Hesitation, vibrancy, thoughtfulness and clarity — when it comes to 2024 trends in Ottawa housing, we’re a contrast of themes. From Ottawa’s housing market and renovations to design and decor, here’s what several experts — from Ottawa and beyond — expect we’ll see.
While the expectation at the start of last year was that buyers who were sitting on the fence would be enticed to get off it by improved market conditions and more affordable options, for the most part that failed to happen.
New-home sales through the end of November (December numbers were not yet available at the time of writing) were down 10 per cent over 2022, which itself was a year when sales fell off a cliff. Monthly reports compiled by industry analyst PMA Brethour Realty Group on behalf of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) showed the market did stabilize in 2023, but it remained stagnant and well below the five-year average (2,420 new-home sales vs. 4,278).
It was a similar story for the resale market. Sales through the end of November were down 11 per cent over the same period in 2022 — and hit their lowest level in the past decade — according to the Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB). On the plus side for buyers, Ottawa has moved from a seller’s market to a balanced one.
How 2024 will perform depends to a large degree on what happens with the Bank of Canada’s benchmark prime interest rate, which continued to creep up last year, reaching five per cent by July, where it has since held steady.
“Further increases — and future decreases — in interest rates will continue to be a hot topic for buyers who for the past year have been feeling the pain of high financing costs and inflation,” says PMA Ottawa president Cheryl Rice. “Even small increments of 25 basis points have caused volatility in new-home sales. However, if the current pause in rate hikes continues into the first quarter of 2024, this could have a significant and positive impact on new-home sales next year.”
At the moment, Ottawa is absorbing the supply of new homes at 48 per cent of the five-year average, while supply has jumped an average 47 per cent from 2022, she says. “The increase in supply coupled with diminishing demand is expected to continue exerting downward pressure on prices for the beginning of 2024.”
OREB’s 2024 president, Curtis Fillier, thinks the prime rate will drop, although perhaps not until spring.
“With the interest rates coming down, buyers will get back out. Millennials and (Generation Z buyers) are still trying to get into the market and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
And while inventory levels have been increasing, with buyers moving back into the market, he sees inventory levels declining once again, “which will translate into an increase in house pricing again.”
In its 2024 market forecast, real estate company Re/Max predicts resale prices to increase an average two per cent under a continued balanced market, while Royal LePage expects a 4.5 per cent increase in its 2024 forecast.
When it comes to rentals, a report by Rentals.ca shows Ottawa lost ground in the past year.
In its National Rent Rankings, Ottawa moved from 15th most expensive out of 35 Canadian cities to 12th, with the average rent for a one-bedroom unit at $2,112 and a two-bedroom at $2,529, a jump of nine per cent from 2022.
The affordability issue that has kept buyers on the fence means that when they do start coming back, demand will be for entry-level homes.
“The rise in mortgage rates has led to a decreased demand for conventional starter homes such as the two-storey townhome, once considered an affordable entry-level product,” says Rice. “In response to this shift in demand, condo townhomes have solidified their position as a key product type in 2023, with strong demand, particularly among first-time buyers and investors, continuing into 2024.”
PMA’s monthly reports show that condo towns surged in demand in 2023, capturing 17 per cent of market share by the end of November, compared to just two per cent the year before. Timely releases by both Minto Communities and Mattamy Homes, in particular, were snapped up by buyers.
Fillier includes this type of housing in the “missing middle,” which traditionally refers to medium-density, multi-unit housing, and expects it to also be popular among resale buyers.
“That is the market we are going to see in the greater supply deficiency as well, as buyers get back out buying.”
He expects condos in general to perform well. “It’s the affordability factor… if you want to get into the market, it’s a good start.”
But he sees a decline in demand for rural properties as homeowners continue to shift back to commuting to work and not as much demand for multigenerational housing. “Now that we’ve moved out of that COVID phase, people are more comfortable and it’s a harder type property to find.”
While there may be less demand for multigenerational homes on the resale front, it remains a growing segment for new homes, with several builders including multigenerational options in their portfolio of floor plans.
“We see this continuing into 2024,” says Kristy Brayton, sales and marketing manager at Glenview Homes, which recently introduced the Prescott, a single with a main-floor guest suite and full bath.
Pushing the envelope even further, last fall Minto unveiled a townhome floor plan with an unheard of six bedrooms to introduce multigenerational living in a more affordable product type.
“(It’s) basically a game changer,” Anthony Minchella, vice-president of sales and marketing for Minto Communities Ottawa, said at the time.
Also growing in popularity: secondary dwelling units. “As prices of properties increase, it makes it affordable,” says Fillier. “So, if you can purchase a property that you can do a basement suite in and subsidize your mortgage payment, we’re seeing more and more of that.”
