Demand for real estate in the Highlands growing in wake of COVID-19
By Jenn Watt
Cottage owners looking to sell their property this summer should have little trouble doing so, with strong demand in the Haliburton Highlands and throughout the region.
Several factors have converged to make buying property in cottage country even more appealing than usual including low interest rates, better services and with the arrival of COVID-19, a getaway outside of the GTA.
Andrew Hodgson, broker of record/owner of Century 21 Granite Realty Group, said June has been incredibly busy.
“June is as hot of a market as I’ve seen in 14 years I’ve been in the business. Really hot,” he said. Prices are up 12 per cent over last year, he added. So far, there aren’t many properties on the market. “People were very much hesitant to list their properties early. Now they know the market’s rolling, you’re seeing lots of listings start to come on.”
Hodgson said the year started slow, especially through March and April, thanks to a chilling effect from the coronavirus.
“Mostly because people didn’t think we’d have any market, so why would they put their cottage on the market? They didn’t know people could show [the property]; early days of COVID there was obviously a lot of fear,” he said, adding that many people also decided to use their property to get out of the city when COVID-19 self-isolation recommendations first came into place.
Depending on what is measured, local real estate agents say sales are up substantially for the month of June 2020 over June 2019, anywhere from 50 to nearly 70 per cent.
The Lakelands Association of Realtors, which represents 800 realtors across the cottage country region including Bracebridge, Huntsville, Orillia, and the Haliburton Highlands, shows waterfront sales at 360 for June, up from 194 in May – the highest they’ve been in at least three years.
“We had a very slow start to the season, but as June numbers suggest, the market’s been very, very robust, and equally interesting is active listings for the end of June compared to the same time last year is down by 51 per cent for residential units and down by 25 per cent for vacant land,” said Anthony vanLieshout, broker of record for Trillium Team Royal LePage Lakes of Haliburton.
“We’ve seen this June surge in sales with very little inventory and as a result we’ve had upward pressure on prices.”
COVID-19 has played an obvious role in the upswing in the market, real estate agents agree. Melanie Hevesi, broker at RE/MAX Professionals North, said it can be easier to weather the restrictions from the pandemic in the Highlands than it would be in a more urban setting.
“I feel that COVID is playing a role in the increase. We typically have an active spring and summer for waterfront property sales, but this year, I think having a cottage is even more attractive to people so they have a place to go, out of the city, and be able to get outside and take part in recreational activities that they don’t have access to at home, with everything being closed down,” she said.
Hodgson said he’s watched the community grow over the years and become busier and more diversified. He predicts that interest in locating to the Highlands will only continue to grow.
“We have more services, we have more things for people to do, that’s because we have new people coming in. It’s going to demand more services from our governments, it’s going to demand better roads, but we’re going to [have] bigger tax bases every year,” he said, calling the change positive.
A side effect of the self-isolation required from COVID-19 has been that many workers, and their employers, are learning how much can be done from home. As long as internet connectivity continues to improve in the area, growth in real estate could come in part from people choosing to telecommute.
Add that to the other factors attracting people to the Highlands, and vanLieshout said he expects demand to continue to be strong.
“Overall, based on COVID-19 highlighting the sense of people wanting some elbow room and some space, highlighting the ability to be able to work from home, combined with aging demographics, baby boomers, proximity of services getting closer and closer: the future of Haliburton County is very, very bright,” he said.