With the summer coming to a close it will be interesting to see if our real estate market will continue its red hot pace. August brought some much-needed housing inventory. In fact, we had the most August listings since 2015. This is good news for buyers! It also led to a record-breaking month for sales.
Ottawa Realtors sold 2,017 residential properties in August through the MLS System, compared with 1,725 in August 2019, a year over year increase of 17 percent. August’s sales included 1,576 in the residential-property class, up 22 percent from a year ago, and 441 in the condominium-property category, an increase of 2 percent from August 2019. The five-year average for August unit sales is 1,668.
So far, the new listings coming to the market are easily absorbed by demand. If we have a few more months of this kind of inventory surge we may see some of this demand start to get satisfied. I am already seeing some listings with fewer offers and fewer showings. This is also due to some sellers deciding to price on the higher side of the market. Eventually, this additional inventory can help balance our market.
The most common question I am getting these days is what is causing such a spike in prices. The combination of record-low mortgage rates, migrating buyers cashing out in larger markets, and decreasing debt/equity thresholds are all playing a role. An interesting dynamic has emerged with people spending more time in their homes due to COVID-19 and starting to figure out that the space may not be meeting their requirements.
Prices are surging in Ottawa. Somewhat surprising given the current pandemic!! Employment levels are down by over 60,000 in Ottawa. So how is it that prices are going up? The biggest single factor is the shortage of listings. In July we were down 55% year over year. We are down in availability at a time where demand is up. That lead to a 19.4% gain in year over year prices. This is over a 2019 that people thought prices had peaked! Over 60% of homes were snatched up in bidding wars. That is up over 50% over last year. Essentially, if you want to buy this year you will be competing for it. This is great news for our seller clients but can be challenging for buyers. Homes in Ottawa are selling on average in 33 days.
What I am seeing on the ground is that Ottawa buyers are getting more comfortable paying 700k+ for their homes. As many of the people in this price point are also sellers. They are getting much more for their homes. Some townhouse sellers are now getting 500k+ and so the transition to an 800k “forever home” does not seem like as big of a stretch. Million-dollar listings and buyers are no big deal in Ottawa anymore. Our market is slowly starting to look closer to our neighbors down the 401. Right now buyers are looking for more space for home offices, bigger back yards, and all in all a better place to hunker down. Pools have been in high demand too. Interesting times for sure.
Are we in a bubble?
I wish I had a crystal ball and could see out into the future. It feels weird that prices are surging so much with the world where it is. Anyone else surprised to see the stock market doing so well? It is so hard to predict these things. All I can say is that the bubble question has been around since I started in real estate. Every year we would hear about prices coming down. Hard to see prices retreating in Ottawa without public service cuts. It is hard to see those cuts coming at a time like this. Only time will tell. For me, I believe that the next 6-9 months are still going to be very active. I have actually bet on the market a bit. Check out my recent blog post on buying my forever home during covid-19: https://chrisscott.ca/2020/08/07/buying-our-forever-home-during-covid-19-and-betting-on-the-market/
I love my current home. My wife and I love our neighbourhood and the neighbours on our street. We always thought we would be here long term. How is it then, that in a global pandemic, we impulsively purchased a new home. To be quite honest I am still not sure. It happened so fast 🙂 We were not even looking. My wife literally looked at 2 houses and we put offers on both of them. What really got us was the idea of having a pool, privacy, and main floor office. Not sure we would be moving if it wasn’t for Covid-19. Also, nice to have something positive to look forward amongst so much anxiety and uncertainty. Are other people having similar feelings? I have got calls from clients that said Covid-19 has them revisiting what they really want in their home. Pools have all of a sudden become more important!
This is what sold us:
Now we just have to wait till 2021 to move in!
Buying in Hot 2020 and Selling in Uncertain 2021
The catch with our purchase is that we cannot move till next year because of the seller’s plans. They are building a house and it was delayed. It will be the longest resale closing of my real estate career! The waiting game is going to be painful. The challenging part financially is that we have purchased in a really hot market and will be selling in an uncertain 2021. I am a pragmatic person. I know next year our market will not be as good as our current market. How could it be, we are in the hottest market in a generation. I do believe next year will still be a good market. Our current supply shortage and strong demand are enough to sustain a seller’s position for at least the next 6-8 months. I am betting on it with my own house. If I am wrong I have plugged in all my numbers very conservatively. Hope for the best and plan for the worst. If we end up somewhere in the middle I will be happy.
