 acres. Torkan is also representing this property and says the potential of a new-build value could be up to C$45 million. Meanwhile, Bailey joins Liam Hope in bringing another unique property3 to market. This gated estate is perfect for avoiding the airport crowds during the pandemic as it comes replete with an airplane hangar and runway. At just under $5 million, the stunning manse with sprawling grounds is drawing the attention of city dwellers with pilot’s licenses eager to enjoy some room to roam.
In addition to the Toronto market remaining strong, the suburban regions of Ontario, including the Waterloo, Cambridge and Kitchener areas, also witnessed record activity during the pandemic. Despite the recent strength in Canada’s urban markets, there’s a strong sense that if remote work becomes a more permanent option, homeowners will continue to look outside large cities for more square footage and accessible green spaces. As a result of COVID-19, many sought the opportunity to stay at their cottages or second properties outside of the city of Toronto as safe and more spacious options during the pandemic. As a result, Ontario’s suburban neighbourhoods experienced an unprecedented number of high-end sales with multiple offers on the majority of the properties.
“Affluent buyers finally found the time to shop for and make the move they had likely been thinking about for a while, but the time had never seemed right,” explained Steve Bailey, managing partner of The Agency Kitchener-Waterloo Region. “The pandemic served as a catalyst for change. In addition, with many companies going remote well into 2021, the demand to be in major cities declined significantly, and many sought properties for rent and purchase in desirable areas outside of cities where they can enjoy added space and amenities.”
Moving west to British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada, the residential property market continues to rebound from its initial COVID-19 slump. Across BC, like most of Canada, there has been an increased demand for more living space. This combined with an undersupplied market has produced a significant upward trajectory in home prices, especially in the single-family home market.
Victoria has long been a sought-after second-home region, especially as it is within close proximity of major metropolitan areas such as Vancouver and Seattle. Located on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is often considered one of the best places to live, work and retire in Canada. With this in mind, many decided to relocate entirely or rent a property for a longer-lease term in this region for the foreseeable future.
“COVID made people look at every facet of their life, and what’s truly important to them,” said Jason Binab, managing partner of The Agency British Columbia. “The Victoria real-estate market is no exception, with the ultra-high-end market really picking up, along with recreational properties. Additionally, we’ve experienced an increased trend of people seeking larger homes or even downsizing, depending on what they truly found was necessary for their home situation during the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Binab just brought to market a home4 in Victoria that boasts amazing views of Gonzales Bay and is fully renovated from top to bottom. He says a move-in ready home is something that buyers want right now. They want the ease of just being able to move right in and make themselves at home, as opposed to worrying about permits, construction and all that home renovations entail.
Further north of Victoria in British Columbia’s Cowichan Valley, the COVID-19 influx of interest in this market has been no different. Cowichan Valley offers a laid-back lifestyle with many of the cultural and entertainment offerings you’d expect in a cosmopolitan city. From first-class wineries and award-winning craft breweries to fine dining and excellent independent schools, Cowichan Valley has wonderful appeal with a truly rural feeling. Not to mention, in just 20 minutes by seaplane, you can be in downtown Vancouver. People have sought out property in this region, given the unique lifestyle it provides.
“Community and the value of neighbours make the Cowichan Valley a special place to live, work and play,” asserted Brian Danyliw, managing partner of The Agency British Columbia. “With the added benefit of attractive property prices, buyers get way more bang for their buck than in the large urban centres. With the market being so hot, there is a limited supply of luxury properties, and we don’t anticipate it to slow down anytime soon.”
From Ontario to British Columbia, COVID-19 is accelerating change across Canada’s real-estate market. From more amenities to added space for the whole family to live, work and play from home, there has been unprecedented activity in Canada’s second-home markets, which ultimately offer a higher quality of life and more value. The Canadian housing market is expected to remain active into 2021 due to pent-up demand and low inventory levels caused by the global pandemic.
1The Agency: Listing – 160 Pinehurst Drive, Oakville, Ontario L6J 4W8
2The Agency: Listing – 21 High Point Road, Toronto, Ontario M3B 2A3
3TheAgency: Listing – 341 Mountsberg Road, Flamborough, Ontario L0P1B0
4The Agency: Listing – 127 Barkley Terrace, Victoria, British Columbia V8S 2J5