The geographical area comprising the city of Hawkesbury and municipalities of Champlain and East Hawkesbury experienced a busy real estate market through this pandemic. Serviced by three major national franchise brokerage firms and two family-type firms, employing over thirty brokers and sales representatives, the local market generated a lot of action and business this past year. In order to get a clear picture of the situation, we reached two brokerage firms and contacted four local real estate agents: EXIT MATRIX Tanya Myre and Iannick Champagne, and SÉGUIN REALTY Carole Séguin and Francis Roy for their assessment of the local market through this unusual 2020.
But first, before getting into local specifics, let’s see what the provincial picture looks like; according to the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), sales were up 5.3% from the same period in 2019; but where the sting comes if you are in the process of buying a property is that prices have increased by 15.3% from the same period in 2019; the national average increase in Canada was in the same 15% range. Sales of all property types in the Eastern Ontario district in 2020 numbered over 24,000 units, an increase of 1.2% over 2019, at an average price of $481,678.
All four professionals we interviewed agreed: ‘A major upheaval of historical proportions’ is their consensus. A mob of unexpected buyers from large urban areas, especially from Southern Ontario, invaded the local markets, urban and rural, thus creating a higher demand for properties they were willing to and financially able to invest in, thus also bringing the prices above their ‘normal local’ value: properties sold much faster than usual, sometimes within 48 hours, often with multiple offers attached. ‘The ‘supply and demand’ rule applied in full force, commented Ms. Séguin and Mr. Roy; when our inventory of properties and our bank of potential buyers don’t even up, this unbalance creates a domino effect and properties become more expensive because more buyers have more funds to invest in securing the purchase of the exact home they want and can afford.’ Ms. Myre adds a personal touch: ‘I feel sorry for our local buyers, sometimes first-time buyers or couples with young families: they can’t compete financially or have to downgrade to a more affordable property…’ Mr. Champagne points out that the number of properties sold locally in 2020 is almost identical to 2019, standing at more or less 350, distributed almost evenly between urban, semi-urban and rural; since he owns an inter-provincial license for the province of Québec, he adds that the situation is the same across the border in the Argenteuil county and that cottage country in hot beyond expectations, especially the St. Sauveur area.
New prospective customers were mostly middle-aged and opted to take advantage of the Covid situation to downsize or to move out of red-zone large urban settings; and since the trend of working-remotely from home will probably carry on after Covid and may become a new norm, they would be able to avoid long commutes and costs attached; but one ‘essential’ they are all inquiring about is good-quality internet, which becomes as critical as road access when you are conducting business from home.
Our four professionals agreed that the business of conducting normal sales was impossible and not-recommended by OREA: normal house visits, open-houses, any other in-person activity were ill-advised and unacceptable by sellers who were trying to keep their confinement 100% secure. Virtual tours became the norm, virtual interviews with customers, mortgage arrangements, conditional sales, delayed house inspections in some cases. New procedures to address the situation were quick to be established by different real estate boards and brokerage offices.
Two factors that may help first-time local buyers to purchase their first property were then discussed: mortgage rate as low as 0,99% and a new subdivision of mixed single-family and semi-detached homes in the village of Vankleek Hill. ‘Such rates are unbelievable! Last year’s rates were around 3%; it may make a great difference between affordability or not for people with a limited budget,’ says Ms. Séguin. ‘As far as the Vankleek Hill housing subdivision is concerned, I am convinced these properties will sell in a flash!’ adds Ms. Myre.
As for projections into 2021 and beyond, Mr. Champagne concluded that Hawkesbury developers should be required to market the land they own in order for the municipality to grow, to attract new industries, new employers, new residents; building lots are scarce, so the price of serviced building lots is at a premium. Within two years, provided vaccination is successful in controlling the pandemic, the real estate situation should become more stable. And you will finally get to meet your new neighbors from Toronto, from Windsor, from Oshawa, from…
Wherever you are from, we wish you a warm welcome among us; Montreal is only an hour drive away, so is Ottawa, so is Cornwall and the USA border, so are the Laurentians and Mont-Tremblant outdoor sports facilities and jet set crowds; we are in the very heart of it all and you won’t have any regrets. This is our warranty!