It’s a trend that builders are jumping on as well. For several years Phoenix Homes, for instance, has touted its Income Series, with income-earning basement suites, and Cardel Homes has explored floor plans with an optional side entry that can lead to a future separate suite in the basement.
And eQ Homes will introduce in 2024 a series of single-family homes with income-generating suites in the basement.
“(It’s) a strategic response to the changing landscape,” says Tobin Kardish, eQ’s director of marketing and product development. “Families today value versatile living spaces that adapt to diverse needs, including multigenerational living.”
A work-from-home space remains key. “Most buyers are looking for some type of work-from-home space, whether it’s an extra bedroom or a home office space,” says Fillier.
This kind of flex space has become common in new-build homes in recent years as builders addressed the surge in demand for a home work space and is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
And expect smart home technology to keep growing in popularity, says Brayton.
“Homebuyers often look for features like smart thermostats to track energy usage, adjusting your home’s temperature simply and easily through a mobile app,” says Brayton.
Corey Laurysen of Laurysen Kitchens agrees. He sees smart technology being integrated even further into the kitchen, via smart appliances and things that can be controlled by voice or your smart phone. “I can see that increasing more into 2024.” (back to top)
At the final meeting of the year of GOHBA’s Renovators’ Council, local renovator Steve Barkhouse, who chairs the Ontario Home Builders’ Association Renovators’ Council, announced a disturbing find: residential permits for renovations were down 42 per cent.
“I was shocked,” says the president of Amsted Design-Build. But he sees opportunity in the decline — it means it’s a good time to get your renovation done, and not just because more work is good for businesses like his.
“Now is the time to act because there is some supply, and supply and demand have never been more balanced in the last number of years,” he says. “What I’m hearing is it’s going to go back out of balance early next year (so right now) it means we can get materials, we can get really good quality trades and suppliers.”
And while interest rates remain high, he feels it’s “a foolish game” to wait for them to come down. “Anybody thinking they’re going to wait for the rates to come down is going to miss out” on the window of renovator availability.
He’s noticing the size of renovation projects is shrinking — an observation echoed by fellow renovator Roy Nandram of RND Construction.
“The trends are less whole-home, less big-addition-on-the-back and pop-the-top (i.e., raising the roof) and ‘do everything’ renovations and more selective,” Barkhouse says.
Adds Nandram: “We’re seeing a lot of trends where people are not looking for additions or major changes, they’re just redoing existing spaces.”
Kitchens and bathrooms remain perennial reno improvements but also in demand are basements and, much like they are in the housing market, adding an income suite is becoming more popular in renovations, says Barkhouse.
“People are being more thoughtful in what they’re doing. So, smaller projects but really thoughtful ones and really taking advantage of a strong investment in comfort.”
Similarly, Amsted is also seeing growing interest in accessible renovations, to the point that the company recently put one of their architectural designers through the Adaptiv Home program offered by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.
“It’s the aging population, it’s demographics, although there has always been a cohort of people who needed accessibility,” Barkhouse says. And that also brings in the multigenerational trend in our homes.
While he isn’t personally seeing the reno market slow down, Nandram does think that “most companies need to stay in survival mode.”
It’s an attitude heard anecdotally from more than one source in the housing industry: “Survive until 2025.” (back to top)
When it comes to design, we’re getting warmer. Warm woods, warm colours, warmth in texture — it was a recurring theme among the city’s designers.
“The trend in design is toward more refined, curated, original interiors with depth, colour, warmth and richness, whether minimal or maximal, contemporary or traditional in style,” says Tanya Collins of Tanya Collins Design, who designed the interior of this year’s lottery dream home in the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime lottery, opting for deep blue and green and rich caramel and burgundy in the colour palette. “The pendulum just naturally swings as a reaction to the farmhouse rustic trend that has been so popular for so long.”
Shannon Granger, the design studio manager at eQ Homes, calls it flipping to the other end of the spectrum. “These warm, rich colours evoke joy and happiness and make us think of warm things, which gives us a feeling of cosiness,” she notes. “It’s time to embrace warmth and boldness through earthy brown, rich terracotta, deep oranges and vibrant reds.”
And Sascha Lafleur of West of Main, which was named Ottawa’s designer of the year at last fall’s Housing Design Awards, sees us continuing to ride a moody wave of walls, trim and ceilings covered in a seamless colour, “specifically with rich brown, rust and mulberry/wine tones… These tones are neutral enough that they’ll stand the test of time, but rich enough to make a statement. So, it’s a comfortable choice for homeowners who want to veer from their all-white house without regrets.”
Where there is white, it’s warming up, adds Caroline Castrucci of Laurysen Kitchens. And we’re mixing and matching a lot — woods and colours, metals, doors, countertop choices, you name it.
