With COVID-19 restrictions forcing many Canadians to cancel their spring, summer and fall getaway plans, they are desperate for a change of scenery; accordingly, Ontario real estate in cottage country has quickly become one their focus, and one of the most sought-after places to live.

In late 2020 it was predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would push homeowners away from the big city, into rural communities and Ontario’s cottage country. These trends have continued to play out into 2021. This push toward more space and the need for staycations has contributed to properties in Ontario’s Lakelands being sold in record-breaking numbers, for record-setting prices, faster than in recent memory. If the market at the end of 2020 and thus far in 2021 is any indication, now is the time to snatch up that vacation home or cottage you have been eyeing, as the market is only expected to get hotter.

Back in the final months of 2020, it was predicted that Canada’s recreational housing market would experience an 8% increase in 2021. At the time, the majority of recreational property regions across the country were reporting a significant increase in buyers who were purchasing recreational properties as a primary residence. With remote working scenarios diminishing the need to live in close proximity to the office, homeowners are trading in their urban and suburban dwellings for a home office and a restful retreat, all in one.

Current Ontario Real Estate Trends | Growth Continues in Cottage Country

While it was widely expected that Ontario’s cottage country market would continue to grow throughout 2021, the actual data are quite a bit more than what was predicted. Typically, housing in cottage country is separated into two categories: non-waterfront and waterfront.

Based on data from the Lakelands Association of REALTORS®, when compared to March 2020, non-waterfront sales of residential properties saw a significant increase of 87.7% in March 2021, totalling sales of 383 units; a record for March sales in the Lakelands region. This trend continues when reviewing the year-to-date data, where an increase of 43.4% was reported for first quarter sales from 2020 to 2021.

Waterfront properties, which are usually more expensive and more sought-after, experienced exponential growth over the same period with an increase of 223.1% in sales. The year-to-date data for waterfront properties was also consistent with the monthly data, as the first quarter of 2021 saw an uptick of 154.5% when compared to that same period in 2020.

Chuck Murney, President of the Lakelands Association of REALTORS®, states that the record sales, combined with the low number of new listings over the last few months has led to a very competitive market: “March was yet another record-setting month for our region. MLS® home sales set new March records for both waterfront and non-waterfront properties this past month. We also saw a significant uptick in the number of new listings during the period, when compared to the totals from the last few months. This fresh infusion of new listings helped to shore up overall inventory. Although a welcome reprieve from the recent historic lows, active listings are still hovering only slightly about the lowest level ever. This factor will continue to contribute to the extremely tight market conditions we have been experiencing over the past year.”

Further supporting this competitive market is the median price of both non-waterfront and waterfront properties in the Lakelands region. March 2021 saw the average price of a residential non-waterfront property go up by 44.7%, to a record value of $606,000, when compared to that of March 2020. Residential waterfront properties followed suit, with the median price surging by 64.5% to a record value of $872,000 over March, when compared to the same month last year.

What is on the Horizon for Ontario’s Cottage Country?

Many industry professionals are claiming that the proximity of the Lakelands region to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has impacted the surge in demand and average prices. With many professionals working remotely, some see little sense in staying in the tight quarters that are common in the big city. This has driven consumer appetite for purchasing more spacious homes in smaller, scenic, more rural, communities – such as Ontario’s Cottage Country.

With Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, and many people feeling cramped in their current urban lifestyle, it is expected that the current cottage-country Ontario real estate trends will continue in the same direction. Essentially, if you are looking to move away from the big city, or to purchase a second home for recreational purposes, the time to buy is now as there appears to be little to indicate a market cool-down in the near future. Ensure you have an experienced, professional REALTOR® by your side, to help you navigate what is at present a highly competitive housing market.