The Emotions of a Buyer
It has been a great exercise going through the buying process again. It has really reminded me of how exciting the process is for buyers and all the emotions they are going through. Anyone else have buyers remorse the day after their purchase?? I did! Thankfully it was a very fleeting emotion. Buying a home is stressful, exciting, and consumes much of a person’s thoughts in the moments leading up to purchase and throughout the process. I totally get that and will make sure our team’s services are always making the process as seamless as possible for our clients.
The first half of 2020 is one for the books! We are living in a time that will be talked about for generations to come. COVID has irrevocably changed how we go about our daily lives now and in the future. The long term impacts on our economy are yet to be fully understood. Interestingly the impact on the Ottawa housing market has been quite the opposite of what most people would have thought.
I have been a Realtor for almost 16 years now and I have never experienced a roller-coaster real estate market like we have seen this so far this year. It was very much a seller’s market in January and February. Things grinded to a halt for basically the second half of March. Then April hit and the pace started to pick up. Now that pace is a full sprint! The driving factor is the lack of available inventory. COVID has taken out a huge amount of homes that would have been listed. Buyers are slugging it out for very few homes. I was up against 30 other offers on a house this week! How the heck do you beat 30 other buyers. Over 56% of homes in June sold for above their asking price.
For the first time since COVID happened, we have had a normal week of inventory hit the market. I expect that trend to continue and hopefully take off some of the pressure buyers are feeling out there. We will be in a sellers market territory for the foreseeable future.
The bottom line is our local economy is really showing just how resilient we are to outside economic factors. I believe that Ottawa is the most stable real estate market in the world. Bolded that for effect. It may not even be close. We are so fortunate to have this stability in our local market. Some market centres like Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Cold Lake, and others have had major swings one way or the other. Ottawa has historically not had any major swings at all. Our prices even go up in a pandemic! Seriously though that is pretty crazy.
Our team is committed to helping our clients get their house ready for the market. It is important to help our seller clients receive as much out of the sale as possible. Call us if you have any questions. We are always happy to help.
There is no status quo right now in any industry. In real estate, we are pivoting and providing lots of unique options to our Ottawa selling clients. In this case, our clients chose our exclusive option. This allowed us to actively market the property but not have it on the MLS. The seller only wanted very qualified buyers coming through the house. We were able to control that better with our exclusive option. At the time of listing, there were also two end units available on their street (Barrick Hill). Both were the same floor plan. We wanted to wait until they cleared MLS to list ours. We had a very throughout listing strategy.
Through our marketing efforts, we found a buyer who wanted to see it. That buyers agent had them view the 3d tour we had online. The buyer was able to comfortably walk through the home from the comfort of their own. When they came through for their in-person viewing they already knew it was the right house for them. We got a full price offer the next day. Our offer was significantly higher than the other two eventual sales on the street (average of 18k higher). We sold off-market for top dollar with very little hassle. Who you work with on the sale of your home matters!
If you are thinking about selling your Ottawa home, please feel free to contact us. We would love a chance to talk to you about our enhanced marketing services.
“Absolutely outstanding service! I was reluctant to trust realtors again after having a terrible experience on the sale of my first home with another agent. Chris and the team really went above and beyond on both the selling and buying side. I can not recommend them enough!” – Seller of Barrick Hill
These past 8 weeks have been challenging for everyone. Trying to home school, run a business, and keep everyone happy has been a challenge! My two boys have been pretty good but they are over it. My little guy Austin calls this a fire drill. He keeps asking “Daddy when is the fire drill going to be over”. Hopefully soon! In the meantime we are adapting to our new world as best we can. Our team is embracing the virtual experience and is offering the best in class services for sure.
In April sales were down over 56% from last year. Quite a drop considering how active our market was coming into early March. Amazing how quickly COVID-19 has turned everything upside down. We were selling homes in multiples about 60% of the time early in the year. Now that number fluctuates between 20-40%. I am noticing in the past few weeks it is creeping back up. Inventory is super tight still. Buyers are starting to get back to looking at homes and without new homes coming to market we might face an inventory crunch. I am optimistic that many new listings will be coming to the market in the upcoming few weeks. There are plenty of sellers that have been waiting to list. As things open up again I think their comfort level on listing their home will ease.