Lafleur is also seeing more designs with old-world or vintage inspiration that she expects to continue.
“Antique and vintage items are a great way to bring character into a new-build home or a home that’s been refurnished with lots of new pieces. I think homeowners are looking for ways to make their space feel unique and collected — vintage items help achieve this.”
The return of wood has firmly cemented itself in our homes.
“It adds depth and character and uniqueness and texture, that you don’t get out of a flat-panelled material,” says Joel Tanner of Hamilton’s smpl Design Studio, who was a judge in the Housing Design Awards.
We’ve been seeing wood accents for some time, but now it’s back in cabinetry, too. “We’re seeing people move away from paint and starting to combine woods and stone and metals to kind of create custom elements in their kitchen,” says Laurysen’s Corey Laurysen.
But this is not the honey-coloured oak of the 1980s, he says. Today’s wood kitchens are more Scandinavian inspired with tight grains and a more natural look.
“There is a sense that people want to bring outside inside,” and opting for wood is a natural way to do that, he says.
The idea of hiding things in the kitchen will continue to grow, from integrated appliances to appliance garages and hidden prep kitchens.
“It keeps the main kitchen clutter-free, which is a serious trend,” notes Marie Soprovich of Edmonton’s Aquarian Renovations, who was a judge in the Housing Design Awards.
eQ’s Granger also sees a shift away from placing laundry rooms on the second floor “as they merge seamlessly with mudrooms.” The laundry room is not being used just for washing clothes, she explains, it’s becoming a multipurpose room.
“People are using the laundry room as a storage space, a dog washing station and a hub for the entire family to use. We see homeowners adding cabinetry for the additional storage and investing in the laundry room to make it look and feel like a part of the home.”
And wall panelling, whether real or faux, is making waves.
“I think people are tired of just painted walls as a way to dress up the wall,” says designer Nathan Kyle of Nathan Kyle Studio. And while wallpaper has seen a resurgence in recent years, what everyone is attracted to — both homeowners and designers — “is this world of texture.”
Sometimes we’re seeing that texture more simply in the trending application of limewash (what Kyle calls the poor man’s Venetian plaster) but more often it’s expressed through wall paneling or applied moulding.
Kyle is quick to point out that using texture or panelling can still happen in a minimalist setting. That panelling then becomes your hidden storage, for example, he says. (back to top)
The colours of the year by the major paint brands are mostly skewing soft and soothing, but with a couple of outliers.
Leading the colour charge is the influential Pantone Color Institute, which influences fashion, textiles, home decor and interior design. Pantone’s colour of the year for 2024 is Peach Fuzz, a shade that’s not as vibrant as some of the rich tones trending in Ottawa, but which nevertheless speaks to that craving for warmth and cosiness.
“In seeking a hue that echoes our innate yearning for closeness and connection, we chose a colour radiant with warmth and modern elegance,” the institute’s executive director, Leatrice Eiseman, says on their website. “(It’s) a shade that resonates with compassion, offers a tactile embrace and effortlessly bridges the youthful with the timeless.”
Several of the paint makers opted for similarly soothing pastels:
- Dulux — Limitless (DLX1091-3), “a contemporary honey beige (that) reflects a shift in consumer preferences towards warmer, less saturated colours.”
- Sico — Satin (6112-31), a honey yellow that “instills a warm, sunny vibe that hints at growth and blooming energy.”
- Beauti-Tone — Illumina (TR24-3-1), “a soft yellow with notes of red that can lighten a space, inspiring a sense of clarity and wellness and sparking feelings of hope.”
- Sherwin-Williams — Upward (SW 6239), “a breezy and blissful shade of blue that evokes the ever-present sense of peace found when slowing down, taking a breath and allowing the mind to clear.”
- Valspar — Renew Blue (8003-37D), “a balanced blue with a touch of greyed sea-green that focuses on wellness and comfort.”
But bucking the trend were two who went for dark and moody.
Benjamin Moore’s choice is the deep-toned Blue Nova (CC-860), a blend of blue and violet.
It’s “an alluring mid-tone that balances depth and intrigue with classic appeal and reassurance,” Andrea Magno, colour marketing and development director at Benjamin Moore, says in a release.
And Behr opted for the moody Cracked Pepper (PPU18-01), a soft black that the company calls a timeless and modern hue.
“As we look into 2024, creating a sense of comfort and belonging will continue to drive design decisions — but now, as life returns to its more familiar rhythms, it’s time to allow our senses to come alive,” Erika Woelfel, vice-president of colour and creative services at Behr, says in a release. “From heightening the aromas of a dining room to feeling the softness of a living area, Cracked Pepper enhances the natural expression in any space.” (back to top)