Does a shift in Ottawa’s resale condo market point to a change in housing preferences caused by the pandemic?
It’s one possibility arising in the latest report from the Ottawa Real Estate Board.
In October — another busy month in the local resale market — condo inventory grew by 15 per cent compared to the same month last year. That growth was not only different from the non-condo market, where inventory shrank by 45 per cent in the same period, it ran counter to the beginning of 2020 when the condo inventory was being depleted much quicker than the non-condo supply.
“The shift in the condo market occurred around June,” said board president Deb Burgoyne in a statement. “There has been a lot of speculation about changing buyer behaviour and preferences due to our pandemic reality with homeowners wanting home offices and gym space, for example. One could extrapolate or conclude that buying preferences may be shifting towards a desire for properties with more square footage than (the condo market) offers.”
While hours spent in traffic may dissuade some from buying homes distant from their job, she added that large numbers of people working remotely for the foreseeable future could mean commute times are less of an issue.
Resale numbers remain robust
Overall, Ottawa Realtors sold 2,146 residential properties in October through the board’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS). That was a 34 per cent increase over the 1,604 sold in the same month last year, continuing a boom that’s persisted since June, when the resale market roared back after a severe drop caused by the preceding two months of COVID lockdown.
Last month’s sales also significantly outpaced the five-year average of 1,515 sales.
October saw a sales jump of 38 per cent in non-condo properties and 22 per cent in condo properties compared to October 2019.
“We are heading into the colder months, the second wave of the pandemic is upon us, and yet Ottawa’s resale market continues to hold steady,” said Burgoyne.
She added that there was also a major growth in new listings for both condos and non-condo properties. That’s a continuation of a trend that began in August after month upon month of tight inventory.
Prices still heading up
Ottawa non-condo properties surpassed an average price of $500,000 for the first time in June 2019. The upward spiral has since continued, with average prices reaching $603,253 in October, an increase of 25 per cent over the same month last year.
Condos averaged $368,936, an increase of 16 per cent compared to last October.
In the first ten months of this year, both condo and non-condo prices have grown 19 per cent over the same period in 2019.
“As the chillier weather and upcoming holiday season approaches, it will be interesting to see how the market calibrates,” said Burgoyne. “Typically, we start to see a slowdown in home sale activity. Whether that actually transpires is something we can’t predict given the topsy turvy year that is 2020.”