Area realtors say Highlands in a balanced market
by Darren Lum
Published Sept. 3, 2019
After close to three strong years, the Haliburton Highlands real estate market is stabilizing, several area realtors say. This past month, sales in Haliburton County were down seven per cent (five sales) while listings were up by 30 per cent, or 76 more listings, according to the Haliburton County Market Statistics for July, provided by the Lakelands Association of Realtors.
The Lakelands Association of Realtors is a not-for-profit professional association representing more than 800 local realtors, who serve the Parry Sound, Muskoka, Haliburton Highlands and Orillia communities.
More listings results in longer average days on the market, which is a nearly 20 per cent increase year-to-date compared to last year.
Anthony vanLieshout, a broker of record for the Trillium Team, Royal LePage Lakes of Haliburton, said it’s related to affordability.
“Our average prices have gone up 40 to 50 per cent in the last three-and-a-half years. At some point as the prices go up, fewer and fewer people can afford it, so you have fewer and fewer sales. I think that’s what it is. All of a sudden your [$350,000] cottage is now $500,000,” he said, referring to both waterfront and non-waterfront properties.
The national picture revealed by the Canadian Real Estate Association indicated a 3.5 per cent increase in sales. In the same report, the Canadian MLS reported home sales went up for the fifth consecutive month, which was still below the highs reached in 2016 and 2017.
Linda Baumgartner, a broker with The Haliburton Real Estate Team, said when it comes to Haliburton County’s non-waterfront residential properties, the period from July 2018 to July 2019 experienced a 4.8 per cent drop in unit sales (one unit less – 21 to 20) and an 18.1 per cent increase for the median sale price, which increased from $210,000 to $247,950.
Sales were also down for waterfront properties (8.5 per cent) and the median sale price dropped slightly by one per cent or from $480,000 to $475,000: statistics from The Lakelands Association of Realtors for Haliburton County.
“There has been quite the demand for residential properties this past year. First-time home buyers, newly retired couples and children moving back to Haliburton to be closer to their parents,” she wrote in an email.
Baumgartner, a broker with 31 years of experience, said the stabilization of the market is just part of a 10 year cycle.
“We have experienced a very robust market over the past [two-and-a-half] years. Historic trends show approximately every 10 years there is a boom which lasts two years then we see a correction in the market and values,” she wrote.
Baumgartner said the area is moving from a seller’s market to a more “balanced market.”
“There is still demand, but there is now more properties for buyers to choose from. I predict we will be seeing less multiple offers and a wider spread between list price and sale price. There are a lot of price reductions happening right now. If a property is priced right it will still sell though,” she wrote.
Buyers in the market include more than just Millennials, vanLieshout said.
“We see a little bit of everything. I just sold a place on Halls Lake, a really nice, year-round home to a couple, who don’t own a house in the city. Recently married, both working in the city. They’re going to rent in Toronto and claim this is their principal residence. We’re seeing that. Millennials inheriting money and we’re seeing people coming in and financing their existing dwelling, maybe their property in Toronto because they have a lot of built-in equity they can finance to purchase a cottage. We’ve seen that for a long time.”
VanLieshout said this past summer’s weather has been ideal. Although weather doesn’t influence purchasing, it does encourage more people to visit the area, which is good for everyone and could lead to a property purchase in the future, he said.
“A lot of the buyers have been introduced to Haliburton through friends, families, rentals ... fall in love with the area and as a result of that have decided to purchase something. That’s a common theme,” he said.
VanLieshout has been a realtor for 34 years, 23 years in Haliburton, starting when he bought the company from his father in 1996.
The big difference since he started in the Highlands is the trend of year-round residence use. With more dual-income families, there can be less time to spend at the cottage during the summer months, which leads to more year-round use.
Andrew Hodgson, broker and co-owner of Century 21 Granite Realty Group Ltd. since 2006 with his wife, Anne, said he experienced another strong year, comparing the first six months this year to the first six months of last year, which indicated similar sales numbers.
“Slow spring. Good summer. Short-term rentals are a big part of it. People wanting to be able to offset costs and current renters wanting to buy. They are introduced to our area. Growth of GTA an ongoing positive factor and still driven by boomers wanting to retire here. Positive story all over!” he wrote in an email.
Greg McInnes, a sales representative with Chestnut Park Real Estate Cottage Country Team, said we’re in “what would be considered a balanced market.”
The sales representative with more than nine years of real estate experience described the period of 2016 to 2018 as “good years for the Haliburton real estate market.”
There was a boom over the past few years with 2017 as a “banner year.”
This contrasts to the national picture where many markets experienced market corrections and saw housing prices drop.
Average sales prices for waterfront properties for the area from 2016 to 2018 increased close to 30 per cent. Those years were defined as a seller’s market.
He describes the market as a “mixed bag” due to “market variables, market segment and price point at which you are looking.” He said this is a good reason to enlist the services of an agent to help.
When compared to other cottage markets, McInnes said Haliburton is doing better and “overall prices are still at or close to an all-time high” so it’s a good time to sell for anyone interested.
With Muskoka and the Lake of Bays close by, the Haliburton Highlands is an attractive option for those interested in more than just saving money.
McInnes said many buyers are drawn to the “Muskoka Big Three” lakes or Lake of Bays and the amenities available in those areas, including their social scenes. However they come with a higher price tag.
“That said, more people are becoming aware of the Haliburton Highlands and all that it has to offer and for those looking for a quiet escape in beautiful natural surroundings, clean, clear lakes, a multitude of recreational activities, and good value for your money, there is no better place than the Haliburton Highlands.”
Hodgson said it always helps the area when prices on Muskoka properties go up.
He isn’t sure about the 10 per cent increase to prices continuing, but said the Highlands is well positioned, with access to this area improving due to upgrades to roads, the quality of the lakes and towns, and buyers coming from the GTA, where the value of detached homes is increasing, as is the population.
“We are in a good position now and in the future,” he wrote.