Flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing, and those highly anticipated warmer temperatures have officially arrived across Canada. But better weather conditions should not fool you into thinking that everything has returned to normal as we cruise through our third month of dealing with a global health crisis. COVID-19 continues to affect Canada in many ways – including the Barrie housing market.

Despite being red-hot for the last decade, the Canadian real estate market has not been immune to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent market report, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) warned that the virus outbreak would have a lasting effect for years to come. It also noted, however, that the total impact would be hard to predict because of the many unknown variables. “The precise timing and duration of the recovery is highly uncertain because the virus’s future path is not yet known,” the report stated.

What about the Barrie housing market? Here we explore how this southern Ontario city is faring, and what local market activity might look like in the months ahead.

Barrie Housing Market Outlook

Before the public health crisis, Barrie real estate was booming, with downtown Barrie and the surrounding area witnessing incredible year-over-year growth in the past decade.

The RE/MAX Housing Market Outlook projected a five-per-cent increase in 2020 due to ballooning demand. The February and March data supported these bullish projections – particularly for condominiums, which had been selling for an average price of around $400,000 as inventory continued to decline.

But while the aftermath of COVID-19 has altered the Canadian economy, Simcoe County has been able to successfully weather the storm.

According to statistics from the Barrie and District Association of Realtors (BDAR), sales tumbled 55 per cent in April compared to the previous year, but housing prices are up. The average detached house price rose six per cent to an average of roughly $580,000. This is mainly due to demand holding steady across the region as many homebuyers consider Barrie as their new home.

The consensus is that the Barrie housing market is expected to remain stable. In other words, try to keep your down payment handy!

Why Is Barrie Real Estate Attractive? 

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman recently told Barrie 360 that the municipality is going to be attractive in a post-coronavirus world. While he does anticipate a decline in sales, he thinks the city will come out ahead on the other side of the lockdown, continuing to attract prospective homebuyers from across the Greater Toronto Area.

“I think people are going to look at cities like Barrie and say, ‘I can work from home now, I’m getting out of the GTA. Why should I deal with traffic, why should I pay what I have to pay in the GTA, why don’t I get a bigger place and a much higher quality of life.’ That, I think, is going to hold up our demand,” he said in an interview.

Overall, policymakers are contacting homebuilders to ensure that their proposed projects that have already started are still on stream. They might not be constructed as quickly as they are proposed, but Mayor Lehman believes a lot of the housing development will be “transformative” for Barrie.

Lehman makes the case that a lot of people who can work from home may find a place like Barrie appealing. That being said, there is another factor that should be considered: GO Transit’s quality of service is improving, with higher train frequency. This is important for many professionals who will be returning to the office and are seeking reliable public transit options to commute into Toronto or across the Barrie area.

Historically, one of the main drivers of Barrie’s housing market has been first-time buyers. With the Bank of Canada (BoC) keeping interest rates at historic lows, people who have held onto their jobs and refrained from touching their down-payment funds are at a significant advantage in this housing market.

So, what will be some of the Barrie neighbourhoods to watch out for in the coming years? Real estate agents typically point to southwest Barrie, City Centre and the Hanmer Street area. This list is projected to grow in the coming years as more condominium and apartment projects are being proposed, planned and built.

The Future for Homes in Barrie

Unsurprisingly, social distancing and self-isolation guidelines amid COVID-19 have affected sales activity across the country. On a national level, the market has experienced a decline in the volume of transactions in the last few months, but in much of Canada transactions have been happening and prices have been resilient. Now that economies are beginning to re-open across the country and in light of some of the recent activity in cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, RE/MAX anticipates that demand could begin to improve much faster than initially expected at the onset of COVID-19.

With public officials gradually relaxing restrictions and the economy entering the early phase of reopening, it’s expected that many more homes in Barrie will change hands in the coming months. A word to the wise: if you’re looking to get into this market, have your down payment ready and be prepared to spend your lazy days at Lake Simcoe!