For comparison sake, Toronto sales are down over 67 percent with flat price increases. This resilience in Ottawa is due to the fact in families incomes are fairly secure and some buyers welcomed less competition and were willing to purchase virtually or with more caution. We were selling in multiple offers situations early in the year in say 60% of the time. Now we are in the 20-40% range.
This year there are going to be more and more buyers that will be purchasing homes without actually seeing it in person. We had a client this week make a 700k purchase through facetime! It seems risky but almost every new home sale is sold by looking at a floorplan. At least with the virtual experience, you can see the finished product. Albeit through video. Not everyone is going to be on board with buying without physically seeing it but it will be more important for sellers to offer the right tools for buyers so they can make an informed decision.
The proper marketing of your home has never been more important. We need to get your home exposed to as many people as possible online. We have added in services to make this happen. This additional exposure will help you maximize your sale price.
We have been working on a new process to stage your home virtually. Our stager is phenomenal and will help you prepare each and every room in the house. It will involve a few calls, some pictures back and forth, and will end with a full detailed report for you to follow. It will essentially be a game plan for getting your house market-ready. This work will help you maximize the sale price of your home. Statistically speaking staged homes sell for at least 2% more than non staged homes.
This will give buyers the opportunity to experience a showing from the comfort of their home. Having this tour is paramount in today’s market. Some buyers are purchasing the home just based on this tour!
We will have a professional floorplan drawn up so buyers can see the dimensions of each room and the layout of the space. An integral part in the new virtual world.
In the weeks ahead we will be taking extra pictures for buyers to look at. Our photographer is amazing and you can see her work by clicking on the link. She will also take precautions when photographing.
This will be done to take people through every aspect of the home. We are trying to give every buyer the opportunity to purchase your home without actually seeing it in person. We just started doing this. My partner launched a listing with this feature yesterday. Here is an example: https://quickpageapp.com/p/aku2ny6FBWfECMgfu?cid=dAWQJfWDgdiS4GrS7
We are completing all our agreements via an e-signing program that is easy to use. Stephanie, our listing manager is still working full-time Mon-Fri 830-430. We have lots of support for all our clients. She will be getting all buyers to sign Covid-19 forms prior to any viewing. We are trying to do everything we can to mitigate risk for our clients while making it easy for buyers to get all the information they need on our listings.
We are fortunate to live in Ottawa with so many solid and secure public service jobs. This will help us recover faster than other market centres across the country. We are not however going to be immune to this unprecedented situation. It seems as if what first looked like a matter of weeks is now looking like months of social distancing. This will of course impact local business, tourism, restaurants, and just about everyone. Our local economy is going to be affected and some businesses just won’t survive. The government will help others stay afloat until this situation is resolved. The bigger question I have is once we are released from our quarantine will we be going to restaurants, bars, flying on planes, and getting back to normal life? That is the hope of course but that may require a vaccine or cure.
The Real Estate Market
Ottawa real estate prices have been on an upward trajectory for years. We are in an extreme seller’s market. This past year was a straight line up, with over 20% in gains. That momentum was stopped in its tracks. Our market was at absolute historical low levels of inventory and peak prices. To use an analogy, if your home was a stock it would have been at an all-time peak. Unlike the stock market, home prices do not crash overnight. That is why we should own more real estate than stocks. Luckily for Ottawa when the needle moves I see it moving towards a more balanced real estate market, maybe still slightly in sellers territory. Since we were so deep into seller’s territory we have room to move and still be in a good market.
ACTIVITY IN THE MARKET
Where does the housing market go from here?
It is naive to think that our current hot streak will continue. The market is going to start levelling off. I see the first impact coming in the entry-level market. I think some investors will get out of this market (this is not a bad thing). This will open the door to first-time buyers to pick up a property without bidding against 10 other buyers. This will put some downward pressure on some of the ridiculous prices we were seeing in this segment early this year. Sellers are going to have to start adjusting their prices to match the current demand. I am already seeing that when I look at the hot sheet of daily sold properties. I am actually seeing some homes sell for less than their asking price in some cases.
