Surge of interest in rural real estate driven by young Toronto professionals working from home
Rural real estate sales have increased in Ontario’s countryside as city-dwellers look to escape dense cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s probably the busiest it’s been in our firm’s memory, and we go back 50 years,” said John Dunlap, the broker of records for Moffat Dunlap Real Estate, which deals in the King Township, Caledon and the Mono Township — all north of Toronto.
Dunlap said that sales were slow during February, March and April when the quarantine was in full effect, but since then they are up over 50 per cent from where they were last year.
“It’s people living in the city,” Dunlap said. “Maybe you’ve always had a dream of moving to the country, and now they certainly seem to be acting more on that.”
He said everyone from young professionals to retirees is looking to the country, either to start a new life there with their family or to create a “family legacy property.”
And the pandemic seems to be driving real estate trends to get out of the city that had already existed before COVID-19.
Dunlap mentioned that working from home is now more accepted, which allows a younger demographic to feel more comfortable moving to the country full-time, with Toronto only approximately an hour drive away if need be.
“The pandemic is driving interest in people having more space around them,” he said. “So the countryside gets them more of that … We’re busier because of the pandemic.”
Dunlap’s clients have even said they are more comfortable shopping in rural areas compared to the denser city.
The country’s space is not the only thing drawing homebuyers, but its affordability as well.
“You can get a better deal out there,” Royal LePage Orangeville Sales Representative Brenda Koley said. “You can get a bigger house here for the same price as a smaller house in the city.”
For example, the average price for a detached home in Orangeville is around $650,000, according to Koley, and goes down about $100,000 when you go out a little further to Shelbourne, to the mid $500,000s — making for significantly lower prices than in Toronto where the average price of a detached home has long been more than $1 million.
Popular areas include Caledon, the Township of Mono and Mulmur Township, Koley said, because of their seclusion and varied landscapes. However, they are also pricier, and Koley said just as good properties can be found for less money in some overlooked areas with a little digging.
Debbie Simon is one homeowner who decided to make the move to a smaller community, going from Oakville to Keswick, north of Newmarket.
Simon is moving to spend more time with her sister, who currently lives there, but said her decision was also driven by finances.
“I still owe money on my house,” she said. “Once I quit working, I just have my government pension, so that’s a problem.”
Simon said she is not nervous about the move given that Keswick is commuting distance from Toronto and it has many similarities to her current residence of Oakville, only on a smaller scale.
Koley said that many of her clients choose small towns over rural real estate areas if moving to the country to have similar amenities as a city, and avoid more maintenance country homes can come with.
If moving to the country, she warns that some may have a hard time adjusting because it may “sound better than it actually is.”
“You can’t just hop in the car and drive two minutes to get milk or bread,” she said. “If you’re in the country, sometimes you have to drive 20-30 minutes to get something that you need to pick up. Some people find that taxing after they start doing it.”
Dunlap also mentioned less availability of fibre optic internet, which has caused some frustration for his clients.
If you can deal with the inconveniences, though, a world of beauty awaits you.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been renewed interest in cottage country real estate. In addition, the local Toronto market is also experiencing price growth, although sales volumes remain down.
Orangeville and its surroundings are within the Niagara Escarpment ridge, giving the area a wide variety of landscapes to enjoy — from “high up astonishing views” to rivers, ponds and lakes, to flat farmland where you can see “for miles and miles.”
“It’s really varied and you don’t have to drive,” Koley said. “You can go 10 minutes in one direction and get one attribute and go 10 minutes in another direction and get a totally different one.”