By Connor Lynch
DUNVEGAN — Interest in rural homes in the last two months has been unprecedented in real estate agent Sylvain Lalonde’s 32-year career. The Dunvegan-based Sutton Group realtor figures the pandemic has made rural living tremendously attractive.
“Nobody tells me why they’re buying in the country,” but everyone seems to want to, Lalonde said. Some rural homes are getting over a dozen offers and he knows of one property at Limoges, 35 km east of urban Ottawa, that sold for $90,000 over its asking price.
“This is happening on almost every offer,” he said. “There’s lots of frustration for the buyers.”
Real estate agent and broker of record with Century 21 Ralph Shaw says the rural market caught fire in April, shortly after COVID-19 lockdowns kicked in. Offices from Perth to Smith Falls to Carleton Place to Almonte have seen huge uptick in interest, he said. “I’ve never seen this in 40 years (in the business).”
Multiple offers are coming in on properties, they’re selling for more and spending much less time on the market, he said. Property values went up as much as 15 per cent in the last few months, he said. From Kingston to Renfrew, 80 per cent of waterfront was going to Toronto buyers, he said. In fact, there’s been so much interest from Toronto buyers that properties are getting listed on the Toronto Real Estate Board, he said. It takes time and money from the brokers to do that, he said, but it’s worth it.
At least two waterfront properties on River Road, along the Rideau River, south of urban Ottawa, recently sold for about $20,000 above the asking price, according to an area resident.
Even for those waterfront properties, the first question buyers ask might be surprising. “How’s the internet?” Good-quality internet, in a climate where working from home is normal or even encouraged, means employment opportunities. Said Shaw: “It’s as critical as road access.”
President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board, Deborah Burgoyne, said the organization is still compiling solid numbers. But as a realtor herself, she’s seeing huge interest in cottage country, mostly near-retirees looking for a slower pace of life, and young families.
COVID-19 hasn’t created the interest, she said, but certainly it seems to have heightened it. She added that with so many offices being closed and people working remotely, often with kids at home, having more space at home seems much more attractive, while the dread of a long commute diminishes.
An Ontario Real Estate Association online survey published last month found that since the pandemic hit almost three out of five Ontarians active in the retail market feel better about living in a rural areas.