Overall, the outlook for the 2018 new home market is a positive one, according to industry analyst PMA Brethour Realty Group, which monitors the Ottawa market.
Despite recent and future interest rate hikes, PMA Ottawa president Cheryl Rice says her firm and many economic experts believe increases will continue to be small and incremental, which will allow buyers to adjust slowly.
The supply of new homes is expected to be strong and both government and our growing tech sector should continue to fuel employment, while the future of Light Rapid Transit is already encouraging growth in areas outside of Ottawa’s core.
“The future looks great for Ottawa’s new home market.”
Rice expects sales will see a slight dip in the first quarter of 2018 as the market adjusts to a new stress test that came into effect Jan. 1 and targets uninsured borrowers with down payments of over 20 per cent. But she anticipates it will “bounce back to life in the spring and for the remainder of the year.
“Ottawa continues to be one of the most affordable and desirable places to buy a new home,” she says. “At this moment and barring any unforeseen surprises, the future looks great for Ottawa’s new home market.”
The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) recently came out with its comprehensive 2017 new home buyer preference study. Featuring responses from almost 3,000 buyers, it gives a good snapshot of what’s trending when it comes to new homes.
Some of the key findings:
We’re starting to see a shift in who’s buying, what they want, and where they want it.
For instance, millennials – those born in the 1980s to the early 2000s – are finally starting to overtake the generation that came before them when it comes to buying homes. They’re more culturally diverse, they want to own a home, and they don’t necessarily want to be downtown.
There’s also a growing demand for single-family homes, which is indicative of the interest of millennials, who not only want to own a home, but also have a family.
The survey also found there are certain things buyers would be willing to give up in order to make their next home more affordable, including almost one-quarter who would accept a smaller home. That’s in line with a trend toward smaller homes in general.
One in five would sacrifice location, meaning they’d live further away from work or amenities, which also speaks to the survey’s finding that millennials aren’t as concerned with living in the urban core.
But they weren’t willing to compromise on energy efficiency, although they also don’t want to pay extra for it, according to the survey.
The survey found there were certain must-have features that are key among buyers:
We want storage: Walk-in closets topped the list of must-haves, as they have for each of the three years that this survey has been done. Linen closets and two-car garages are also in the top 10, again, speaking to our storage needs.
Heart of the home: The kitchen, perhaps not surprisingly, is key. Open-concept designs, islands and pantries all figured prominently in the survey, including islands and open-concept kitchens on the top 10 list.
Energy-efficiency is essential: Four of the top 10 must-haves related to energy efficiency. That includes LED lighting, which is on a steep upward trend. Interestingly, for more than half of respondents, having a home certified by a designated program such as Energy Star is a must-have.
Counter measures: Are you a fan of granite? Then you may be surprised to learn that quartz countertops now outrank granite. That’s a finding that is mirrored elsewhere. And laminate, which already rates low, is trending downwards.
Ensuite retreat: In the master ensuite, tubs are trending lower, although soaker tubs less so than whirlpools, which have fallen right off. Walk-in showers are becoming hugely popular and double sinks are trending up.
The CHBA survey found that the highest rated features for condo buildings are 24-hour security, wireless internet, and a health club or gym. Surprisingly, swimming pools are also on a steep upward trend, which is the opposite of what we have heard in the past few years from some Ottawa builders.
Condo lobbies have also gone luxe, notes the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) in its magazine, Ontario Home Builder.
Today’s – and tomorrow’s – lobbies are grand affairs that set the tone and make a statement about the building. In a sense, they are the curb appeal. We need look no further than the likes of Richcraft’s The Bowery, Minto’s UpperWest or Claridge’s Icon to get a sense of the luxe look.
Lobbies have become an extension of a resident’s living space, a meeting place for socializing with friends, for casual business meetings or internet chats, kind of like the Starbucks of condos, but no coffee included.
Evolution of the dining room
The OHBA also makes another observation: dining rooms are becoming the chameleon of new home design. Homes are getting smaller and we increasingly seek open-concept spaces. As a result, the role of the dining room is changing to adapt to lifestyle trends such as entertaining at home, multiple cooks and more casual living.
But that doesn’t mean the dining room is disappearing. In homes that have the space, the formal dining room is still desired.
Such was the rationale for including one in this year’s CHEO dream home (part of the grand prize in the annual Dream of a Lifetime lottery), despite the fact that most of the main floor speaks to casual living. Plus, many cultures still prefer a formal dining room.
But with detached homes getting smaller, and townhomes and condos becoming popular due to affordability, the integration of a dining area with the kitchen and family room into one large living space continues to trend.
There are a couple of trends worth noting that popped up in this year’s CHEO dream home. Built by Minto and outfitted by a plethora of Ottawa-area suppliers, the luxury home often features materials and styles that are on the verge of trending in the city.
Tri-level living: One of the surprises in this year’s home was the mid-level family room, located halfway between the main floor and the bedroom level upstairs.
Minto first offered this type of layout in one of its models at Arcadia in Kanata a couple of years ago. When it proved to be quite popular, that prompted the builder to consider another model that offers this type of family space.
Minto’s certainly not the only one exploring different types of family space: Mattamy has had a similar layout for some time, for instance; Glenview introduced a mid-level family room floor plan in one of its models at Monahan Landing in Kanata; and Claridge is experimenting with three-storey single-family homes in its floor plans at Wateridge Village, the new development at the former CFB Rockcliffe.
But having a mid-level family room show up in a dream home for the first time suggests alternate forms of family living space are on the horizon. The shift speaks to the idea that we still like having more than one living space that doesn’t require having to head down to the basement.
Multi-use: Another big trend is more open spaces that have multi-uses, like the first room that you enter in the dream home. It’s called the library, although not like a library of days past. It could just as easily be an office space or a music room, or an intimate entertaining space, great for having a glass of wine with your best friend.