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Oct. 28, 2021 | Thursday
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COVID pandemic helping fuel NOTL market, realtors say
File photo/Jessica Maxwell

People who have been cooped up at home for months during the COVID-19 pandemic and find they need more space are one of the factors driving the Niagara-on-the-Lake real estate market to new heights, two veteran realtors say.

"Having been quarantined in their house for up to two months people realized their present house didn't fit them for some reason. 'We don't need that dining room' or 'I need an office now that I'm working from home' or 'We don't like being this close to so many other people' or 'We need a pool for the kids,' " said Doug Widdicombe, senior vice-president of sales for Sotheby's International Realty in NOTL.

While many people are moving to Niagara from the GTA, there also seems to be a movement within Niagara Region to move "up" to larger homes to address some of the space concerns people have, he said.

Realtor Tom Elltoft said NOTL is seeing more of the town's higher-priced, larger properties changing hands.

"Along with pools, outdoor spaces have become far more popular," said Elltoft, of Niagara-on-the-Lake Realty.

"In the past the most popular properties were smaller, lower-maintenance bungalows. Although these bungalows will always have a large audience, it has become more balanced," he said.

"Confinement along with a heat wave has driven the desire for water and treed lots for locals and new residents alike."

Many factors can influence the real estate market, but after very slow months in the spring at the onset of the pandemic lockdown, home sales and prices have seen an upsurge, according to the Niagara Association of Realtors' monthly statistics market report.

Across the region in July, a total of 993 homes changed hands, up 38.5 per cent over the same period a year ago. That is also up from June, another boom month, when 767 homes sold.

In NOTL, 72 homes sold in July, almost triple the number of sales for that month in 2019.

The real estate association's House Price Index for last month showed the average sale price in NOTL was $795,900. NOTL consistently has the highest real estate prices in the region.

Elltoft thinks we could be seeing the start of a major change in the NOTL market thanks to younger people moving to town.

"Generally what we are witnessing is an adjustment, a repositioning or a re-evaluation in lifestyle for all Ontarians," he said.

COVID-19 has opened up more opportunities for people to work from home and that is leading to a younger group of buyers showing interest in NOTL, Elltoft said.

That change might have the greatest impact on the market and the community, he said.

As well, many locals and out-of-towners, mainly from the GTA, are looking at NOTL real estate as an investment, he said.

So, where are all those people who sell their NOTL properties moving to? Some are moving up to larger properties so they have room for their children and grandchildren to visit, but others are moving out, said Widdicombe.

In some cases in NOTL, "I have found the folks that downsized and got away from 'the kids' are now wanting to return to be closer to their grandkids in other cities or retiring and downsizing," he said.

"Others may be moving into a retirement home or simply want a change. As our community grows we will see more of this every year."