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Toronto real estate: Cottage country sales rebound from wet spring

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2013 heralded as turnaround point for market that’s been flat since 200

By:  Business Reporter

Vancouver Mortgage BrokerThe impact of a soggy spring continues to be felt across Ontario cottage country, where sales — and prices — in many regions are down slightly from last year.

Yet 2013 is being heralded as a possible turnaround year for the recreational market, which has remained essentially flat since 2007, according to a new report by ReMax.

The rebounding real estate market south of the border, and the arrival — finally — of summer, have led to a surge in both Canadian and international buyers looking for sun or ski properties, says the report released Tuesday.

“The U.S. was on sale for a long, long time, but now that house prices have picked up dramatically over the last six or eight months, and the dollar has softened somewhat, Canadian recreational properties are looking more attractive,” says Gurinder Sandu, executive vice president and regional director of ReMax OntarioAtlantic Canada

Realtors have reported an uptick in the purchases of cottages, second homes and ski-resort properties by both international buyers and out-of-province buyers in Bracebridge/Gravenhurst (mainly Europeans and Asians), Whistler (buyers from Hong Kong and Singapore) and Nova Scotia’s south shore (buyers from the U.K.), notes the report.

Recent blips in the stock markets and concerns that interest rates are starting to creep up are expected to have just a short-term impact on the recreational property market, said Sandu. In fact, because prices are down or unchanged in 77 per cent of the markets examined in the report, and the for-sale inventory is higher than usual, buyers seem to be biting again, he noted.

Recreational sales remain on a par or ahead of last year in 70 per cent of the markets studied, and Ontario realtors say the arrival of summer seems to be making up for some of the time lost to cold weather and flooding in the spring.

“It used to be that January and February were the really busy times, but it’s basically becoming busier over the summer and fall now, and especially the fall the last three or four years,” says realtor Rick LaFerriere, who sells mainly in the Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching area north of the GTA.

LaFerriere is seeing a surge in demand from Muskoka cottage owners, and other buyers who’ve grown weary of Highway 400 traffic and are looking for properties closer to Toronto.

“With travel time playing an increasingly important role in the recreational lifestyle, properties in close proximity to the Greater Toronto Area are experiencing a renaissance,” the report says.

Prices are still averaging under $600,000, for the most part. But baby boomers, in particular, have helped push the price of properties on the western shore of Lake Simcoe up to an average $910,000 in the Innisfil area and $680,000 around Oro, it notes.

That’s still about 20 to 25 per cent less than the price of Muskoka real estate, says Sandhu, and means an hour or so less time spent in traffic.

“We’ve seen some interest from international buyers, but baby boomers are still a huge part of the market here,” says LaFerriere.

“Over the last two to three years, we’ve seen a lot of people who are buying the cottage for the family — not so much for themselves, but for their kids and their grandkids.

“They are people who’ve worked hard, maybe too hard, and maybe missed a lot of time with their family and are now bringing them back together. It’s kind of nice to watch.”


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