To say the Muskoka real estate market has been busy this summer is an understatement. Real estate agents and lawyers have been surprisingly busy despite, or maybe because of, COVID.
No one really knew what to expect in March when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and people were told to stay home. Then came June and July and things got a little crazy. “It was just a frenzy,” says local real estate broker Kim O’Grady. “We’ve definitely been busy, and this was not expected at all.”
Listings have been selling fast and high. It’s definitely a seller’s market at the moment. The lack of inventory and a surge in demand has created the perfect storm. Compare this June and July to last year and sales have practically doubled, says O’Grady.
Many people forced to work remotely due to COVID began realizing that working from a place like Muskoka rather than a condo in Toronto might be way more pleasant. “If I can work remotely then why wouldn’t I sell in the city and move up here where I have more land? It’s just a different lifestyle,” says O’Grady.
Those who already had long-term plans to leave the city are taking the leap a little sooner when met with the prospect of having to possibly navigate another wave of the virus. They’re selling their properties and buying elsewhere, sometimes with money to spare.
Travel restrictions due to COVID are also prompting people to take a serious look at secondary recreational properties in cottage country.
“People’s travel plans have been impacted so there’s a huge demand for recreational properties,” notes O’Grady. “I think what it comes down to is people have really just shifted their priorities.”
More people are also choosing to sell while the market is high. “We’re starting to see more inventory come to the market but the challenge, particularly with residential, is yes you might be selling high but you’re also going to be buying high so that’s forced some people to stay put or they’re selling and downsizing.”
Nobody knows for sure what will happen next, but O’Grady does not think we’ve felt the full impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Mortgage deferrals will have to stop, subsidies will end, and unemployment may rise. “I think people are going to be impacted whether it’s a couple of months or several months from now and could be in a position where they have to sell their house or their cottage and that would open up inventory,” says O’Grady. “We’re gaining more confidence but there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there.”
She says she does not see demand for inventory in Muskoka waning. “I think… moving to Muskoka is more on their radar whether it’s full time or having a secondary property,” she says. “The only thing that’ll help match that demand is inventory and that’ll help stabilize prices. I also feel that there’s a bit of a push-back from buyers right now that are tired of competing; who have missed out on properties or also understand that they’re buying in an inflated market right now.”
On the residential side, many people have sold their homes and are either renting or staying with family and waiting to see what happens before they re-enter the market.
“Everybody’s situation is obviously different, but I’m definitely telling buyers right now if you don’t need to buy and you can wait, then do so. And if you’re a seller who is thinking about listing then now would be the time while we still have this momentum, because we don’t know what’s down the road six months from now,” says O’Grady.
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