A seller’s market in the Highlands

By Jenn Watt

Published March 14 2018

A surging market in the Greater TorontoArea coupled with increased desirability of the Haliburton Highlands and cottage country in general has elevated prices in the regionlocal real estate professionals say.

Add to that a reduction in supply andbuyers need to be quick on their feet to capture the property oftheir dreams.

“Overall inventory is low in allcategories: cottages waterfront homes residential. So we still areexperiencing a seller’s market. Supply is low demand is high. Alot of places are selling within a week” says Linda Baumgartnerbroker at RE/MAX North Country Realty.

Property both on the water and off soldmore quickly in 2017 than the year before.

Baumgartner says last year forwaterfront property the average number of days on the market was 43.In 2016 that average was 69. For residential properties not on thewater in 2017 the average number of days on the market was 48. Theyear before: 65.

Andrew Hodgson broker/owner of Century21 Granite Realty Group Ltd. says he’s seen prices climbing in theregion. In his 11th year selling real estate he says what was onceconsidered expensive is now becoming average.

He says 2017 was “an extraordinary”year for real estate in terms of prices.

“Our average price for Haliburton foron-water went up 20 per cent. That was from year to year” he says.Off water went up 10 per cent.

Statistics provided by local brokers and The Lakelands Association of Realtors shows average sales price of non-waterfront residential listings in 2017 just below $240000. The average sale price for waterfront property in 2017 was more than $500000. Average sale prices can vary significantly between municipalities.

Melanie Hevesi broker at RE/MAX NorthCountry Realty Inc. says the low supply has likely contributed tothe higher prices.

“Total property sales were down 10.7per cent from 2016 but average sales prices were up” she says.“Lower sales totals is presumably due to the lower inventorynumbers … which also may explain the higher than average priceincreases seen over the years.”

Waterfront makes up the majority ofHevesi’s sales but she says there is still a strong residentialmarket.

“Last year in particular with thepricing of homes in the GTA seeing record highs we did have a sharpincrease in baby boomers cashing out of their GTA properties andbuying homes in the Haliburton area to retire here” she says.“But as always there are still a lot of clients looking in theHaliburton area for family cottages.”

Karen Nimigon broker with Century 21Granite Realty Group Ltd. says expectations of cottagers haschanged but so have the villages that support them.

“Five years ago were people goingand spending extra dollars on lattes and treats and nice lunches andthings like that?” she asks. “Now it’s our norm.”

The Highlands now supports higher endfood and drink options than it once did along with new shops in bothMinden and Haliburton.

“That lifestyle is actually whatcottage buyers are looking for" Nimigon says. "They’re looking for a cottagethat’s turn-key. The cottage that [they] don’t come up everyweekend and slave away … They want family and enjoyment. They wanta more balanced lifestyle between family and work.”

Hodgson agrees.

“They want privacy they want qualityof lakes they want a quality community they want decentrestaurants” he says.

Nimigon says many of the new communitymembers are moving up from Toronto Hamilton Oakville and Oshawaareas and noted that the addition of condominiums in the area hasprovided another option for buyers.

Peter Brady broker/owner at TrophyProperty Corp. says the condos he is involved with have met ademand in the market.

“Our four condominium projects willbe home to almost 200 people who have chosen to stay in HaliburtonCounty with their friends their families and their physicians” hesays. “The sale of their previous homes have opened up places intown and on the waterfronts for new families. So a net gain ofperhaps 400 to 500 people here.”

Haliburton is home to two completedcondo buildings Granite Cove and Granite View and Minden has one:The Newcastle. A new project is underway in Haliburton calledWallings Way which is on Head Lake.

“[There is] continued interest in newcondominium lifestyle [with] more boomers relocating to purchase orstart small businesses” Brady says.

One benefit of the Highlands is thatits name recognition has improved in recent years but it is stillaffordable.

“[It’s] still perceived as lower [cost] more reasonable affordable area” he says.

While the Muskokas were once seen asthe top choice for cottage property local real estate professionals saythat perspective is changing.

“[Buyers are] seeingthey can get so much more for their money than they’re getting overin the Muskokas” says Baumgartner. “Our taxes are lower ourlakes might not be as large but it doesn’t seem to curtail theaverage buyer.”

Properties are also seen as aninvestment.

“With many getting priced out of theGTA market we are noticing some of those buyers turning their focusto cottage country and buying recreational properties” Hevesisays. “A cottage is a great investment to get into the real estatemarket.”

For those interested in buying in theyear to come local agents say it’s probably a good idea to haveyour financing lined up first.

“Back in the day they could taketheir time” says Nimigon who has been selling real estate for thelast 13 years. “Now especially in 2017 … if I show you thecottage today you actually need to offer today. If you wait to sleepon it you’re going to lose it.”

Baumgartner says there’s a chance inthe year to come things will become more balanced.

“Ifeverybody I’ve spoken to in the fall is going to list this spring …I think we’re going to end up experiencing a stable market” shesays. “If they don’t list which is what happened last springwe’ll continue to be in a seller’s market.”