There will be pent up demand when all this is all resolved. In China, sales were booming as soon as the ban was lifted as people were waiting on things to resume. It will be interesting to see what kind of supply of listings we have compared with the demand of buyers. I suspect it will be a more balanced equation than where we have been in the past few years.
Stay safe everyone.
An interesting read from a credible economist on what is to come.
March 2020 will be a month none of us will forget. The speed at which this virus has taken over has been astonishing. I was in the process of interviewing potential candidates to join our team early in the month. Two weeks later the majority of our clients put their real estate needs on hold. We have been working from home trying to homeschool our kids and keep some type of daily routine. It has been challenging to say the least!
The real estate market can almost be divided into the first two weeks of the month and the final two. Early in the month, the statistics reflected what was going to be another record-breaking month. The final two weeks cooled that and we barely ended up ahead of last year’s sales numbers. The full impact on sales will eventually be reflected in April’s numbers.
People that don’t have an urgent need to buy or sell are being asked to wait till this is all over. A few of our clients have bought a new home prior to COVID-19 and are in a position where they absolutely need to sell. Others sold their home just before this hit and need a place to live. This is the main reason why our industry was deemed an essential service.
Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,525 residential properties in March through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 1,507 in March 2019, an increase of only 1.2 percent. March’s sales included 1,170 in the residential-property class, up 3.3 percent from a year ago, and 355 in the condominium-property category, a decrease of 5.1 percent from March 2019. The five-year average for March unit sales is 1,465.
“Our results show that the Ottawa real estate market seems to have withstood the pressure of a worldwide economic event in March, however in context with our market’s performance up to this point, we can see the underlying effect. Before the pandemic, monthly unit sales were increasing between 10-16% from 2019, while March’s sales were just on par with a year ago” The board President
The slowdown included a 75% drop in showing activity in the final week of March according to Showingtime software (this is the software we use to process showing). Of course, this is not surprising because everyone is being told to stay at home. Interestingly I have seen a surge in some of our online initiatives. Including our very popular 3D tours. Here is an example of one of our listings: https://chrisscott.ca/properties/active-listings/425-barrick-hill-road/ Some buyers remain active and I am hearing of some purchasing their homes virtually from tours like this.
“Once the Ontario State of Emergency began, our Members and Brokerages rightly began to make all adjustments necessary for the health and wellbeing of our clients and customers. We welcomed the government’s declaration of real estate as an essential service so that transactions in progress could be completed. However, it was not and is not business as usual for our Members. They are heeding government and public health authority warnings and advice and are being diligent in taking extra safety precautions. All this, while still doing their best to help their clients successfully conclude or close real estate transactions that were already in progress,” Board President Burgoyne acknowledges.
The lasting impacts of COVID-19 are yet to be seen. Ottawa is going to be in a better position than most markets to weather the coming economic downturn. Historically we were in the hottest seller’s market ever. This, of course, will change but I think because we were in such a strong market when the needle moves we will still have a fair and balanced market. We just won’t see some of the ridiculous prices and bidding wars that were prevalent early in 2020.
The market is B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Was trying to think of a more eloquent word but bananas seems to fit here. Here are three reasons why:
Prices in our residential-class properties are up 21%
Prices in condo class are also up 21%
Over 58% of homes are selling for above their asking price (feels like 100%)
It is a tough market right now for buyers. They (and their agents) have to go through the process usually a few times before they can secure their house. Sellers hold all the cards! However, many sellers are also buyers. This has added to the inventory issue. Many sellers do not want to sell until they buy. So round and round on the no inventory hamster wheel we go!
There are not enough new listings to satisfy the growing demand for Ottawa properties. Much of the demand is the entry-level $400,000- $550,000 market. About 40% of all sales are in this price range. I am seeing very competitive offer situations in that range. Many homeowners are listing very low and creating a frenzy on the offer date. This is partly to blame for the high over-asking sale prices. It is frustrating many buyers too. To have to keep going higher and higher to secure the deal is no fun!
Investors are quietly playing a role in the frenzy too. I am seeing lots of out of town buyers coming in and buying up properties. Again, mostly in the entry-level range. This week I have seen a bit more inventory coming to the market. I hope this is a trend that continues.
If you would like to see some sales in your neighbourhood, let us know and we can send you a report on your area. Every neighbourhood is very different.